It takes a lot to get me to try to report a twitter user for offensive content — I’m usually happy enough to simply be liberal with the block button (I block, on average, 3 or 4 people a day). But there have been a grand total of two occasions on which someone was so egregiously awful I thought it necessary to report them. One was a guy who was spamming with over-the-top death threats from multiple accounts, and taunting me with his knowledge that Twitter would do nothing about it. Another time, it was someone who was sending me explicit crime scene photos — rotting bodies, bloody suicides, decapitated or disemboweled people. So I tried to send complaints.
The Twitter complaint submission form is a nightmare — it’s a perfect example of putting up a bureaucratic roadblock to prevent people from complaining. These two cases were so extreme that I struggled through several pages of ridiculously detailed inquiries, submitted the final form, and sat back, thoroughly convinced that this was a cynical pretense by Twitter and that nothing would be done.
I was right. The accounts still exist, and I got back the usual dodgy form letter that said no, there was nothing bannable about either of those people.
I’m a guy. I probably get a greater than average number of death threats and incoherent hate mail, but it’s nothing compared to what many women see — appearing online as a woman, a transgender person, or a gay person is regarded by a lot of trolls as an invitation to harass (heck, just dyeing your hair is an excuse). Lindy West describes her experience, and the experiences of other women, who try to get Twitter to enforce their own policies.
Twitter ought to be embarrassed. It’s a service that is approaching ubiquity — when the 24 hour news channels regularly report what’s streaming across Twitter at every event, it seems to be becoming representative — but the content is descending to the quality of YouTube comments, and Twitter does nothing. Rape threats, death threats, hounding people with non-stop trolling…it’s all become the common currency of the Twitter experience. You can get banned for harassment, apparently, but in every case where I’ve seen it happen, the jerk only has to promise not to do it again, and they’re right back in business…and they go right back to their old tricks, knowing that the reporting process is so cumbersome and slow, and that Twitter is so lenient, that any punishment slapped down upon them will be little more than a weekend off the spam/troll beat.