David Neiwert was banned from Twitter. The reason: an alt-right troll with a Pepe the Frog avatar had reported him for using a profile picture that featured the artwork of his latest book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. Neiwert is a serious journalist, the troll is an awful little man who bragged about getting him banned, and the troll has experienced no consequences for being a weasely fascist apologist. Neiwert has compromised with Twitter to get the ban lifted, and it’s astonishing that they had to have any conversation at all…and that Twitter didn’t simply acknowledge a mistake and apologize and lift it immediately.
Neiwert has a few words for the medium.
…they couldn’t really explain why and how an account featuring a well-known (but ambiguous) hate symbol—namely, Pepe the Frog—in its profile and its avatar could report me and have me suspended, while that account remained untouched. I was told that this account’s posts weren’t notably hateful (truthfully, they were more in the vein of trolling than of overt white nationalist hate-mongering), so given that context, they chose not to act. That, however, fails to explain why—given that a quick perusal of my timeline would reveal that not only does my work not promote hate speech, it actively opposes it—I wasn’t afforded the similar benefit of the context.
This leads us to what I see as really the abiding problem for Twitter, and for all the social-media platforms, particularly YouTube and Facebook: wildly inconsistent and frequently wrongheaded enforcement of their rules. Twitter’s reassurances otherwise, it is painfully clear that many of the people in charge of making these decisions are either horribly trained or are ideologically ill-suited for the task. Let’s be clear: Hiring libertarians, particularly those inclined to equate hate speech with speech opposing it, for these tasks is a recipe for disaster. So is hiring people who have no idea that fascists are not liberals, or that neo-Nazis are no different than militia “Patriots.” Proper, thorough, and effective training is absolutely essential for these platforms to achieve their goals of ensuring community safety and having a welcoming platform reflective of an open democratic society, and its accompanying marketplace of ideas.
As long as people in power bend over backwards to be “fair” to racists, fascists, and misogynists, there’s going to be this phony conflict that advantages the assholes willing to exploit centrist and libertarian waffling.
Meanwhile, over on Ravelry…
We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. More details: https://t.co/hEyu9LjqXa
— Ravelry (@ravelry) June 23, 2019
Read the full policy. Note that there are 8 million users on Ravelry — this isn’t some obscure backwater of the web.
We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry.
This includes support in the form of forum posts, projects, patterns, profiles, and all other content. Note that your project data will never be deleted. We will never delete your Ravelry project data for any reason and if a project needs to be removed from the site, we will make sure that you have access to your data. If you are permanently banned from Ravelry, you will still be able to access any patterns that you purchased. Also, we will make sure that you receive a copy of your data.
We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.
- You can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here.
- We are not endorsing the Democrats nor banning Republicans.
- We are definitely not banning conservative politics. Hate groups and intolerance are different from other types of political positions.
- We are not banning people for past support.
- Do not try to weaponize this policy by entrapping people who do support the Trump administration into voicing their support.
- Similarly, antagonizing conservative members for their unstated positions is not acceptable.
You can help by flagging any of the following items if they constitute support for Trump or his administration:
- Projects: Unacceptable projects will be provided to the member or made invisible to others.
- Patterns: Unacceptable patterns will be returned to drafts.
- Forum posts: right now, only posts written after Sunday, June 23rd at 8 AM Eastern
- Profiles: Unacceptable avatars or profile text will be removed.
Much of this policy was first written by a roleplaying game site, not unlike Ravelry but for RPGs, named RPG.net. We thank them for their thoughtful work. For citations/references, see this post on RPG.net: https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/new-ban-do-not-po…
See, Twitter and Facebook, it’s not that hard. It’s possible to be politically neutral and fair, while also shutting down hate speech and Nazis.
Even back in my usenet days, the fabric arts groups had a reputation for being practical, no-nonsense associations that were intolerant of intolerance. It’s good to see their reputation is holding up.
Do I need to take up knitting now? I’ve kind of got my hands full with my arachnology projects…wait. Knitting. Spiders. Do you realize how naturally those two go together? You can’t argue with 300+ million years of the fiber arts.
If you’re wondering what triggered this policy, here’s the background.
Some background on this decision pic.twitter.com/Mg9oOkhv0j
— Annaliese Elaine (@puppysizedelsie) June 24, 2019