It must be troll slapping day

I am being taunted. There have been a couple of promising occurrences in the ongoing battle with trolls that I should find encouraging, but I really don’t.

First, look at this: the Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, acknowledges that they’ve been terrible at dealing with abuse.

On Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 8:35 PM, Dick Costolo wrote:

We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.

I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.

We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.

Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.


Everyone knows that Twitter has taken some PR hits for their worthless abuse policies, and all of us have seen that their efforts so far have been focused on making it ever harder to report abuse. We know it, and they know it. They’ve known it for years. It’s nice to see Costolo doing some token self-flagellation over it, but you know how much confidence I have that they’ll actually do anything effective? About as much confidence as I have in the second coming of Jesus.

In other news, one of the most notorious trolls of all time, Dennis Markuze, is getting sentenced today. He’s up on three charges: “a violation of the conditions of his sentence, the criminal harassment of one of the eight people he threatened and a threat made toward the investigator who arrested him the second time.” He has pled guilty in the court, but outside the court, to the press, he’s singing a different tune.

The charges laid on me are based on hearsay and conjecture. I am being charged for my controversial ideas, not for any offence, Markuze wrote. The condition to not debate on forums is a direct violation of my fundamental human rights. This condition must be removed. I’m a writer who engages in debate with the power of words, not force of arms.

Right. The power of words. Here are the last few “powerful” words he sent me.

[link to slymepit removed]


Hello Pz,

Thought you might be interested. It is growing to EPIC PROPORTIONS and you are all over it

Things have been cleared up a bit.

But we want to show why God has decided to push the Armageddon switch

It must be seen by millions as examples and warnings against serious crimes against God

to the Parasites, Liars, Snitches, Puppets. and Blasphemers!

it just keeps growing

scroll to near the bottom

millions and millions will see

the biggest event since the coming of Jesus Christ

You get the idea. Gloating puffery and spamming of the same old links, over and over again, under different names: Arnold Ruge, Dave Bauer, Max Stirner, operationarchangel9, Dave Joes, Paul Timothy, David Mabus, and more. He’s a terrible, repetitive liar, and he’s such a bad writer that, Tim Farley to the contrary, nobody would bother reading any hypothetical site he might set up, except to point and laugh. He relies entirely on spamming to get his brief, bellowing messages read, and he hasn’t changed in 20 years: it’s all about James Randi owing him a million dollars, about the imminent violent death of atheists and skeptics, and Depeche Mode videos.

He was sentenced for this activity before, and he spent some time in a hospital getting treated for substance abuse and mental health problems. He was also under a very strict finger-wagging from a judge to not use social networks any more. Hah, that was a laugh: I have still been getting the same old crap from him at regular intervals.

I have been getting death threats and raging tantrums from Dennis Markuze since somewhere around 1993-94. It was amusing for about a week. I am glad that Tim Farley has been active in getting the Markuze problem addressed, but at the same time I think it’s an exercise in futility. Markuze is going to hear “tut, tut” from a judge again, and he’s going to go right back to it.

I’ve been at this too long, and I have become cynical. I see Costolo and a Montreal court making noises, and all I feel is resignation and despair. The one thing I’m confident of is that the daily deluge of hate will continue to arrive at my door, and it will continue to be from the same obsessed assholes, confident that they will not be stopped.


  1. says

    The only thing that worries me about Twitter taking abuse seriously, is that abuse will get a free pass if it’s done politely, whereas justified anger will be penalised.

  2. Thomathy, Such A 'Mo says

    hyperdeath, I think you’re right.

    The first thing I thought was, ‘They’re going to fuck this up so bad.’ They’re going to ban people who get ‘loud’ and angry at the abuse they’re getting. I’m almost certain that what they will do will only take care of the problem of abuse and trolling by removing the targets and for nothing more than daring to fight back, swear and express rightful disgust and anger.

    Twitter …stop. Undo everything you’ve done. Take a breath. Now, create a block button that does only and exactly that. Stop.

    Maybe if you can do that you can, at some point, maybe, you can add a ‘flag’ button that prompts an optional dialogue box for complaints against a user. Maybe we can even trust you to investigate those flags and action them. Maybe. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

  3. weatherwax says

    Was it Depeche Mode? I was thinking it was U2, but t’s been awhile. He certainly is obsessed with their video on the Twin Towers proving some sort of 9/11 New World Order conspiracy.

  4. closeted says

    @4 Definitely intentionally leaked.

    @2 The worry with Twitter is where and how they draw the line for abuse, and where they might draw it when others lean on them? Pretty much everybody here agrees that Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu get sent some truly evil stuff, and a lot of people in their mentions should be booted. It sounds like Costolo is at least paying lip service to those concerns. But what happens when the Saudis tell Twitter that people like Raif Badawi are abusers? Seems like an obvious move for any country with a blasphemy law, or population in favor of one. Or when the US claims that people who tweet about NSA employees spying on love interests are harassing those employees?

    If Twitter’s concern is it mainly “costing us users,” it is easy to worry they will suck as much in another direction as they do now.

  5. blf says

    weatherwax, No it wasn’t U2. As far as I can recall, it was Depeche Mode, and there was some sort of a connection to Nostradamus (possibly the mass murder at the WTC?), and him “winning” Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge.

  6. Trebuchet says

    There’s a photo going around of him (Markuze) outside the courtroom (I think) wearing a Depeche Mode T-shirt.

    PZ, have you forwarded any of his spam to the authorities in Montreal?

  7. unclefrogy says

    they should worry about users abandoning their service but they are obviously cheap and have been unwilling to pay for the hard work of fixing the problem. That is a great opportunity for someone to come up with a new service without the problems.
    It is not a law of nature or their undeniable superiority they are the beneficiary of fashion which is by nature fickle. They are the hip new guys today. Tomorrow they will be old-fashioned. That can happen fast.
    uncle frogy

  8. David Marjanović says

    If Twitter’s concern is it mainly “costing us users,”

    Worse: it’s costing them core users

  9. Esteleth, RN's job is to save your ass, not kiss it says

    I rather wish he’d spelled out precisely what he meant by “core users.” People of color and women – including women of color – are well-represented amongst the people who have lots of followers and tweet a lot, something that Twitter is nigh-unique for amongst various tech services. Black Twitter (as it is known) is a juggernaut with lots of heavy-hitters who drive a lot of conversations on Twitter – and Twitter corporate knows this. By contrast, a disproportionate number of the abusers and trolls on Twitter are white men.
    I kinda understand why Costolo didn’t say, “racist/sexist white guys are harassing our core user-groups, which include women and people of color, for being women and people of color” (and the fact that I understand this depresses the hell out of me). I just wish he had.

  10. Ichthyic says

    Over on Hemant Mehta:

    I saw this exchange, which was representative of a lot of comments there:

    poose • 19 hours ago

    This is one of the few times I have to admit that, although I agree with Hemant (in that he needs help) permanent incarceration is indicated. He is so unhinged from reality that the next step (from intention to action) is possibly only a trigger event away.

    He needs help, but equally to be studied as well. He is a fully-functional, live and operative sociopath with a well-documented history. Maybe he might help unlock why some people hate so deeply that it consumes them.



    Share ›

    Tom poose • 3 hours ago

    “Maybe he might help unlock why some people hate so deeply that it consumes them.”

    Unfortunately, that sounds like the sort of question where no satisfactory answer will ever be forthcoming. If there’s an answer at all, it’ll probably be something dead simple and banal in most cases. I’d bet some people probably invest all their energy in hate just because they don’t have anything else to do with it.


    Share ›
    wmdkitty poose • 18 hours ago

    I second the suggestion of confinement and study.

    this kind of attitude rather concerns me a bit. Confine and study? Uh, last I checked, the man has rights, whether or not he committed a crime. This isn’t fucking “Silence of the Lambs”, and he’s not Hannibal Lecter.

    Am I overreacting? or do others see a problem with this position?

  11. John Horstman says

    I second the suggestion of confinement and study.

    I don’t think you’re off-base that this sounds disturbing, Ichthyic. I immediately think of the US Army officials in charge of our prison camps during WWII who rounded up suspected prostitutes, imprisoned them, and used them for medical studies on VD, as detailed in Marilyn Hegarty’s fine book (and similar to the Tuskegee experiments, which ran concurrently, though they started earlier and continued much longer).

  12. says

    Ichthyic @ 12

    Confine and study?

    As far as I can tell, DM is pretty much a garden-variety abuser, the same class as spouse/family beaters and other “my demands will be met” types. When abusives don’t get their way, they escalate. (Most every shooting spree episode is pre-dated by family or other violence.) So, no, DM is no special case, bullies are easy to find. I do agree the subject could use a lot more study.

    The only extra attention DM needs is incarceration for threatening a cop and defying a judge’s order. That will have the dual benefit of making him leave the rest of us alone for a while (only a while) and helping him quit cocaine and such.

  13. Ichthyic says

    . I immediately think of the US Army officials in charge of our prison camps during WWII who rounded up suspected prostitutes, imprisoned them, and used them for medical studies on VD

    yeah, things like that tend to form my consciousness on the issue.

    I get worried that incarceration is too often used as an excuse to dehumanize.

    hell, the movement to privatize prisons in the States has lead to some rather egregious abuses, and it starts to resemble using prisoners as essentially slave labor.

    old bad habits repeating themselves.

    still, that said, I feel more concerned about the attitude the comments on that article suggest, rather than the likely reality of Markuze’s actual imprisonment.

    why should anyone rationalize away their rights?

    what if it was themselves that were the ones being incarcerated? would they be happy to toss their rights away because they rationalize there is an obligation to understand why they did they things they did?

    i dunno… seems a bit sketchy to me, to say the least. History indeed suggests caution seems warranted when saying something like:

    “Yeah, incarceration and forced testing ftw!”

    does their desire to know why Markuze did what he did exceed Markuze’s right not to be forcibly tested?

    it’s a sticky question.

  14. Ichthyic says

    this is exactly the kind of thing I would value Amphiox’s contribution on.

    for example:

    The state could claim a legitimate value in forced testing in perhaps a more extreme case (where direct violence and harm was involved) in order to help protect the rest of the populace.

    that would go beyond just a desire to know.

    would that then exceed the rights of such an incarcerated individual to refuse such testing?

    I tend to lean it would not, especially given that we have some bad history to look at already on such issues, but I could easily see it being raised again as a “legitimate state interest”.

    what would work as an argument to simply cut this off at the pass, so to speak?

  15. rrhain says

    It’s the common response of “adults” to bullies: Blame the victim rather than the perpetrator.

    I recall one time where I was being bullied while in junior high school. Not just the physical attacks but times when a student got out of his desk during a class, came up to mine, and started taunting me: WHILE THE TEACHER WAS IN THE ROOM. When one of these kids started shoving me, I finally decided to fight back, grabbed his wrist, spun it around his back, slammed him over a desk, and very calmly told him in his ear that if he ever touched me again, I’d break it.

    Needless to say, I got sent to the principal’s office. After explaining what has been happening, the usual victim-blaming began: “Why didn’t you tell a teacher?” I did. They didn’t do anything. “Why don’t you just leave them alone?” Because they’re in my classes and have the same lunch period that I do.

    Everything they tried to do to make this on me, I pushed back upon. Eventually, they tried a tactic I’d seen before: Assume the other person is an hysterical fool who “doesn’t understand” the situation. The principal asked, “So what do you think should be done?” Rather than replying with the, “I don’t know,” he was expecting, I said very simply: Expel them. “But, I can’t…” Yes, you can. You’re the principal. That’s part of your job, isn’t it? To protect the students and ensure good order and discipline? Some of your students are out of control, so why aren’t you doing something about it?

    The principal spluttered a bit, not saying anything coherent, and it was “decided” that I would be removed from certain classes…including putting me into the the PE class for the physically and mentally disabled. So in case there wasn’t any question about my outsider status, it was now official: I was the troublemaker, I was the one removed, I was the one put with the “retards” (and I’m not saying anything about the needs of the handicapped but referring to the mentality of the typical junior high school student).

    Let’s just make sure that the bullying continued on through high school and now I have to explain to them why I was in a class for the disabled.

    I’ve seen it over and over again: Someone goes to the person in authority to point out that someone is being an ass and rather than focus on the ass, they start going after the one reporting it. Given that this has been Twitter’s modus operandi since the beginning, I see no reason why they would ever change their attitude now.

  16. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    “Deltoid machine”?
    Seems like Mabus is really grasping now.

    I see what you did there …even if you’re a little high.

  17. lorn says

    It is simply not possible to be cynical enough. Anyone not cynical at this time has either led a protected life, or they haven’t been paying attention. Having to face down the sort of abuse dished out is neither just nor fair. But, then again, life is not just or fair. So the only thing left to do is face down the abuse and develop a thick skin while hoping, but never really expecting, that things will improve. Who knows? Markuze might make a friend and learn that he can get his emotional stimulation and fulfillment by interacting with people directly. No, it isn’t likely, but stranger things have happened.

  18. tdxdave says

    So sad I share a name with someone PZ mentioned as a not so nice person! I never read that stuff so I would have been blissfully ignorant forever. Well its not an uncommon name, but still reading in that context was a shock! I hope this isn’t some weird Fight Club thing I don’t know about yet.

  19. A. Noyd says

    weatherwax (#5)

    Was it Depeche Mode? I was thinking it was U2, but t’s been awhile.

    It was the former. Depeche Mode and Dennis Markuze (and David Mabus) have the same initials, which his derangement convinced him was significant.

  20. Tethys says

    Feeling unknown
    And you’re all alone
    Flesh and bone
    By the telephone
    Lift up the receiver
    I’ll make you a believer

  21. David Marjanović says

    Depeche Mode and Dennis Markuze (and David Mabus) have the same initials, which his derangement convinced him was significant.

    …Is that why he never stalked me? I thought he simply left people alone who didn’t have a blog…