The Casual Feminist: Twitter Rejects Terror & Abuse. As Should We All.

397px-Bryant_Park,_late_Apr_2009_-_23

How much longer can we pretend to be shocked in one breath by the violence we glorify in another? And why were we supposed to allow public threats on a private platform in the name of freedom?

Twitter recently announced changes to their policies that make it easier for them to identify and disable the accounts of people who say hateful or violent things. This is expected to give them more leverage in preventing, for example, ISIL from recruiting, publicizing their latest atrocity or spreading their violent rhetoric on the platform.

It’s well known that many women with opinions who make a habit of sharing them online have long been targets of vicious threats and intimidation on Twitter and other networks. It’s long past time that Twitter did more to prevent the network from being used by abusers who stalk, intimidate and threaten their way into our timelines, and I’m glad Twitter is taking more responsibility.

Twitter announced the change in policy in a blog post on December 30th under the title “Fighting Abuse to Protect Freedom of Expression,” and I think it’s a nice, round statement that explains why we need to also fight misogyny and the culture of casual violence that has earned the U.S. the distinction of being the country with the most mass shootings in the world.

We got here one lurid comment at a time. Carly Fiorina’s stupid, stubborn lies about Planned Parenthood, for example, definitely influenced Robert Dear (as unbalanced as he may be) when he decided to shoot up a clinic in Colorado. Trump is, abhorrent on a great many levels, but it’s so much more horrifying that he’s still in the race at all.

But where was I? Oh yes: Violent threats and acts should not be the cost of providing reproductive healthcare to millions of Americans. It shouldn’t be the cost of discussing reproductive healthcare for millions of Americans. But we’re supposed to be totally cool with it because some people chose to get abortions and some other people don’t think they should and want to threaten and intimidate others into complying with their worldview. Not cool, man.

“I came in here for an argument.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. This is abuse.”

How much longer can we pretend to be shocked in one breath by the violence we glorify in another? And why were we supposed to allow public threats on a private platform in the name of freedom?

Twitter took a step toward maintaining a more civil, and less terroristic, ecosystem. Good for them, and good for us. We all need to fight abuse to protect freedom.

Twitter may have been thinking of ISIL and similar organizations when creating this new policy, but there are other outfits of varying degrees of organization and militarization that are making the world a crappier, scarier place to read and to be.

There are gun-extremists, anti-abortion zealots, and other groups – both loose and organized – that threaten and intimidate their way into people’s timelines to foment hate and disrupt discussion. The things they say are not inconvenient – they are an assault on our liberty. We have to reject abuse by extremists of all stripes – open-carry, religious or political – to protect our freedom.

A Tangentially Related Resolution for 2016

I’m going to do my small part to support good dialogue.

resolution

Tell someone you liked their work, thank that phone rep for their help, wave when someone lets you into their lane (please, please wave), or thank someone who wrote something you liked reading.

Our problems are huge – institutional racism, sexism, domestic and international terrorism, to tick off just a few. And, no, a couple of pleasant comments aren’t going to make any of that less awful. Just because you’re not in the trenches, doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines. Support those you find to be righteous. Read them, “like” and share what they write, comment your support loud and proud.

We need to reject the violence in the streets as well as in the halls of government and on our personal timelines. Take back your culture one compliment at a time.

Happy 2016.

Thea Joselow is a digital media writer, editor and social media director based in Bethesda, Maryland. She has worked for such illustrious institutions as National Public Radio, Smithsonian Magazine, and at a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C., but please don’t hold that against them. Thea likes to think she has a good sense of humor. All opinions, omissions and offenses are entirely her own. She can be found on Twitter at @tjoselow.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/CC License

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