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Aug 16 2013

Storify the story

John Scalzi quoted an informant who emailed him about ElevatorGATE and harassment via Twitter and Storify yesterday. (The quoting was with permission.)

A Twitter and Storify user who goes by the handle “@elevatorGATE” is a well-known cyberstalker of women via social media. His latest method of doing this is to compile thousands of pieces on Storify, often including every single tweet sent by his chosen targets, and then publish them, which notifies the women in question that he had published yet another piece archiving their every word. After repeated complaints and requests for help, Storify temporarily deactivated the notification feature on his account, which doesn’t actually solve the problem.

In a conversation yesterday with Xavier Damman, the Storify CEO suggested that the women @elevatorGATE is targeting turn off all notifications from Storify, which essentially suggests that they withdraw from the medium if they don’t like being stalked, and which also wouldn’t solve the problem of this user archiving everything these women say. One of the users pointed out that this is very much like telling a woman who is being harassed via telephone to never answer the phone. It was at this point in the conversation that Damman went from passively enabling a stalker to actively assisting one. He tweeted, in response to the women, that they “…can’t do anything about that. It’s @elevatorgate’s right to quote public statements…”

To interrupt for a moment – no it isn’t, not in every sense. It’s a legal right, but that doesn’t make it every other kind of right. The fact that it’s a legal right isn’t a reason for the CEO of Twitter Storify to pretend it’s also every other kind of right.

Prior to this point in the conversation, the women had named their stalker, but not used the @ symbol in front of his username. You know enough about Twitter to know why that’s a big deal. Damman either carelessly or deliberately notified a man stalking multiple women that they were seeking some way to prevent him from continuing to harass them, and then claimed it was no big deal because anyone searching for the information would have been able to find it. But there’s a very big difference between information existing and that same information being directly brought to a person’s attention.

If you know much about stalking, you’ll know what happens next. @elevatorGATE has substantially stepped up his harassment of the women who had asked Damman for help. Men who follow him on both Storify and Twitter have been bombarding these women via Storify notifications and Tweets with additional harassment. He has also increased his harassment of known online associates of the women in question, making it difficult for them to seek out help or support from fear of his beginning to stalk their friends as well. It’s the reason I’m contacting you privately, via email, rather than via social media: I’m afraid. I don’t want to be added to his list of targets.

Despite Damman’s claims that they can’t do anything, @elevatorGATE is violating Storify’s Terms of Service, which forbids users to:

Post, upload, publish, submit or transmit any Content that: (ii): violates, or encourages any conduct that would violate, any applicable law or regulation… (v) promotes discrimination, bigotry, racism, hatred, harassment or harm against any individual or group…

As I’ve mentioned here many times, I’ve tried to get Twitter to do something about 3 or 4 of the many instances of harassment I get via their service, and Twitter has been almost entirely unhelpful.

One comment sums up the nature of the harassment neatly.

When someone who has no particular welcome connection to you follows you around recording everything you say, and reposting all of it, and making sure you know they’re reposting everything you say, that is some sort of implicit threat. It might be a little less obvious what exactly the threat is, but I would note that, among people I know, women are pretty much always going to be a bit nervous when a hostile stranger is making it very clear that he is obsessively interested in them…

I’m not sure that applies only to women though, in fact I strongly doubt that it does.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    screechymonkey

    Minor point:

    The fact that it’s a legal right isn’t a reason for the CEO of Twitter to pretend it’s also every other kind of right.

    Demman is the CEO of Storify, not of Twitter, right?

  2. 2
    Bjarte Foshaug

    It’s a legal right, but that doesn’t make it every other kind of right.

    Exactly.
    “You have no legal right to do X” means “If you do X, the state will punish you”
    “You have no moral right to do X” means “If you do X, you are an asshole”

  3. 3
    Ace of Sevens

    Not meaning to derail, but he talks about quoting other people, he’s talking about fair use, which is generally considered a moral right, not just a legal one. We don’t want a situation where people can ban their critics from quoting things they’ve said on Twitter. People have thrown fits about you doing the same. The issue isn’t this at all. It’s that Storify doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between quoting someone to criticize them and organized harassment and doesn’t seem to particularly care about the difference, either.

  4. 4
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Doesn’t only apply to women, although obviously more frequently and with more force…

    I’ve had a couple of Internet stalkings, and every single time it throws me for a serious fucking loop. And knowing that someone could/is watching and might take advantage of me saying this is right at the top. I don’t even remotely understand how anyone deals with this shit on a regular basis.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    screechy – oops – thanks. Corrected.

    Ace, I think it’s obvious that I’m not saying quoting isn’t a right. I’m saying that putting it that way totally (and no doubt intentionally) misses the point.

  6. 6
    iknklast

    I noticed that those terms mentioned specifically that you can’t promote racism, but did not mention sexism. Perhaps in the strange world of these individuals, sexism is not discrimination (because it’s targeted against individuals who are female, and therefore not really individuals at all but merely part of the amorphous mass known as “f*** partners”?)

  7. 7
    TonyR

    Scalzi has cultivated a pretty good commentariat. Some of the slymepit are there, and they’re getting mostly hammered.

  8. 8
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    Yeah, Scalzi’s one of the good ones. Not perfect, as he’ll be the first to say, but committed to being a decent person and feminist, and that goes a long way. I’ve called him out on something before, and he was gracious and pleasant about being corrected (it was something about trans* people, can’t remember what specifically).

    I particularly liked his “I’m a gamma rabbit” thing, where he replied to MRA/PUA bullshit calling him a “beta male” by proudly adopting the title of “gamma rabbit”, just about the lowest form of life in the MRA/PUA crapfest.

  9. 9
    notsont

    Is that what “Gamma Rabbit” is about? LOL I just thought it was some kinda mascot for some book club.

  10. 10
    latsot

    I was vaguely aware that I get storified a lot by the elevator idiot and his cronies, but I don’t get notifications and haven’t paid much attention. I just did a quick search and there are *loads* of the damn things, which I have to admit is slightly disconcerting. They’re just random conversations, storified without comment, which I assume is the point. That’s why it’s intimidating and that’s presumably why they do it: knowing that someone wants to intimidate you is itself intimidating. Knowing I’m on the radar of a bunch of creepy obsessives for nothing more than disagreeing with them on one issue isn’t something I really know how to react to. It bemuses me because I’ve never really had to deal with this sort of thing before. Individual bullies, sure, but this indiscriminate sort of bullying is new to me.

    It is sad that at least half the population will find this sort of behaviour – or at least the attitude behind it – familiar because they’ve had to deal with it their whole lives.

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