Racism and Abuse on Twitter

Racism and Abuse on Twitter
Twitter CEO faces Prison; Still Lets Criminals Run Amok on Twitter
by Sue Basko, esq

Update: July 15, 2013: Twitter has finally turned over to the French court the Twitter account information to help identify users who were posting anti-Semitic tweets.  French groups want the offending Twitter users to be prosecuted.  Earlier, Twitter's lawyers had incorrectly argued that Twitter was not subject to French law or French courts, but only to U.S. courts.    Perhaps the reported fact that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was facing 3 years in a French prison for defying the French court order may have finally spurred him on to getting some solid legal advice.
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Racists have run amok on Twitter. The Twitter Legal and Safety departments have come up with "solutions" that leave the site and its users violating laws in every nation and have everyone, racists and their victims alike, dissatisfied.  The problem  seems to stem from a basic lack of understanding of law and practicalities.  Twitter ought to take a practical clue from better-established Social Media, or at least bother to read up on internet law.

It's time for Twitter to face that there are some malicious people who are not qualified to use a communications device like Twitter, because of their tendency to disrespect the rights of others.  As the saying goes, some people just don't know how to internet.

French Jewish student union filed a $50 million lawsuit against Twitter and Dick Costolo, its CEO, for failing to reveal the identity of those widely posting a racist hashtag.  Earlier negotiations had resulted (finally) in Twitter removing the offensive tweets.  Still, Twitter refused to reveal the contact information it had on the offending accounts.

Then, a court ordered Twitter and Mr. Costolo to reveal the names; they have thus far refused.  It has been reported that Mr Costolo now faces 3 years in prison for his failure to obey this court order.  Granted, that's three years in a French prison, where he may be given croissants and red wine.  While we wish prison on no one, the soon-to-be Monsieur Costolo has refused to take the helm and change Twitter to make it socially and legally responsible.  Peut-être qu'il a besoin d'être envoyé en prison.  Avec croissants.

NOTE: I have been harassed and stalked on Twitter by a vulgar, disgusting group of neo-Nazi racists, which I have written about elsewhere.  The group and its members and supporters have posted literally thousands of racist, stalking, mocking,  harassing, threatening, and /or obscene tweets @ me or using my name. They have also created harassment accounts using my name and photo, posted death threats, and posted nonstop defamation.  Through this terrible experience, I've become a bit of an expert on Twitter's deficiencies in handling such anti-social people and their vile postings.

Twitter has become a minefield.  Twitter allows certain malicious users to post lots of hate toward Jews and Blacks and women.  Twitter does not remove the content.  That seems to be the crux of the problem.  Twitter refuses to remove death threats, taunts, obscenity, malicious attacks, and other disgusting tweets.   Twitter may eventually suspend the account,  which  means delete the account. The same malicious user will simply start a new account.  I have watched it happen dozens of times.  Instead, Twitter should be removing the offensive material immediately and getting injunctions to keep repeat abusers off Twitter. Twitter cannot simply ban IPs, since the abusers tend to use VPNs.

Twitter also has an inane policy of allowing malicious users to create accounts in the name of others.  This is illegal under California law, yet Twitter, located in California, blatantly ignores the law.  This same group of racist stalker/ harassers that I described above created dozens of accounts using my name and/ or photo. I am not a public figure or elected official, where making such an account might be allowed under the First Amendment.  I am a private person.  I do not even know my attackers and have never had any dealings whatever with them.  They are socially-deficient people who enjoy stalking victims for fun.   Most of the ones I have learned about are, in fact, already convicted criminals, and the others are knee-deep in illegal and antisocial activity.  Some have a history as serious mental patients.  Some openly abuse drugs or alcohol. The ones I have come to learn about are widely loathed, except by those in their little group of offenders.  They create many sock puppet accounts, so they have "people" agreeing with their malicious behaviors.   It's a hate-support group.  Why does Twitter allow them to defame, stalk, harass others who are not even part of their group?   Twitter has a problem.

The proof is in the pudding.  Normal people who respect others do not need to post @ others or use others' names when they know their tweets are not welcome.  Normal people are not "members" of groups whose main purpose is to show hate toward other racial or religious groups.

Twitter also has a problem with users linking to illegal content, in fact, running criminal operations on Twitter.  There are sites that specialize in posting peoples' personal information in order to make them easy prey for hackers, thieves, stalkers, swatters, rapists, murderers, etc.  This is called doxing or d0xing.  Such information is sold in bundles on tor.  These sites link through on Twitter.  Want to get one of these Twitter accounts removed?  You can file a Twitter Abuse Report, but Twitter requires you to check a box agreeing that your complaint may be shown to the criminals. Are you likely to become the victim of  greatly expanded attacks by these criminals as payback for filing a complaint? Of course. Twitter has suspended (removed) accounts that link to such materials, but the users immediately start new accounts.  Twitter needs to have such people arrested or go into court and have them permanently enjoined from using Twitter.

Twitter allows users to post or link peoples' social security numbers so their identities might be stolen, their addresses so they might be attacked, their IP addresses so they might be dos'd, knocked offline, or their computers rooted. Twitter allows graphic death threats. I have the proof.  I have the screen shots and the idiotic responses from "Twitter Safety."

Twitter also allows abusive users to post obscenity and revenge porn against others.  Again, Twitter fails to remove the content.  This is ludicrous.  Twitter also fails to permanently ban these bad users.  This is a fact.  A young man in the group attacking me created an obscene picture using my photo, which he stole off my website. Twitter repeatedly refused to remove the picture, even as I made Twitter Abuse report after report.  How is it in accord with Twitter "standards" that this man took my photo and turned it extraordinarily, shockingly obscene and posted it?  This is what Twitter "Safety" is all about -- encouraging abuse and crime.   Twitter eventually suspended the young man's account. The young man simply made a new account, which he still has.

Twitter aids, abets, and supports criminal acts.  It cannot be denied.  I love Twitter. But I have thousands of screen shots of criminal acts committed against me on Twitter, and hundreds of inane replies from the Twitter crew about how the crime does not violate Twitter "standards." Twitter is engaged in supporting organized, planned crime.  It seems inevitably just a matter of time before Twitter will be in a U.S. court on a RICO civil complaint or criminal charge.

Twitter also allows accounts that link to sites that are used for extortion.  I don't want to give publicity to such sites, but they were created by some of the same malicious users doing the other things mentioned in this essay.  The sites are used to degrade, harass, humiliate, defame, and shame people who are, for whatever reason, disliked by the racist, sexist, hate-filled people who run the sites.  In other words, basically anyone who is a decent human is likely to be targeted to have pages filled with lies, obscenity, and disrespect aimed at them. And Twitter allows accounts that link to these things. And if any of the victims wish to complain using a Twitter Abuse Report, Twitter requires the victim to agree to allow Twitter to show the complaint to the predator.  Twitter sets up the victims for increased abuse.

The same goes for death threats on Twitter. Twitter does not remove the threats.  Twitter shows the Abuse Reports to the predators, who then create more and ever more vicious abuse. Finally Twitter suspends the account, and the predator creates a new account and starts again.  

Twitter claims that it does not mediate content and that it wants to be a communications platform.  Every major communications platform eventually finds that, if it wants to thrive and survive, it must remove abusive content and ban abusive users.  It's just how it is.  The major newspapers have figured this out with their online Comments sections.   Intelligent discourse ends when a Comments section allows online  predators to harass and stalk other users.  Most of these news outlets got smart, and now require a link up with a Facebook or Google+ account, and quickly remove content that attacks other users.   Youtube figured it out and now has a policy of quick and easy removal of anything that uses another's name or likeness.  Facebook is figuring it out.  Myspace learned it the hard way, by having most decent users flee.  Twitter has not learned it yet and seems to deny it.  

The abusive Twitter users harass others and tend to be very aggressive in their hate-filled and offensive attacks.  When a Social Media platform refuses to police itself,  the decent and respectful users shy away, and so do advertisers.  Twitter is now pushing sales of advertisements.  Who wants their ad on a platform that a group of malicious users are using to run criminal operations, racism, and stalking?
Twitter's failure to remove the offending tweets promptly does everyone a disservice.  The victim continues to be victimized as long as the assaultive material remains.  The perpetrators fail to be taught what is acceptable and what is not.  My Twitter attackers are neo-Nazis, and openly admit to hating "Jews and niggers," and thus, are obviously socially stunted.  As a well-educated and socialized person, I find it incomprehensible what sort of background leads to such enclosed thinking and such malicious action.  I assume my attackers are uneducated and socially unworldly.  

 One cannot go too far in the modern world of school or work, being a white person who calls people "niggers" or "filthy Jew cunt."   However, it should not be assumed my attackers, and others like them,  are unteachable.  Their hate will likely forever fill their hearts, but they might be taught that it is socially unacceptable and how to behave in relation to others.  Why is Twitter nursing their dangerous antisocial behavior?  What is behind this?  I am really curious.   

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives immunity to Twitter for torts enacted by its users.  However, Section 230 does not immunize Twitter for aiding or abetting the criminal acts of its users.  The French Student Union has stated that Twitter is welcoming the criminal racist attacks. I have to agree.  Even if Section 230 were applicable against criminal liability, which it is not, it is a U.S. law and does not apply in Europe.

The criminal culpability of Twitter in the U.S. is palpable.  Much of what I have seen, and been the victim of, violates the harassment and cyberstalking provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) or various state laws.  Should Twitter be concerned about its willingness to give a hand to malicious, vicious online stalker/ harassers?  I think so.

Twitter has not amended its Community Standards to make violations of things such as death threats, posting personal information of others, racist attacks, sex attacks, extortion, taunts, obscenity, and  other such dangerous, highly offensive tweets.  By its lack of normal, legal, decent standards, Twitter invites the abusive predators onto Twitter.  Twitter is a place where, on any given day, you can watch people openly planning or engaging in crimes or noxious behaviors.  

Twitter also seems to have confusion about what it means to be a communications platform.  "Free speech" applies between the government and the citizens.  Twitter is a private company and not a party to the U.S. Constitution.  Twitter can most certainly disallow racist hate speech.  One of the racist boys who attacked me with obscenity and non-stop stalking wrote a string of about 40 tweets boldly declaring it his "free speech right" to post obscenity, defamation, and threats at me.   He's just clueless.  Our Constitutional free speech includes no such "rights. "  And even if the Constitutional free speech rights did include such things, which it most certainly does not, Twitter is not the U.S. government. Twitter is a private company looking for advertisers. 

I've had a Twitter account almost since Twitter started, back when it was quite simple.  Since then, Twitter has grown and become a nesting spot for abusers, people who don't know how to internet. Twitter needs to grow up and address this situation.

Is Twitter intentionally aiding crime, or is it through negligence, and does it matter?  A $50 million lawsuit and potential 3 year prison stint for Dick Costolo says it's time for Twitter to get serious.  And  it's possibly high time for Twitter to invest in some real legal advice, instead of the pathetic, joke-worthy situation it now has going at its Legal and Safety department.