Tweet of Doom: “Trust and Safety Council”
By: Dion McNeil
Are your stocks dying? Is your social media platform becoming more and more irrelevant compared to Facebook? Do you need to find a new way to piss off people who already didn’t want much to do with you in the first place? Well if you’re Jack Dorsey you need a new way to bring in a crowd after some accused your social media platform as being a hot bed for abuse, stalking and other sorts of horrible things. But of course you couldn’t just stop there. You needed a way to not only control what others say but how they say it and to whom they can say such things to.
There are people who have concerns about free speech being threatened. A long stereotype about Twitter is that there are lots of mean people and lots of people who are willing to harass, threaten, sexually harass and scare others off of Twitter. Funny enough even those like Stephen Fry learned that the demographic that is supposedly doing the harassment might be the ones targeting others with harassment that is pronounced enough where Mr. Fry left Twitter as a response. Think that was the people who hate others for being different that made Stephen leave Twitter? Nope, that’d be the offended by everything social justice warriors who did this.
Now of course with Twitter’s declining membership, Jack Dorsey is no longer a billionaire and with the clear cut reaction to some of the recent controversies involving harassment it isn’t any wonder why Twitter is taking a nose dive. However, Mr. Dorsey needed a response. Of course there are certain groups who needed catering to. Those groups included the social justice warriors, the cultural Marxists, the cultural authoritarians and those who are perpetually offended. Of course there were those who were genuinely threatened and harassed who may fit those demographics but we also know that a lot of people who belong to those groups or are easily identified as those types are also guilty of threats and harassment. But to appease some people something had to be done. Mr. Dorsey to the rescue!
Enter the Twitter’s shiny new “Trust and Safety Council” that was created to, “ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter, we must provide more tools and policies.” Sounds innocent enough, right? Think again. Let us take a look at the list of those people who Twitter is trusting with this task of policing free speech. When you’re finished reading this post ask yourself, “how Orwellian is this going to become?”
Here are just a few honorable mentions:
This group has been known to create some controversy. After all even Fareed Zakaria of CNN returned the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize he accepted from the ADL in 2005 after the group opposed the ground zero mosque. It’s one thing to oppose a religious belief but another entirely to treat people like garbage and oppose them having a place of worship due to whatever bias or belief that is held against that religious faith. While Islam may have some issues in some parts of the world that doesn’t speak for the entire religious faith in general. The ADL doesn’t appear to feel that way. Their excuse came from the ADL’s National Director Abraham Fox man who said that the league, “did not oppose the right for an Islamic Center or a mosque to be built” but rather “[made] an appeal based solely on the issues of location and sensitivity.”
So is that an excuse to oppose the building of a religious structure? By that same logic there shouldn’t be a church in any part of America for fear of offending Native Americans and African Americans because we all know the brutal stories involved in those situations. But it is doubtful that Mr. Foxman would feel the same about Christianity and Judaism as he does about Islam. Then again his whole organization has had a rather troubled history. Take this piece from Global Research for example:
“2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous “Anti-Defamation League (ADL) filescontroversy“ in which the ADL was discovered infiltrating, spying on and otherwiseviolating the privacy rights of a large number of anti-Apartheid, civil-rights and peace groups through the unlawful acquisition of private data from corrupt local law enforcement officials.
The single best retrospective is from long-time Middle East analyst and broadcaster Jeffrey Blankfort, who was also among those targeted by the ADL (see, “The Strange History of the Anti Defamation League: ADL Spies“).
Many Americans were outraged in 1993 after reading mainstream press accounts of a vast national ADL spy network with organelles passing information not only to Israel’s Mossad but also Apartheid South African intelligence services—possibly resulting in the mysterious death of Chris Hani and the rushed deportation/detention of many Palestinians. Declassified FBI files newly reveal not only the flood of constituent letters pouring into Congress and the FBI’s unfulfilled assurances that justice would be served, but the ADL’s use of proven tactics that the Israel lobby has deployed since the 1940′s to skirt accountability for major criminal violations.
The FBI files, originally scheduled for declassification in 2038, were suddenly released to IRmep under the Freedom of Information Act on November 20, 2013 and may now be browsed and downloaded from the Israel Lobby Archive.
It is a timely release since one of Israel’s most harmful spies, Arnon Milchan, is openly boasting about his criminal exploits and Americans may soon demand not only that unsuccessful old law enforcement tactics be retired but new strategies be fielded to punish Israel lobby wrongdoers and end their long stint of immunity.”
Really Twitter? Really Jack Dorsey? You employed the help of these people with their blatant Islamophobia, hatred of people who are just different and have a few who are extremists and these people were involved in a FBI investigation for espionage and you employed them to control online harassment? At this point anyone willing to defend Twitter bringing these people on when so many consider them hateful, many who belong to an entire demographic considers them evil and they may or may not have broken the law a few times has to be either blind or some serious type of narcotic. This was horrendous move.
Dangerous Speech Project
So the very title kind of sums who these people are. They believe that dangerous speech is dangerous. They believe that using certain words, phrases and even suggestions is a precursor to violence and often causes that violence. Sound familiar? Well the same thing was said about video games, movies, rap music, music in general and so on and so forth. And yes these people actually believe this. Don’t believe that? Here’s a quote from the front page of their website:
“Inflammatory public speech rises steadily before outbreaks of mass violence, suggesting that it is a precursor of, or even a prerequisite for violence. In many cases, a few influential figures turn their own people against another group, using speech that has a special capacity to inspire violence: Dangerous Speech. Found in myriad languages, cultures, and religions, Dangerous Speech is uncannily similar across them. For example, it often refers to people as insects, vermin, aliens, threats, or pollution.
Violence may be prevented by diminishing such speech, or by making it less compelling to its audiences – without harming freedom of expression. The Dangerous Speech Project works to find the best ways to do this.”
Is it possible for them to be anymore vague in what they meant? Sure, calling someone an insect, alien, threat, a pollutant or vermin isn’t nice but does that always lead to violence? Of course not. There are numerous logical fallacies at play here. One is the false cause which means these people presume that because someone gets called a name and violence happens that this automatically means the speech was the cause as if people ever needed words to be violent. The second is the slippery slope as they are implying that if we allow such speech violence will automatically happen. Third is the lovely Texas sharpshooter fallacy because since we know these words don’t always lead to violence these people are either lying or cherry picked patches of data to suit their presumption. Finally we have the middle ground fallacy because these people are pretending to take a middle ground between fighting what they perceive to be harmful words and balancing free speech.
This sort of group doesn’t need to be on Twitter’s council on cat litter let alone Trust and Safety. If they can’t even distinguish that not all words are violent words no matter how they try to twist reality to fit a narrative then it makes one wonder how they’d judge a tweet that may not be so kind. After all, are we really to believe this group exists because of the few words listed in their mission statement? Something about this group sounds very Orwellian and it wouldn’t be shocking if their idea of what “dangerous words” are isn’t as vague as their opening mission statement is on their front page. Don’t be shocked if those types of words has somehow caused the death of someone else to these people.
Well it wouldn’t be long before we get to see the great Anita Sarkeesian pop up again. Her video series on tropes versus women in video games got her lots of praise and a lot of dislike. She is a woman famous for going to the UN and saying that harassment would also include people telling her that she sucks and that she is a liar. Now saying someone sucks is pretty rude but calling someone a liar isn’t really considered harassment to most people. But even then Twitter is trusting Anita and her crew to call out harassment with research. How reliable is her research? Well her recent video on “strategic butt coverings” shows just how terrible her research is. If she can’t understand that a cape on Batman would hide his butt and only because of the cape and not because of some mass conspiracy to hide the butts of men (especially since in the same game male character rear ends can be seen with just a change of character skins and Batgirl wears a cape that covers her butt as well) then we shouldn’t really rely on her research at all. Then again if she thinks that someone just calling another person a liar is harassment we kind of know where this is going. This is going to censorship.
Remember that controversial 10 hours of walking while being a woman in NYC video? Yes? Do you remember how Rob Bliss, the director of that video, was called a racist because of the depiction of men of color and the black face ordeals he had in the past? Well let’s just put these people in on the Trust and Safety Council and see if there is no level of double think and blatantly obvious evil deeds done. It’s one thing to bring someone on board who doesn’t even fit their own standards. It’s one thing to bring someone on board who has in fact gotten a lot of vitriol from those in minority communities. Another issue arises entirely when Twitter is so blind to the obvious problems of bringing in Hollaback who monetizes off of sensationalism and one sided presentations.
When reading those names, and trust and believe more could be scrutinized, one has to wonder what was the true purpose of creating such a council? Was it really to combat online harassment? Well Anita Sarkeesian would have someone banned for saying she is a liar, Dangerous Speech Project would have someone banned for referring to anyone as a furry creature, the ADL would probably have Islam loving people banned and Hollaback probably will make a video that one could imagine the name being “10 hours of tweet harassment.” It isn’t the single view of any one of these groups that one should really be concerned about. The combined effort of all of these groups, many of which have been repeatedly sighted for either making ridiculous statements or trying to squash free speech, that should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Are we really to believe that this isn’t some grand attempt by people who are offended or can’t get simply hit the block button to make Twitter into a giant safe space? We know Hollaback and Feminist Frequency supports safe spaces and believe that any sorts of words are considered harassment if the person doesn’t want those words said and even if the words aren’t really all that bad. Take that 10 hours of walking video. Not much mention was made of the men who were simply giving that woman compliments or just greeting her but clusters of harassment were cherry picked to fit a narrative. It only gets worse when one realizes that only poor and high minority populated areas were the center of attention thus showing just how far a group like Hollaback is willing to go to fit a narrative and even if it means demonizing an entire demographic. Is this the brand of research and insight we are going to be getting about Twitter users and tweets?
Maybe we all need to send Twitter a unified message that this won’t be tolerated. Most of us are good people and want a safe world but not at the cost of becoming a giant hive mind. A bad culture is bad but a cultural controlled by bad people pretending to be good is even worse. At this point we don’t know who the enemy is anymore but we can all do something to stop this censorship of free speech before the real damage is done. Leave Twitter and show Jack Dorsey that a giant safe space isn’t what we want as consumers and Twitter users.
Thanks for reading!
Dion McNeil is a writer for the Soap Box Corner. Dion is a 29 year old stay at home dad who specializes in social issues and psychology. Feel free to comment, share, discuss or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org