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Apr 17 2014

How Twitter Can Combat Harassment in Three Easy Steps

Dear Twitter:

A language hotspot map using color to designate threat level.

Shouldn’t hotspots always receive the most attention?

I can see that you’re overwhelmed with the idea of policing your service. It’s been obvious for a while, but when you start issuing service ticket numbers for complaints without having any way for people to check the status of those tickets, then you’re shouting it from the rooftops. So here’s a little suggestion about how to make your own lives easier while still cleaning up your service to keep people on it long enough to see your sponsored tweets. And it will only take three easy steps.

  1. You already have an algorithm that detects spikes in the use of phrases or hashtags. It’s what you use to create your trending topics. Use that algorithm to detect when people’s mentions spike. Sure, it will take a little bit of fine-tuning, because the spikes are smaller, but it will be worth it.
  2. Why? Because your next step is to set someone in Twitter support on the job of looking through that person’s mentions. Again, this will be an easy job, because all this person needs to do is determine whether this person’s mentions are full of something benign, like congratulations, or full of the kind of toxic crap my friend Melody Hensley is still receiving two days after I documented an onslaught of abuse. The difference is easy to spot. Go take a look.
  3. Once you’ve identified a thread with a high degree of abuse, go through and clean it out. Ban your repeat offenders and accounts freshly created for the purpose of abusing someone. Suspend and/or warn your first-timers depending on their degree of depravity, and mark their accounts as having been warned so you know when you see them again.

That’s it. You’re done. You’ve found the people who exist to make your service hell for other people, and you’ve dealt with them en masse. You’ve gone to the trouble spots and dealt with the troublemakers. You haven’t had to go through and individually look at tickets for each one and individually look at all the tweets involved. Sure, you’ll still get tickets on smaller situations, but there will be a whole lot fewer of them.

No need to thank me or credit me for making your jobs easier or your service more user-friendly. Just take the advice and make it happen. Clean the place up.

Image: “Language Hotspots” by whiteafrican.

Apr 16 2014

Secular Anti-Abortion Link Roundup

A friend is leading a discussion on reproductive justice and would like all the links related to last month’s blow-up in one place. I realized I’d tweeted many of them and, thus, had them collected in other posts already. This is just pulling them all together, though I’m sure I don’t have them all. If I missed anything that contributed to the discussion, please drop it in the comments. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 16 2014

The Reading List, 4/16/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Apr 15 2014

How Could Twitter Possibly Cause PTSD?

When I started this Storify, I didn’t expect it to be nearly this long. Then Thunderf00t stepped in, and the volume increased to multiple tweets per minute. It’s only starting to slow down in the last hour, but I have to stop somewhere if this is going to be published. If it gets to you, either in volume or in ugliness, then at least keep scrolling until you get to the part where they start contacting her boss and her organization. That should be witnessed.

If the embed on the Storify doesn’t work, you can read the whole thing here.

Apr 13 2014

But How Do You Know the MRAs Are Atheists?

I think this question is mostly a thing of the past, but at one point, it was a favorite of those who didn’t like to see the atheist movement criticized were all over wanting to know how we could knew that the harassment and anti-feminism coming our way was coming from atheists. Typically, we pointed to the communities from which the bulk of the harassment came. Now, we can point to some numbers in yet another community that suggest we’re on the right track.

Or at least they make me laugh. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 13 2014

“Minnesota Marriage Officiant Bill”, August Berkshire on Atheists Talk

We had a relatively last-minute change of guest and topic for this week’s show. We’ve been wanting to have August Berkshire on the show for a while to talk about the marriage bill. He’s been shepherding it along for several years now, sussing out legislator concerns and drumming up support in the community. This morning, he joined us in studio to talk about the purpose of the bill, the process we’ve gone through to have the bill introduced in the legislature, and what people can do to support the bill.

Since the show was recorded, we have confirmed that no further committee meetings are happening this year. However, now that the bill has been introduced, it’s time to approach your legislators about supporting the bill for next year, possibly even about co-sponsoring it. As mentioned on the show, the American Humanist Association has made it easy for you to contact your state representative and senator to ask them to support the bill. If you receive any feedback with concerns on the bill from your legislator, please make Minnesota Atheists aware of those concerns.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Apr 13 2014

The Reading List, 4/13/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Apr 12 2014

Saturday Storytime: The End of the World in Five Dates

I’ve featured one of Claire Humphrey‘s stories here before, but this one got to me. It started with the Harold Camping. It ended with..well, that would be spoiling it. Let’s just say I remember knowing I couldn’t live past a certain age. I’m happy to say I was wrong.

I: May 21, 2011 (according to Harold Camping)

Robin called it an apartment, but it was really part of an old carpet factory in the Junction: an echoing space where one of the looms used to be, furnished with a broken church pew, two wheelchairs, and the bench seat from a minivan.

The smells of paint and dust were good, banishing the phantom smells of antiseptic and latex gloves from my nose. I leaned in the doorway of the breakroom and watched her sweep. “Where’s everyone going to sit?”

“On the floor,” she said. “That’s why I’m sweeping it.”

“And you’re cooking dinner on this thing?” I gestured over my shoulder at the twelve–burner gas range; eleven of the burners were clotted with molasses–brown grease and a surcoat of dog hair.

“Petra’s bringing food. You’ll like Petra.”

“No, I won’t.”

Robin threw the broom down with a clatter, and marched over to the dentist’s cabinet in the corner. “Jesus,” she said. “You need an attitude adjustment, stat.”

She handed me a bottle of Crown Royal, about a third full. I poured some into one of the paint–stained mugs from the work table. The paint didn’t come off into the whiskey, so I drank it.

“Now,” Robin said, picking up the broom again, and sweeping the pile of dust and filings underneath the work table. “You are going to love Petra. Know why? Because she’s extremely fucked up.”

“Oh. Great.”

“Shut up and drink! She’s fucked up and she’s my oldest friend, and you can’t mess around with her. Be good to her. Got it? Even if you can’t be good to yourself.”

“It’s not about being good to myself, for fuck’s sake. If this is confirmed, it means surgery and chemo and all kinds of unpleasant bullshit and there’s just no point to it.”

“But you don’t know for sure! What if you’re wrong? If it really is cancer, Cass, you can’t just leave it alone —”

“Watch me.”

Keep reading.

Apr 11 2014

“American Atheists Convention”, David Silverman on Atheists Talk

A few weeks ago, we had American Atheists president Dave Silverman on the show to talk about the upcoming American Atheists national convention, April 17-20 in Salt Lake City, among other things. At least that was the plan. As it turned out, the “other things” took over the show. This Sunday, however, we promise to focus on the convention. Won’t you join us to find out what’s in store for everyone who is able to attend?

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Apr 10 2014

So You’ve Got Yourself a Policy. Now What?

I talk to a lot of people about anti-harassment policies. For a long time, those discussions were mostly about why we should have them for our events. After that, figuring out what to put in them predominated. Much discussion has gone into how to treat people who come forward to report abuse and how and whether to share information with people who might have a legitimate interest.

Those are all good discussions to have. I think they’ve generally been productive. Some of them, like sharing information, will be ongoing for a while as we make good decisions and bad in these uncharted waters. Lately, however, a different topic has been surfacing.

We know from situations in which they’ve failed that “zero-tolerance” policies, policies in which any act that is deemed to be unacceptable results in expulsion and exclusion, don’t work well. They fail in three main ways. People who are against harassment policies in general are quick to point out that they leave no room for honest mistakes. They are correct when talking about zero-tolerance policies, even if they make the same criticism about all policies.

These policies also fail because they discourage reporting. People who experience undesirable behavior under zero-tolerance policies know that reporting may well lead to expulsion. That frequently isn’t what they’re looking for. They just want the behavior to stop. This means that much undesirable behavior goes unreported. Even people who have experienced significant harassment won’t always report if reporting means taking responsibility for someone being expelled and excluded.

Finally, zero-tolerance policies fail because they’re difficult for organizers to follow. This seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. When there’s a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy, it gets harder for organizers to determine they’re making the right choice. Patterns of behavior are easier to work with than a single incident. Except in blatant cases, a single incident may be ambiguous where a pattern of behavior won’t be. This can lead to very high standards of evidence being required for action because the only action allowed is drastic.

It’s little wonder that we avoid zero-tolerance policies. At the same time, however, we haven’t talked much about how event organizers should deal with behavior that, on its own, may not merit expulsion. And if organizers don’t feel they have the knowledge to do more than expel or ignore, we end up with de facto zero-tolerance policies. Read the rest of this entry »

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