Twitter is a Business, Not the Government

As most here surely know by now, Robert Stacy McCain’s Twitter account was suspended by Twitter this past week. The reactions on the intertubes to this have been pretty much what you might expect.

Over at Reason — in an article noted here by CK on our Linkage board — Robby Soave condemned Twitter with some downright chilling rhetoric. “Orwellian” was the exact word Soave used to describe Twitter’s decision to suspend, comparing its management to 1984’s “Ministry of Truth.” PJ Media, not wanting to be left behind in the gushing-ALL-CAPS-rhetoric derby, declared that “Twitter has ‘disappeared’ McCain.” And McCain himself was happy to promote not only the idea that he was Winston Smith incarnate, but perhaps the living embodiment of Truth itself:

Facts are harassment and truth is hate and Oceania Has Always Been at War With Eastasia. [A feminist who disagrees with me is] anti-truth. She and her little squad of soi-disant “feminists” are just hustlers looking for a free ride, and the only way they can get that ride is to silence anyone who speaks the truth about them and calls them out as the cheap bullshit artists they actually are. Me? Nobody cares about me. I am not the story. But I am the guy telling the story, and I’m not going to shut up so long as I can breathe. If I drop dead right here, right now, as soon as I click “send,” I will keep telling the truth, because that’s what the job is about. F**k “social justice.” Give me freedom, and give me truth.

And then McCain answered and said unto the Sarkesians, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. To each generation a Rosa Parks is born, I guess.

220px-Robert_Stacy_McCain_(edit)Fans of Robert Stacey McCain refer to him first and foremost as a journalist, though you may or may not choose to take that designation with a grain of salt. Years ago, McCain did indeed work for the Washington Times as both a reporter and editor. Since 2008, however, McCain has been practicing journalism in the same way that a Men’s Rights blog does so. A quick review of his website suggests that much of his work is simply finding ill-thought-out tweets and YouTube videos by unknown teenage feminists and black men, and then mocking them and encouraging his followers to do so as well. The degree to which this makes him either a journalist or an internet troll likely depends entirely on the individual person considering the question.

Journalist or not, there is little question that McCain is a first and foremost a purposefully divisive character. McCain is a white nationalist who states that the “revulsion” you pretend that you don’t feel when you hear of a white woman and a black man intermingling is “altogether natural.”  He acted the apologist for Ray Rice’s spousal abuse. His primary concern about anti-gay rhetoric in recent years was that it focused too heavily on male gays and thus insufficiently demonized lesbians. Like Chuck Johnson and Milo Yiannopoulos (who were “censored” by being either being suspended or having a fancy blue check mark next to their name removed by Big Twitter, respectively), McCain seems primarily concerned with finding ways to keep his name in the conversations regardless of context.

It is an odd phenomena of social media that it somehow transforms cultural relativism’s biggest critics into its most impassioned defenders. Because of this, one of the biggest complaints against Twitter by those critical of his suspension is the entirely correct observation that McCain’s beliefs were not treated with an exactly equal degree of respect and deference as others’ more mainstream beliefs. The second (and also true) critique of Twitter has been that even if you consider Robert Stacy McCain a troll, he is certainly not the biggest one in the Twitter-verse. Finally, there is outrage that Twitter has not detailed to the public why it did what it did to McCain.

The question is therefore raised, what do we make of Twitter suspending McCain? Do we condemn those who work there as jack-booted thugs, as Reason and PJ Media might wish? Do we decry Twitter’s dark curtain of censorship, even if we find that the whole Death-of-Truth thingy makes us want to roll our eyes? Do we draw a line in the sand, make a stand for Freedom of Speech, and say to Twitter that we will not tolerate their suspending anyone’s account, regardless of how we might feel about that person?

Or — and I’m sure I’m going out on a limb here — is it possible that Twitter is just making a rational and defensible business decision, and that we should all just chill out?

 

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One of the great truisms of Ordinary Times, oddly, isn’t actually entirely true.

From its first inception as the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, this site has prided itself on being first and foremost a place where “all points of view are welcome.” To the extent that this is true, however, it is only true within a given universe. We gladly welcome those who are liberal, leftist, libertarian, conservative, Republican, Democrat, third-party, men, women, straight, LGBTs, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, small-sect, atheist, people from any and all nations, and even the occasional Rush or Kenny G fan. This is, we believe, a fairly expansive universe — far more expansive than found at most sites that cover politics and culture, I would argue. But make no mistake. It is still a universe with boundaries.

Over the years there have been essays submitted to this site that I have declined to run based solely on the writers’ points of view. I said no thank you to a piece that argued — with zero tongue implanted in cheek — that women who went to college to compete with men in the job marketplace were by their very nature “devious whores” who deserved to be “given a good strong hand to the face.” I also declined to run an argument that Christianity existed for the sole purpose of knowingly enabling child abuse and pedophelia. I passed on a short story whose bizarre text was a kind of snuff fantasy, describing the satisfaction the author believed he would get from using a broken tequila bottle to castrate the previous President of the United States. I went so far as to eventually block the email address of one particularly adamant writer who kept submitting treatises declaring that the darker the skin of a human male, the less value that person had as a human being.

I did not reject these and others like them because they were poorly written; indeed, some were quite eloquently phrased. Nor did I refuse them because I disagreed with their stances. I did disagree, obviously, but the truth is that I personally disagree partially or entirely with more than half of the stuff we post here. I didn’t even turn them down because I thought someone somewhere might find them offensive, because I have learned that there is no piece that one can write that won’t offend someone somewhere, and trying to do so and still be a writer is a sucker’s game.

No, I turned down these pieces because OT is first and foremost our product, and its community is our customer base. Expanding our borders to create a universe that was inclusive of the types of posts I mentioned above would have fundamentally changed both that product and that customer base. Running those essays would have likely meant losing most if not all of our current readers and commenters. Additionally, it would likely result in our best and most prolific writers — who would not want their persons identified even indirectly with such writing — severing their relationship with this site. (Including, not incidentally, me.)

This is not a revolutionary or even unusual stance on our part. Indeed, the thought that Reason and PJ Media would condemn another media business for not giving equal access to any and all political viewpoints regardless of whether or not they agreed with them is beyond laughable. If Twitter suspending one objectionable guy is our nation losing its most precious freedoms under shades of 1984, what the hell does that make Reason and PJ Media?

The truth is that Twitter has had a customer service problem that threatened its potential profitability for a long time. The vast preponderance of the statements published in the Twitterverse are entirely unremarkable and eminently forgettable, but a lot of the activity on its fringes is a cause for managerial concern. People have received death threats, or at least messages that can be construed as death threats.1 Every woman I interviewed for my MRM article — every single one — received at one time or another tweets calling for their rape. Additionally, I know several women who are my age, and who have no interest in or even knowledge of Gamergate, who have made tweets that have been misunderstood by Twitterers as taking a side on “ethics in gaming journalism.” They, too, have each received public wishes for their rape and/or victimization by violence.

To people who frequent this site, this is likely all just culture-war click bait, or a neat place to plant a flag in a First Amendment debate. For many Twitter users, however, it is ample reason to stay the hell off of Twitter, and to encourage their friends, family, and coworkers to do the same. And once you reach a place where you risk losing a big chunk of your customer base, you have a problem. Twitter has had a choice for a long time, one that they kept putting off in the hopes that it would go away: they could leave things as is, or they could start policing trollish behavior. They appear to have finally chosen the latter. This necessarily means making a choice of which groups and behaviors you’re going to show the door. In the case of Robert Stacy McCain, a user who appears to have used Twitter as a vehicle to find women and African Americans he thought his hordes would be happy to make miserable, they seem to have made just such a choice. They might well have gone after those who followed McCain’s lead, those who actually delivered the prayers for violence and rape to those McCain had merely highlighted, but they appear to be trying a more efficient route. This might be an effective strategy; it might be an ineffective strategy. It is not, however, a crazy one.

Regardless of its efficacy, however, there is no reason why Twitter should not be allowed to do what they are doing. They are protecting their business interest by making decisions about what types of behaviors they do and don’t want to accept, in the hopes of keeping those customers that they most covet happy. That is not censorship, nor is it a curtailing of rights. It’s not 1984 come to life; it’s not even close. It’s just a business decision. If this business decision turns out to be ill-conceived, Twitter will reverse course. Or it won’t, and it will suffer and perhaps go out of business. Them’s the breaks, after all. But these too are the breaks: If you are driving away some of a business’s most valuable customers, you may not find yourself welcome in that place of business.

Because of my time here at both the League and Ordinary Times, I both sympathize and empathize with Twitter’s decision to suspend McCain. (Or, for that matter, suspending Johnson and taking away Yiannopoulos’s blue check mark.) I also understand their decisions to not broadcast to the world their reasoning regarding actions toward individual customers or employees, as well as their choice to be purposefully fuzzy about what they will or will not accept in the future. Most people of good faith know at least approximately where such lines are without ever having to be told, and they act accordingly. In my experience, those that ask for very precise coordinates of such lines do so in order to dance as close to them as they can, attempting to bait those in charge of enforcement. I have little time for such games, and I certainly do not expect managers at Twitter to be forced to play them.

 

 

[Images: Twitter logo and Robert Stacy McCain, both via Wikipedia.]Notes:

  1. Free-speech hardliners will likely point out here that a message like “Someone should come to your house and knife you to death” is not technically a death threat, and state further that since it is obvious hyperbole, it is not actionable in court. This is likely true, but that doesn’t mean that someone who gets tweets saying this kind of thing won’t be freaked out, or that Twitter has no business interest in curbing such behavior. []

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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also executive producer and host of the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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434 thoughts on “Twitter is a Business, Not the Government

    • I generally agree with all this, but…

      Government and business are so intertwined, that it is pretty easy to see how a government, or members of a government, might get private entities to muzzle speech they find unsatisfactory.

      Donating to Wikileaks was a real pain.

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  1. There are people i’ve talked to that think the entirety of Reddit is virulently racist and misogynistic chats. Nothing else, just racism and sexism. Nothing about endless geeky threads on every goofy, weird, interesting, complex topic under the sun or small mammal reaction gifs. So why did Reddit take a stand on some of the poo on there, so that maybe people would think they were more than that.

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  2. I love this sentence:

    It is an odd phenomena of social media that it somehow transforms cultural relativism’s biggest critics into its most impassioned defenders.

    Nevertheless, I conclude that Twitter is, in fact, doomed. It is doomed precisely because it’s so interruptible. Anyone can inject themselves into any conversation. Anyone can look at any conversation. It is context collapse, which is amplified by the 140 character limit, which makes it impossible for anyone to explain themselves.

    Oh, it might be successful as a business, but it’s end state will have it be full of slogans and brand management, and little else.

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  3. A few points:

    1. Does twitter in fact have a customer service problem? Or is it the case that people have continued to sign up despite knowing that it is a cesspool?

    2. There is quite a bit of difference between the league and twitter. Twitter is the only social media vehicle of its kind. We are one (admittedly very space awesome) blog among gazillion others (which are not as awesome). That means that while excluding certain persons from this blog doesn’t really silence them in any significant way, kicking someone out of twitter does. (Even RS McCain still won’t shut up, he is now unable to tweet)

    3. If you care about substantive liberties and not just formal liberties, then viewpoint discrimination by the only platform provider of a given kind of platform is a serious issue no matter that the platform provider is a private business.

    Compare the following case: In a deeply religious and bigoted town, a restaurant refuses to serve self avowed atheists. No doubt, some of it is driven by antipathy with the view, but largely it is a business decision. As a small family restaurant, it cannot afford to alienate its suppliers or customer base. In fact, ever since it tried to be professional and served the lone liberal atheist family which recently moved in, locals have been shunning the restaurant. If you think that there is something wrong with such discrimination in the restaurant case, then there is something wrong with discrimination in the twitter case, regardless of how abhorrent the McCain’s views are. It cannot be substantive liberties for me but not for thee.

    Also, we don’t even let bakeries discriminate against gay couples even when it is unlikely that this will significantly hamper their ability find a wedding cake. If there were a dozen different twitter-like platforms things may be different but that is not the case.

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    • 1. Anecdotally, I know a lot of trans women who have fled Twitter cuz the abuse levels. (Things like help, but only by degrees.)

      2. Tumblr and Facebook are quite similar to Twitter. Not identical, but these things exist by degrees.

      3. Being an outspoken racist is not like being gay. Being an abusive troll is not like being an atheist (or a Christian for that matter). We are allowed to notice that different things are different. It is reasonable to decide that this group is a minority unfairly discriminated against, whereas this other groups a collection of toxic shitheads we’d do best to avoid. In fact, I’d say we must make such distinctions. How is it supposed to work? People who wear blue hats can demand equal treatment under the Civil Rights Act? Blah.

      What are you selling? First they came for the Nazis… Next they came for the Klansmen…

      Seriously?

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      • The point is not that they’ll come for you. Obviously progressivism is ascendant and will be and become more so for the forseeable future. But, the driving principle of liberalism is how to get people of different views, feminists and patriarachs, racists and anti-racists, catholics and protestants, LGBT and homophobes to coexist on mutually acceptable terms of cooperation. If that is the case, then we cannot make such distinctions between ideologies.

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          • Can you demonstrate that ONLY outright bigots & trolls are being excluded? How much collateral damage are you OK with?

            Overall my concern is that this could further erode social/cultural tolerance of opposing viewpoints. I have no trouble with what Twitter is doing (even if I think they are doing it wrong), but I worry such activities enable one set of viewpoints to stifle another under the cover of protecting people. I guess I’d be more comfortable if they just called it brand/product management instead of Trust & Safety.

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            • Um, there is a burden of proof issue here. I don’t know that it is limited to only bigots and bullies, but it seems to be. That is what I am supporting.

              Regarding “collateral damage,” I personally know one of the women targeted by Gamergate. I’ve spoken face-to-face with another one. The toll on these women is pretty huge. Plus I have a large number of online friends who have to deal with the normal low-level grind of being female-on-the-Internet.

              How much collateral damage will you accept?

              There is a reason people are taking Sarkeesian seriously. It’s not because of her high quality feminist critique (I say ironically).

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              I’m happy to accept a level of “collateral damage” against lukewarm right-wingers and milquetoast nerdbros that is precisely equal to the “collateral damage” that “free expression” and “free association” has brought to women, minorities, and queers.

              Seems fair right?

              No! Oh, so now people are suddenly interested in fair-play for all! I get it.

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          • Murali is right. Philosophical liberalism is based on the idea that there is no such thing as a good life but rather there are multiple versions of the good life. The basic idea is that individuals and groups should be allowed to live as they want while quietly discussing this with their neighbors. The government is supposed to be neutral and not favor one version of the good life over another. Basically, this means that the conservative and patriarchal Protestant small business man has just a much right to live his life the way he wants as a radical transgender Bohemian artist. As you note there is a tension because some versions of the good life are completely contradictory to each other.

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        • the driving principle of liberalism is how to get people of different views, feminists and patriarachs, racists and anti-racists, catholics and protestants, LGBT and homophobes to coexist on mutually acceptable terms of cooperation.

          Well, exactly. But it seems like the folks you’re defending here refuse to coexist on mutually acceptable terms of cooperation, yes? So why think the problem arises from folks who are denied mutually acceptable terms of coexistence from others?

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          • Well, it is their nature to overreach as it were. It does not follow that we are thereby permitted to go all open season on them. Their unreasonable refusal to accept fair terms does not then license us to impose unfair terms as punishment.

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            • This is really good (and i used to think this way myself), but it is still moralistic:
              Their unreasonable refusal to accept fair terms does not then license us to impose unfair terms as punishment.

              The fact of the matter is that any judgment which was actually warranted has been executed, in that the refusal of offer indicates a perception of loss of value within the positive negotiating range.
              That is, if the terms were all that good of deal, the offer would not have been refused.
              The refusal was not unreasonable, but rather was very reasonable given the parties and context.

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          • If the cooperation is not accepted willingly, then is not enforcing cooperation an imposition?

            What should we do with Mr. McCain’s property, provided he is ( . . . ahem . . . ) “cooperative?”

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            • Lee,

              I don’t disagree with what you’ve written here, but if you’re saying that is an argument in favor of Murali’s position upthread, then that argument reduces to making concessions to a liberal ideal for the sake of pragmatic considerations. Since it’s inconsistent with the concept of liberalism to tolerate people who are intolerant of liberalism itself (unless we go up another meta-level!), the reason we should tolerate them is because punishing them causes disruptions in the political order (or whatever).

              And that’s what Twitter is trying to do by censoring certain types of content: prevent disruptions, not to the political order (tho people can think of it that way) but to their business model, which (apparently) depends on promoting certain types of norms.

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        • I see your point but a lot of what you are saying reads like minority groups basically need to take verbal abuse and harassment on the chin. “Sticks and stones” and all that.

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            • I’m not seeing the argument for that yet, Murali. Seems to me you’re assuming free speech absolutism is essential to liberalism, even wrt private firms. That requires argument, seems to me, on both counts: free speech absolutism as well as why that principle should apply to private firms.

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              • To put my cards on the table, I’m less confident about free speech absolutism or that the same rules apply to private firms. I think what justice/liberalism requires is somewhat indeterminate. However, whatever is a member of that set which might be required, some consistency requirements constrain what might be offered. People rail against private restraints on liberty when it suits them but care only about government restraints on liberty at other times. People are free speech absolutists when it is their speech which might be restrained but become censorious when it is the views of those they do not like. Given that the audience here is mostly in favour of ensuring that private corporations don’t arbitrarily limit the freedoms of their customers or employees, and that people here, at least on the face of it, and with some exceptions, are free speech absolutists, consistency is going to require them to at the least criticise twitter for banning mccain.

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                • I think one of the important points in this thread is one you made earlier: Twitter is not just a business. It is a business, of course, but it is not a cake shop or a gun store or anything like any of the other businesses that have seen recent fights over discrimination. Twitter, by virtue of the speed and ease with which it lets people communicate, connect, coordinate, and otherwise organize, it has very real and important social and political implications. Twitter has played important roles in actual revolutions, in massive political protests all throughout the world, in more long-term political movements, in political campaigns, even in wars, and, dangerously, in terrorism. Denying people access to Twitter therefore has very serious implications about ability to participate in political and social dialogues and events.

                  That said, Twitter banning someone is not the only way for individuals to be meaningfully denied access to Twitter: abuse and harassment by individuals, including McCain, is designed to do just that. It makes participating in Twitter miserable for the target, in the hopes that they’ll leave Twitter, or worse.

                  In order for Twitter to be as fair and open as it has been to this point, allowing all sorts of voices, many of them almost if note entirely unheard in other media, to reach many ears, a balance has to be reached between Twitter’s commitment to allowing access to people regardless of their world-view or how they express it, and their ability to ensure that others do not deny that access through abuse and harassment. This is not a balance that is easy to achieve, and it’s important that users (and non-users, because even if you don’t use Twitter, you are affected by it) continue to talk about this balance, and how to better achieve it.

                  To some extent, I worry that RSM is a distraction from this important conversation, as evidenced by so many who are willing to jump into the discussion here with no knowledge of the situation, because they see that there may be political/ideological teams at play, and know which team they want to side with. That is unfortunate, and I’m not sure how to get around that.

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                  • “To some extent, I worry that RSM is a distraction from this important conversation, as evidenced by so many who are willing to jump into the discussion here with no knowledge of the situation, because they see that there may be political/ideological teams at play, and know which team they want to side with. That is unfortunate, and I’m not sure how to get around that.”

                    I think that gets pretty much to the heart of it. Were some SJW college student/professor who’d been caught harassing people had his or her account suspended by Twitter, I am not confident there would be a huge percentage of folks who would be standing firmly on the same side of this fence that they are currently defending.

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                    • Almost certainly (see, e.g., substitute teacher fired for abortion joke). However, I don’t think that’s true of everyone. I believe j r when he says he’d be on the same side no matter what. And Glyph would express caution and support for neutrality either way. But some folks? They saw the potential for a team battle and took their sides from the start.

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                      • Oh, agreed.

                        This speaks to something I decided a long time ago about this place in particular and the Intertubes in general, which is this:

                        There are two kinds of people sho show up to discuss these kinds of political and cultural issues, which I refer to as Debaters and Communicators. Neither Debaters or Communicators are inherently better or worse than the other, and conversations with both can be fun and valuable. There are good friends and total irritants in each camp. But if you want to stay sane and happy, it’s wise to correctly identify people as one or the other and set your expectations accordingly.

                        Debaters show up to debate, and it’s a fool’s errand to get yourself invested in having them see things your way, grant you points, or even acknowledge when they are wrong. They aren’t trying to bond, they’re trying to have the upper-hand in all debates. SO, for example, if they claim that you are wrong because So-and-So never once said X and then you show them a link to where So-and-So said exactly X, they will not be deterred, and they will simply revise their arguments. They are here to win, not find common ground.

                        Communicators show up primarily to bond. They might disagree with people, but they engage in those disagreements in a way that tries to find both the exact nature of those differences and common ground. They feel out the other person’s arguments for understanding more than they do for weaknesses.

                        It’s not black and white obviously, and of course people can fall in-between in the spectrum, but it’s a pretty good baseline from which to approach people.

                        If you attempt to communicate with a Debater, you’ll just be frustrated — they are happy to knock heads till the cows come home. More than happy, in fact; it’s the entire reason they came.

                        And if you debate communicators you’ll be equally frustrated, because they’ll soon tire of you and leave you hanging just when you were enjoying the battle.

                        It’s not a perfect system, but it’s kept me sane all these years.

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                    • “Were some SJW college student/professor who’d been caught harassing people had his or her account suspended by Twitter, I am not confident there would be a huge percentage of folks who would be standing firmly on the same side of this fence that they are currently defending.”

                      I think that this is the heart of the issue for many, actually. Of course there is some (probably a lot) culture war stuff going on, but at the heart of it, there dosn’t seem to be any sort of a two way street going on with issues like this. At this time, I am very down on the left, because they are holding the reins of power. During the Bush years I was down on the right, as they were holding the reins. Twitter doing this with no explanation to a few SJWs would get the same reation from me as this, if it seemed that it was only a one way street, appearing that just SJWs we subject to this treatment.

                      But that is not the case, nor is it the case with other aspects of leftist cultural activity. You have talked about Louis CK and the rape comments of Sarah Palin, and the double standart that comes with that. For me that is the issue, and it shows up here with twitter. Because there have been no SJWs who have been booted of the platform, CK is really not admonished for rape comments that anyone else would be held to.

                      Because the internet and platforms like Twitter are now so important to the discourse, and really are held by so few hands, I am, as I said earlier, coming the the conclusion that it is a public good, that it is something that needs to be adressed

                      Right now there is way to much of an “X for me, but not for thee” attitude in the discouse, and this doesn’t help. Not in the slightest. Is RSM someone who probably should be dealt with for reasons that have been made clear in this thread? Probably. But Twitter not having a transparent set of standards that would be applied across the board is what is driving this, along with the aspect of standards that apply only to one side of the political spectrum.

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                      • “…there dosn’t seem to be any sort of a two way street going on with issues like this…”

                        But doesn’t that require that the behavior be a two-way street? Again, if someone can point to a SJW who leads Twitter mobs in violent harassment, I’ll be banging the drum right alongside you that that person should be off Twitter.

                        Pointing out Louis CK and his deplorable rape “jokes” as equivalent to RSM just misses the mark. If Twitter kicks everyone off who makes a rape joke (and, hey, maybe they should!), you’d see people being kicked off all over the place.

                        I’m struggling to see why we are framing this as a left/right issue. It isn’t. Like, really, really isn’t. It is, at its heart, an asshole issue. RSM is a unique type of asshole, the likes of which Twitter does not want to do business with. All assholes of RSM’s type should — and likely will! — find their Twitter accounts “disappeared”.

                        Point me toward someone on the left who has engaged in the exact same behavior as RSM and who remains on Twitter and then we can talk. Until then, we really can’t make heads or tails of Twitter new-ish policy.

                        As (I believe) has pointed out, we have a very small handful of data points on this issue. Let’s not jump to conclusions.

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                        • “doesn’t that require that the behavior be a two-way street?”

                          Ah-heh. We’ll stop arresting black people just as soon as their friends stop smashing windows and looting stores, right?

                          ” If Twitter kicks everyone off who makes a rape joke (and, hey, maybe they should!), you’d see people being kicked off all over the place.”

                          Perhaps this is exactly what should be happening.

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                          • “Ah-heh. We’ll stop arresting black people just as soon as their friends stop smashing windows and looting stores, right?”

                            I’m really lost as to how that is relevant.

                            As to your second point… well, didn’t I agree with that? In the quoted section? Right inside the parentheses?

                            This whole comment is pretty baffling, to be frank.

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                        • But doesn’t that require that the behavior be a two-way street? Again, if someone can point to a SJW who leads Twitter mobs in violent harassment, I’ll be banging the drum right alongside you that that person should be off Twitter.

                          Spike Lee still has his twitter account after he tweeted the home address of(a different) George Zimmerman, Weigel Broadcasting still after they ambushed Memories Pizza. Should they be banned?

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                        • — Well, if you dig into @shanley’s history, you can probably find some ugly stuff. There definitely is a thing where “SJW with tons of followers drags someone publicly, who then gets hell.”

                          There was this from Kat Blaque: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kat-blaque/this-insurance-agent-thre_b_8133114.html

                          The thing is, of course, that there are important object level differences between these things, which are inherently political. The point is, I don’t want Twitter to be “content neutral” between feminism and misogyny. Nor do I want them “content neutral” between racial activism and white power. Like, duh. This seems obvious.

                          Which is to say, there is a difference between calling someone a “bigot” and calling someone a “tranny,” assuming in both cases the accusation is true. I am indeed a transgender woman. The people who hate me for that are indeed bigots. If I call them out, and if they get in trouble for being horrible, then good. If I get in trouble for being transgender, then that is an injustice.

                          It’s okay to be queer. It is not okay to hate queer people. Society is functioning correctly when this becomes a common belief. If the haters find doors closed, then good. Hate is a choice.

                          That said, I don’t like @shanley’s tactics, even if I share some of her frustration. I think much of what she does is counterproductive. Likewise for Randi Harper. There are thinks I like about her, but she is very confrontational. She likes to stir the pot.

                          Which, as a result she was stalked in real-life, with a known violent, unhinged misogynists doing shit like taking pictures outside her office and sending them to her. In a world where Eliot Rogers is held forth as a “beta male” hero, this is legitimately intimidating. She certainly received abuse well out of proportion to her own shit-stirring, which was mostly her getting in to STEM-geek pissing matches with mediocre men. Whatever. It wasn’t admirable, but neither was it terrible.

                          #####

                          I can’t think of any names, but quite a number of my “SJ” aligned friends have been suspended from Twitter. In fact, it’s fairly common. So far as I know, none of them have been banned.

                          I haven’t been on Twitter much in the last year or so. I don’t know how much it has changed.

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                          • I agree with . Such as it is, the SJ abuses strike me as mostly Blue on Blue, which might explain why any actions by Twitter aren’t noticed, by and large.

                            I’d even go so far as to say that their culture war opponents actually like the attention when the other side goes all out, as it gives them license to go all out while claiming victim status.

                            I’d like to see Twitter get happy with the ban hammer across the board, because I find the behavior highly unproductive & frankly ugly.

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                        • I would say without a doubt that you and are correct about the pausity of data points. And I will further go on to state that this is in many ways a gut feeling kinda thing. That is how this works out in many ways for many people, obviously myself included.

                          But that gut feeling is not without reason. This is a good rundown of tweets that have been put out about Sarah Palin. Now I am not a fan of her, but I am a fan of rooting out the incivility of much of out political discussion. On both sides.

                          Now, I am not seeing much pushback on either side of political fence to cleanup this mess. What I am seeing is the levers of power being held by the left right now, epecially in the technology fields that are so prevalant in our lives. This is what I am driving at, by linking the above to you, my comments to Tod, etc. That right now bias seems to be driving Twitter. And while I am welcome to someone pointing out to me that, no, the bias you see is not really there, until then, I am going with my guts on this, as I believe Tod is. And that is cool, that is how most things work.

                          I (obviously) don’t think that pointing out CKs rape jokes misses the mark,is a false equivilance. I think that it illustates perfectly what I am trying to get across. Nothing will match up one to one, a perfect fit. But that is no reason that this shouldn’t be discussed. Politely, as we are.

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                        • People of all sorts get their accounts suspended pretty regularly. The only reason we’re paying attention to RSM is because he’s well-known. As far as I know, it’s true that no “SJW” of RSM’s popularity has been suspended, much less banned, but anyone who claims that this is an issue will have to point to one who’s behaved as badly as RSM. So far, there’s just a vague assertion that “SJWs” have to get banned too or it’s unfair.

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                          • Is it just me or are some folks sliding into the “unless both “sides” are punished equally then the policy isn’t fair” territory? That’d only make sense if the purpose of the banning RSM was to punish a “side” in “a culture war.” Which just begs all the questions – again – precisely on the model I outlined to Kazzy below.

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                            • It feels that way. I mean, I’m sure those people are convinced that there are “SJWs” who are just as bad as RSM, but that is inevitably true only if one adopts a “culture war” stance on what RSM has done, so I think you’re right.

                              I’ll just ask any and every person who says stakes that position to point to one or more “SJW” who’s behaving as bad as McCain. If it is so obvious that this is unfair, that Twitter has taken a side, it should not be difficult to do so.

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                              • “I’m sure those people are convinced that there are “SJWs” who are just as bad as RSM”

                                I think this a more relevant issue than can be dismissed at first blush, and speaks to why I think Twitter should be able to make subjective decisions about what behaviors they do or do not allow.

                                I can’t speak for all of #gamergaters, but I can tell you in the MRM there is a belief — sincerely held — that those feminist and supporters of feminism that are harassed are, by their mere association with feminism, advocating genocide. From their point of view, when you say “you can’t threaten to rape people” they believe you have no stance to do that while you let people advocate for genocide against people like you.

                                That’s why the belief, commonly held in these threads, that if Twitter were to just put everything in a defensible black and white press release regarding RSM than it would be a non-issue is one held by people who are fooling themselves. If anything, it would create more controversy, ill-will, and accusations of catering to one side over the other.

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                                • “That’s why the belief, commonly held in these threads, that if Twitter were to just put everything in a defensible black and white press release regarding RSM than it would be a non-issue is one held by people who are fooling themselves. If anything, it would create more controversy, ill-will, and accusations of catering to one side over the other.”

                                  I fundamentally and utterly disagree with this, . Should the laws the US be a set of feelings? That is what is creating this issue, and and why it is probably not going to go away. Now, you might say that this is a private business, and that comparing it to US law is a false equivilance. And as many on here told you that yes, they are a private company, and yes, they can do this. But they are then the ones making a martyr. The ones giving the appearance on bias.

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                                  • I just want to say this little mini-thread here is a fascinating discussion, the sorts of which we should be having instead of the one we were having off the bat.

                                    Which isn’t meant to criticize anyone. Hell, I was right in the midst of that initial conversation! Sometimes you have to slog through the mud to get to the good stuff. But discussing these larger, more substantive issues… getting at the framework instead of the wallpaper… is really enlightening.

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                                  • Should the laws the US be a set of feelings? That is what is creating this issue, and and why it is probably not going to go away.

                                    Aaron, earlier you said that the problem was a leftward tilt in the way disputes like we’ve been discussing are resolved was the cause of the problem (you said it was a gut feeling). Now you’re saying that the lack of clarity in decision-making is the cause. IT can’t be both. At best, better clarity might mitigate against some types of accusations hurled at Twitter if whenever the ban-hammer comes down. I’d also add that you’re appeal to more clearly stated user guidelines serves the purpose of mitigating your own “gut feeling” more than anything practical out there in the world.

                                    But perhaps more to the point: Tod relayed a conversation he had with some MRMs committed to the idea that Facebook was adopting the feminist position in the culture war based on the evidence that only his pals ever had their posts deleted. When Tod told him that FB deleted feminists posts as well, the guy still maintained that FB was taking a side in the culture war

                                    So there’s clarity for ya.

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                                    • That’s not clarity, that’s perception.

                                      MRM: FB has a feminist agenda, they delete MRM posts.

                                      FB: No, we delete offensive feminist posts as well.

                                      MRM: OK, sure, but you delete all MRM posts.

                                      FB: No, only the ones that clearly violate the TOS.

                                      MRM: Well all the MRMs I know have had posts deleted/accounts suspended. How many feminists have?

                                      Ergo: no one I know voted for Nixon…

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                                    • I agree with you on the clarity of the MRM re: feminists.

                                      But “the problem was a leftward tilt in the way disputes like we’ve been discussing are resolved was the cause of the problem (you said it was a gut feeling). Now you’re saying that the lack of clarity in decision-making is the cause. IT can’t be both.” Well, I do think it can be both. Why do I have the gut feeling? No set of rules that is constantly and consistantly held. What can help remove it? Rules that are constantly and consistantly followed.

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                                  • “I fundamentally and utterly disagree with this, Kelly. Should the laws the US be a set of feelings?”

                                    Yeah, this right here is likely exactly where I part with you, jr, CK, and pretty much everyone else here. I have zero idea what “US law” has to do with any of this. A business is saying — for entirely amoral and not Truth and Justice business-y reasons, make no mistake — that they are no longer going to accept X behavior, because X behavior drives from one group of customers drives away a different group of customers. What at the fish does that have to do with “US law?”

                                    I’m likely going to sound both mean-spirited and like an old man on porch in a way I swear I do not intend here, BUT

                                    WTF is wrong with people today that they think they can say anything to anyone they want in someone else’s place of business and they think that they are somehow entitled to do so?

                                    To take this away from the cultural flashpoint that is RMS, allow me to instead focus on someone who I think is as close to universally loved and acclaimed on this site as anyone can be: Ken White of Popehat.

                                    White recently did a post on this very topic, where he lamented that he might well be asked by Twitter to change his behavior if he wants to continue having an account. I am not really a Twitter-following guy, so out of curiosity I went over and looked at his account. The very first tweets I saw were him engaging someone who I do not believe he knew, and his message to this person what that, based on that person’s picture, that person was (going on memory here) a fat shut-in worthless loser. In his Popehat post he referred to this theoretical warning from Twitter for engaging people did know know in this fashion as a “customer service” problem Twitter needed to address.

                                    This, again, is where I just do not get people who choose to live online.

                                    For a group of people (Ken, you aaron, a lot of people here on OT) who spend so much time looking at college kids and condemning them for being spoiled, entitled brats, I truly don’t understand what it is with y’all that you think someone else’s place of businesses owes you a place where you can say shit like that to people for free.

                                    It’s probably a generational thing, I guess. Maybe if I were younger, I too would feel like Twitter, Facebook, and, I dunno, Cupic.com, somehow owed me the right to spew whatever the hell I wanted on their dime. But since I am an old fucker, I truly do not get it. It truly baffles me.

                                    And yeah, before everyone here piles on, I totally get that I am an island of one on this subject. I get that no one here will agree with me on this.

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                                    • You aren’t crazy or old. As a matter of fact, you are spot on, and I would be right there with you if not for one small thing that pointed out:

                                      Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.

                                      Now, that mission statement does not grant carte blanche for bad behavior, but it gives Twitter a problem in that they now have a very narrow needle to thread, because they said “without barriers”.

                                      At least, if they want to be honest about it. Truth be told, they have a very easy way to fix this and still be honest:

                                      Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly and respectfully, without barriers.

                                      Or something along those lines.

                                      Seriously, a public mea culpa that, (Cue Lumbergh voice) “Yeah, that whole “without barriers” is turning the place to shit, so we are putting up some barriers.”

                                      Which is kinda what they are doing, in a round-about passive aggressive kind of way.

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                                    • Well, as long as you understand that

                                      It isn’t that I think that it is OK for someone to feel entitled to be able to be a jerk in someones business, its that I don’t feel that it is OK to allow one person to do that, and then turn around and deny someone the ability to do it, and then assume that you wont be publicly held up as a hypocrit for that.

                                      Twitter, for a long time, allowed whatever speach the user wanted. That set the tone for Twitter users of all strips, set the tone for using twitter. To then come around, and seemingly deny a user, to remove their tweets, etc. and not do similar actions to other Twitter users who do similar things strikes many as being wrong, not that they can’t do it. To then not follow up with a policy or statement to explain the reasoning behind this, and how it was not idiologically motivated leaves them open to the discussion we are having here. And, as I stated earlier, helps make someone whom should be on the loosing end of this a martyr. And furthers the ugliness of discourse in the country.

                                      As for this “For a group of people (Ken, you aaron, a lot of people here on OT) who spend so much time looking at college kids and condemning them for being spoiled, entitled brats…”
                                      not sure how it applies to me. It is not a gernerational thing, as Ken, myself and you are all about the same age. Again, no one is saying they can’t do this, its just that they look like hypocrits, and it isn’t helping anything.

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                                      • Twitter, for a long time, allowed whatever speach the user wanted.

                                        This is simply not true. Twitter has suspended accounts for as long as it’s been around. it’s even done so indefinitely (look up Chuck Johnson for a prominent example). They have a TOS, and they’ve enforced it. What’s new is the focus on abuse and harassment, which has been a major problem on Twitter, particularly for women.

                                        Again, it would help people here to form better opinions, or at least to not appear to be merely playing a team game, if they knew what was going on.

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                                        • Well, that is good to know. Genuinly.

                                          Now, Twitter needs to get in front issues like the one we are talking about, with messages like that, and remove the look of bias.

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                                          • OK, seriously, I can’t believe I have to keep saying this: know what you’re talking about before forming an opinion. Hell, ask me, or if you think my ideological priors are problematic, ask someone who’s clearly familiar with Twitter and McCain but more likely to disagree with McCain’s banning (I am still not sure what I think about it, because, as I said above, there’s a delicate balance to be struck here).

                                            Twitter has been very public about (finally) cracking down on abuse and harassment for months, publicly forming a committee, and their rules are available for all to see.

                                            They haven’t publicly stated the specific tweets that led to their decision, though they have told McCain which set of rules (the abuse ones) they’ve determined he violated. That may not be enough (I’ve stated my position on this several times in the thread), but it’s not like they’re being all secretive about their goal to crack down on abuse and harassment, or what their rules are, or in have have been for some time.

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                                            • First off, I have full faith in you to be completely honest, no matter your idiological priors. I consider you a friend, one reason for which is that you are a stand up guy.

                                              Second, i just spent a good chunk of time scouring the internet to see what Twitter was saying, newsites were saying, etc. regarding RSM. Zero results. Now, I am perfectly willing to assume that my google foo is not so good these days. But I should be able to find something other than a list of what every conservative blog thinks about this. Which leads me to…

                                              Third, by get in front of, Twitter should have a bot scanning the intertubes looking for things like this, and having someone jumping into conversations about this. And that isn’t just for RSM. That goes for anything that their name comes up in.

                                              I doubt they are being all secretive about cracking down on abuse and harassment from what you are saying, but they aren’t getting out in front of this, they aren’t driving the story.

                                              The story is driving them.

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                                              • I consider jou a friend as well, of course.

                                                They’ve made it clear they’re not going to talk about McCain specifically. I see no reason for them to do so, as long as they are up front with him about why he was banned. It looks like they may not have been.

                                                And we’re paying attention to this story here, as are folks at places like Reason and Breitbart, but most of the world, including the vast majority of Twitter, even “SJW” Twitter, has either moved on or never cared in the first place. There is barely a story at all.

                                                If it becomes a pattern? Then we might be talking about a real story that might impact Twitter as a business.

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                                    • and his message to this person what that, based on that person’s picture, that person was (going on memory here) a fat shut-in worthless loser.

                                      I can’t figure out the logic here. Was he pissed off and this was just his honest opinion of the person? (If so, what a dick.) Or was he trying to test Twitter’s commitment to “fair play in the culture war” by intentionally and egregiously insulting a person he’d never met? (If so, what a dick.) Or was he doing a double reverse McCain by intentionally insulting a person he doesn’t know because it’s his right to do so with a little Don’t Back Down! juice thrown in? (If so, what a dick.)

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                                      • Worth noting that in its own damn TOS, Twitter says that by using their service, you acknowledge that you “may be exposed to Content that might be offensive, harmful, inaccurate, or otherwise inappropriate.” Twitter doesn’t care if people are rude, insulting, racist, sexist, or downright vile, but they are trying to crack down on abuse (e.g., if White had spent hours telling this dude he was nothing but a fast loser), harassment (constantly attacking the dude and sending his followers to do do, say), doxxing (if White had posted his address or his SSN or something), and threats (if White had said he was going to go to the dude’s house and kill him, or suggests his followers do so). If White is as smart as many here seem to think he is, he’d know this, which means his post must have been written in a brief moment of stupidity.

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          • I don’t see why not. It’s trendy now to “sticks and stone” straight, white guys. Do they have to tolerate it for some period of time to “balance out the equation” or is it just plain wrong to do and no one should, regardless of whether one side has taken the abuse or not?

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            • Clearly straight white guys have to tolerate it till the liberals get their pound of flesh. (which I doubt will ever happen) It’s like Kazzy’s comments in the ChickCEO thread that it was inconceivable that white guys could be discriminated against and therefore can’t use an anti discrimination law that clearly covers everyone.

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          • need to take verbal abuse and harassment on the chin

            It is interesting that even here, you mix the very concepts that the “sticks and stones” canard you reference in your very next sentence is intended to distinguish between – the physical world, vs. the world of words and ideas.

            I don’t really have a point, but it just struck me as funny.

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        • Actually, given the “pendulum” swings of history, you can be assured that sometime, somewhere, “they” will indeed come for “you”. “You” in the case being someone of your political/social outlook, not you and in you yourself.

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    • I’m genuinely surprised. You are one of the last people I’d expect to say that a private company should be treated as a public utility. Especially one like Twitter, which has none of the characteristics of a natural monopoly. The only barrier to entry for a competitor to Twitter is attracting an audience, which is also faced by every other social media platform. If Twitter drives away enough customers, they’ll find another place to go. And if nothing suitable exists, and someone will figure out how to make money from it, it’ll get built.

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      • I’m not saying that it should be treated like a public utility, but people who are willing to regulate other non-monopolies (like Tod, you and basically just about almost everybody else who is vaguely to the left of Rand Paul) to ensure non-discrimination can’t justify not regulating twitter on the grounds that only government violations of liberty matter. I’m a right wing crazy. I can say that twitter can do whatever the hell it wants because it is a private company. But the rest of you can’t.

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        • Murali:
          I’m not saying that it should be treated like a public utility, but people who are willing to regulate other non-monopolies (like Tod, you and basically just about almost everybody else who is vaguely to the left of Rand Paul) to ensure non-discrimination can’t justify not regulating twitter on the grounds that only government violations of liberty matter.

          We can justify it on the grounds that only government infringements on free speech matter, though, because governments requiring that people publish messages they disagree with in the name of free speech is, in fact, itself a violation of free speech. There isn’t even basic internal consistency there.

          Also, I don’t see any particular reason to treat the anti-discrimination law as some open-ended thing that prohibits all conceivable forms of discrimination. It’s actually limited in scope, people who support anti-discrimination laws support laws that are limited in scope, and that scope generally doesn’t include prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of political viewpoint, and it’s not remotely clear why that should change.

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              • …no?

                Were you expecting me to give a different answer here?

                And I can see your kafka trap, so let me flip this back at you: What if the photographer says “I’m not going to cover the Hillary rally because if my other customers see me there they’ll stop hiring me”?

                What if the photographer says “I’m not going to cover the Hillary rally for purely business-related reasons that I assure you are entirely objective” while stroking the “TRUMP 2016” sticker on their camera bag?

                Sure, it’s their business and they can do what they want, but do you think their motives are good ones we should encourage and support?

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                      • So all along Schilling has had an unspoken “except of course for areas of speech regulation that are required to be in compliance with the law” tagged to everything he’s been saying?

                        I mean, shit, if that’s the case then why can Twitter even exist? Once the first person says something racist or homophobic, shouldn’t the whole works be shut down for publishing illegal speech?

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                        • DensityDuck:
                          So all along Schilling has had an unspoken “except of course for areas of speech regulation that are required to be in compliance with the law” tagged to everything he’s been saying?

                          What speech regulation? I assume Schilling likely agrees with the opinion of the court in Masterpiece Cakes that was simply about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Perhaps the reaction would be different if RSM had been banned on account of his sexual orientation, race, or gender, but there’s absolutely no evidence that this is the case.

                          I mean, shit, if that’s the case then why can Twitter even exist?Once the first person says something racist or homophobic, shouldn’t the whole works be shut down for publishing illegal speech?

                          Because racist and homophobic comments aren’t “illegal speech”?

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                          • See, I don’t understand what you’re arguing, here.

                            Because you have a very strongly-stated stance that people shouldn’t be forced to publish messages they disagree with–that it’s a First Amendment violation for the government to require that.

                            Then I say “what about (example of that happening)” and you say “oh, well, I didn’t mean things that the government has declared you’re not allowed to be discriminatory about!”

                            So, um, the First Amendment only counts when we want it to?

                            That’s not how the Amendments work, bro.

                            ************

                            What I’m trying to get you to do, here, is square “providers shouldn’t be forced to publish speech they disagree with” against Masterpiece Cakeshop, and do it in such a way that you don’t invalidate the First Amendment (which, you claim, protects private entities from compelled speech).

                            In case you’re wondering, I do not consider that court case to have been properly decided, and I wish that it had gone further up the chain than it did.

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                            • DensityDuck:
                              So, um, the First Amendment only counts when we want it to?

                              That’s not how the Amendments work, bro.

                              Um, it absolutely is how they work. You have a First Amendment right to free speech, but you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. You have a Second Amendment right to bear arms, but you can’t own Tomahawk missiles or sarin gas. There have always been practical restrictions on the rights enshrined in the Amendments; everything after that, as Jaybird often says, is haggling. I mean, we don’t have to like it, but that is the actual reality of things.

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                                • DensityDuck:
                                  Oh Christ, not THIS again.Even the guy who originally said that changed his mind about it.

                                  Ok, fine, then pick another example if you don’t like the one I gave. That is not the only restriction on the First Amendment, and you damn well know it.

                                  DensityDuck: “PS glad to know you support warrantless wiretapping. I mean, it seems like a ridonkulous violation of our protection against illegal search but hey, there have always been practical restrictions in rights, huh?”

                                  C’mon, dude, I know you’re smarter than that. My acknowledging the fact that there have always been practical restrictions on our rights does not mean I support all extant restrictions on our rights (in point of fact, I disagree with a great many of them, that one included). That is an enormous and completely unsupported leap. I mean, hell, if that’s the turn this is going to take, why don’t I point out you didn’t dispute my Second Amendment example and claim that must mean you think it’s okay for people to own cruise missiles and nerve gas, and are therefore likely either a domestic terrorist or terrorist sympathizer? It would be just as wild a leap.

                                  Could we have this conversation down here on the ground, instead of immediately leaping into outer orbit?

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                                  • “Ok, fine, then pick another example if you don’t like the one I gave.”

                                    It’s not on me to make your trash arguments work properly.

                                    “My acknowledging the fact that there have always been practical restrictions on our rights does not mean I support all extant restrictions on our rights”

                                    Pretty sure that the people who authorized warrantless wiretapping figured that it was a practical restriction on the right against search and seizure.

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                                    • DensityDuck: It’s not on me to make your trash arguments work properly.

                                      No, but it is on you to not be intentionally obtuse. Unless you’re totally ignorant, you are presumably aware of at least some of the many restrictions on the First Amendment.

                                      DensityDuck:Pretty sure that the people who authorized warrantless wiretapping figured that it was a practical restriction on the right against search and seizure.

                                      I’m sure they did. You and I both disagree with them on that. Hence, as I said before, it has to be haggled over politically and judicially, as distasteful as you might find that.

                                      Or you could just stick with pointless snark. But it doesn’t seem to have worked very well for you so far.

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                                      • Thanks for at least presenting a link. It’s not nearly as persuasive as you seem to think. It’s entirely shot through with exceptions, revisions, examples of how the restriction in question was found to not apply. If anything it would be better titled “attempts to create exceptions to free speech”.

                                        Don’t be all mad that you cited Holmes’s stupid remark and I called you on it. Just don’t do that any more.

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                            • What I’m arguing here is that I, like the court in Masterpiece Cakes, don’t think the argument made by by the bakers is correct. Saying that being required to sell a wedding cake to gay people while selling wedding cakes to straight people is “compelled speech” strikes me as pretty bonkers. It makes as much sense to me as saying that it’s “compelled speech” to require a newspaper stand to sell newspapers to black people.

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                        • It’s (I would guess) illegal for Twitter to refuse to allow people to post based in their sexual orientation. If Twitter allowed (say) marriage announcements for opposite-sex but not same-sex couples — hmm. I don’t know if that’s legal or not.

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                      • To refresh your memory a bit, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop was not asserting a right to refuse to serve homosexuals—and indeed positively affirmed his willingness to do so—but rather the right to refuse to make a themed cake celebrating gay marriage. He argued, clearly correctly, that to force him to do so would be to force him to publish, in cake form, a message endorsing gay marriage.

                        You can say, as I do, that neither this nor what Twitter chooses to publish is any of the government’s goddamned business, or you can say that both, as places of public accommodation, should be forced to publish whatever their customers want. If you’re going to pick and choose, though, it looks an awful lot like you’re just making stuff up as necessary to rationalize your preferred conclusions.

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                            • Silly Glyph… this is TWITTER!

                              Cupcakes for Twitter.

                              If you want a cake’s worth of room to spout your gullet, get yourself a blog.

                              Cake blog? Clog? Edible shoes? We might be on to something…

                              (Note: This is similar to the process by which I stumbled onto my next brilliant idea: A mock-mock turtleneck. It *looks* like a mock turtleneck but actually affords all the warmth of a real turtleneck. This is achieved by having the neck fold in instead of out. Investors can line up to the left…)

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                        • Brandon Berg: To refresh your memory a bit, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop was not asserting a right to refuse to serve homosexuals—and indeed positively affirmed his willingness to do so—but rather the right to refuse to make a themed cake celebrating gay marriage. He argued, clearly correctly, that to force him to do so would be to force him to publish, in cake form, a message endorsing gay marriage.

                          Well, I wouldn’t say that’s clearly correct, as every single administrative body or court reviewing that case unanimously rejected the defendant’s formulation of events, and found that his actions were specifically discrimination on the basis of sexuality.

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                            • That might have stung more had I not spent last week defending Antonin Scalia from knee-jerk tribal liberals in my Facebook feed.

                              Just, please disabuse yourself of the notion that the correctness of the Masterpiece Cake shop’s arguments are self-evident, and we’re only pretending otherwise because we’re in the pro-gay corner.

                              The notion that the provisioning of baked good is compelled speech is one I find utterly ridiculous, and you should too. A book is undeniably free speech, but a bookseller isn’t being forced to engage in compelled speech when he refuses to sell a bible to an atheist. A painting is undeniably free speech, but if I were to go into the local gallery and drop the $500 sticker price, the curator isn’t refusing to engage in compelled speech when he refuses to sell works by Latino artists to non-Latino customers.

                              Like, there are actual reasonable arguments to be made about freedom of conscience trumping the government’s interest in preventing discrimination, the effectiveness of such laws at actually ending the discrimination that minorities suffer, and so forth. I may not agree with them, but I won’t roll my eyes at you for suggesting them. Make those arguments instead.

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        • Actually, I am quite ok with there being some sort of doctrine whereby sites like Twitter or Facebook are required to host opposing views, and offer fairness and balance in editorials.

          This “Fairness Doctrine” could be applied to broadcasters as well, but now I’m just veering off into Bernie Sanders crazytown.

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      • Actually that “vox day” creep has been rumbling about starting an alt-right Twitter, which should be pretty amusing to watch. The big problem will be, these fuckers can have their echo chamber, but without the rest of us to attack and annoy, then what will they do? Attack each other?

        (Which actually, if you spend any time on 4chan or whatever, then clearly the answer is yes. They will get all pissy with each other in an endless petty status fight over who is a “cuck” or a “gamma.”)

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        • Having places where trolls can hang out is probably beneficial to humanity.
          In a creative destruction sense, anyway.
          Trolls will continue to be trolls, and from what I remember about 4chan, they’ll go trolling for child molestors and ISIS with equal abandon.

          Trolling is an explicitly outward-turning phenomenon, it’s not really about having an echo chamber, it’s about understanding other people’s echo chambers, and then trolling them until the entire place goes apeshit.

          Master trolls post one post, and make an entire community implode.
          Master trolls start flamewars between two different communities, and then walk away as two people they hate get to walk their self-inflicted planks.

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        • “Actually that “vox day” creep has been rumbling about starting an alt-right Twitter, which should be pretty amusing to watch.”

          I need to rush in there and take all the good handles before they are gone. “Anti-Cuckservative”, “Uncucked Pagan”, “Odin Sphere”, and “Hitler69” are going to be hot commodities.

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        • That idea goes back to Ultima Online. Make a shard with player killing and make a shard without, and guess what? The PK shard is empty but for the would-be killers, and the forums full of whining would-be wolves angry that there aren’t any sheep and complaining that the game is RUINED and it should go back to single shard.

          Because the sheep decline to be hunted, harassed or annoyed. They just want to play their stupid game, thank you.

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  4. +1000

    I also understand their decisions to not broadcast to the world their reasoning regarding actions toward individual customers or employees, as well as their choice to be purposefully fuzzy about what they will or will not accept in the future. Most people of good faith know at least approximately where such lines are without ever having to be told, and they act accordingly. In my experience, those that ask for very precise coordinates of such lines do so in order to dance as close to them as they can, attempting to bait those in charge of enforcement. I have little time for such games, and I certainly do not expect managers at Twitter to be forced to play them.

    +100,000

    I call “rules lawyering,” and indeed, as soon as folks start pushing for precise rules, they will then find the edges of those rules. “What, I cannot say the n-word. Fine. I’ll call people {terrible thing}.” It’s garbage, and anyone with basic social intelligence can see it for what it is.

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  5. Also, I forgot to add:

    4. There is a distinction between cultural relativism (in which no culture is objectively better or worse than any other) and thinking that all viewpoints should be allowed at the table. It may be difficult to be the first without being the second, but the first is far from required in order to be the second.

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  6. Things that smart people still don’t get:

    1 – Free speech means that the government can’t restrict what you say, and there are of course even limitations to that.

    2 – Free speech does not indemnify you against the logical consequences of your own stupidity. I think of this every time someone gets fired for making an offensive comment and whines about free speech.

    I think this site has always struck a good balance between tolerating a wide range of viewpoints and preventing maelstroms of incivility.

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    • While I’m not particular bothered by this instance of it, it’s not wrong to worry about “soft” unfree speech, in which private organizations and social pressure put great costs on people that espouse disfavored views. Some of this is going to happen so long as we continue to be social animals that are capable of talking to each other, but I’m disturbed at the prospect of people being hounded from their jobs because of shit they say on social media.

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      • But is the whole “people hounded from their jobs cuz social media” thing a real concern, like that we should spend energy on, compared with say, people driven from their jobs because they are transgender? Which is to say, how often is someone hounded from their job cuz social media stuff? How often do you hear about it, when it happens? How often is there a big-huge outcry?

        Now, as a comparison, how often are queer people let go? Do you have any idea? Do you suspect that maybe it passes beneath your radar, cuz for the most part people don’t care?

        Which is to say, if the national news raised a big alarm every time a transgender person was unfairly fired, well after the fifth report during the week, you’d get tired of hearing about it. You’d change channel and get on with your life. (Not that I blame you. Paying attention to injustice is wearisome.)

        My point is, this is like a shark attacks versus car crashes thing. The latter kills us just as dead. The former makes a great news story, which gets everyone afraid. Many pearls are clutched.

        I don’t want to get fired for saying dumb shit on the Internet. I also don’t want to get fired for being transgender. I also don’t want to get bullied by jerks online, or to have to deal with in-your-face bigoted scum, who make social media such an unpleasant place.

        I also don’t want to work with outspoken bigots. I mean, there is a degree I’ll probably have to, simply cuz how society works. But still, if I found the guy at the next desk was sending rape threats to Anita Sarkeesian, and if it came out, I wouldn’t defend the fucker’s job. Should I?

        “But it could be you!!!”

        Actually, not really. I’m unlikely to get fired for being a bigot (cuz obvi). For being transgender…?

        Well, my current employer has an okay track record. They certainly try (although they aren’t as rosy-perfect as my cis colleagues probably suspect).

        Plus, you know, I’m one of the lucky ones. Most trans women don’t get posh jobs in tech.

        And “rape threat guy” or “upskirts guy” or “revenge porn guy” or “outspoken racist guy” — I’d fire him. These are just unlike being “a Mormon” or “a Republican” — not that I like those groups much either. But it’s different.

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        • Sure, it’s certainly not a bigger problem than the discrimination that LGBT folks, to pick one of many examples, suffer. And I do think that social pressure does a lot to push many of the more noxious belief systems out there into the margins. But that doesn’t make it a non-problem, at least from time to time. If somebody believes in their noxious belief system strongly enough to put up with the knowledge that almost everyone thinks they’re a huge asshole, they should still be able to hold down a job.

          The other aspect of it that bothers me, at least in the modern twitter-infused form, is that the ‘punishments’ for various categories of being an asshole are so arbitrary and so severe. Outspoken racists deserve to take some heat, but they don’t deserve to be pulled out of a hat at random, harassed for a month by all of the internet, and then lose their job. It’s a guilty of the crime but not the sentence thing.

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        • Also, I’d make a distinction between people that simply hold shitty opinions and people that actually act in ways that harm others. Rape threat guy and revenge porn guy should have a lot more coming to them than “writes a bunch of troglodytic but abstract things on his blog” guy.

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          • If they can’t find you, they probably can’t kill you.
            Guess you’ve never received a stupid death threat online…

            It’s abstract for a lot of people, even when they start talking rape threats and stuff… (revenge porn is a different matter, and if you start having people know your address, well… that’s serious. If you start having people LOOKING THROUGH YOUR WINDOWS, that’s both creepy and problematic. )

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        • Who got fired merely for abstract shit on his blog?

          I mean, Moldbug got blocked from that one conference — which for the record I think was a mistake. I would have let him talk. But still, who has been fired?

          I mean, it’s a big world. I’m sure someone somewhere got fired for some dumb reason. That one guy got fired for saying “dongle” — but you know, I don’t know anyone who supports that. Even Richards didn’t call for his firing. That was just his employer being painfully stupid.

          I know two women who left posh jobs in {bigtech} cuz they were sexually harassed and HR sucked. So…

          My point is, if we want to ensure that no one unfairly loses their job — well we won’t achieve that. So we have to choose where to put our energy.

          Trust me on this, “loud mouth white dudes” is not the group who needs our sympathy and support. It’s not as if their opinions are in short supply.

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          • I’m not sure that we’re talking about the same underlying things. Exulting over the loss of Justine Sacco’s job hasn’t prevented anybody from doxxed or threatened or sexually harassed. I’m not sure how to get through to the sexist assholes that make people like you (and yes, I realize people unlike me) much more miserable than they ought to be. But the fact that we declare a given action to be in service to that project doesn’t mean it will have the results we desire.

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            • Find me someone who today openly supports the firing of Justine Sacco? Which is to say, it happened in 2013. It was a short term burst of anger against one random person. It was also (so far as I know) the first big Twitter shitstorm. (I mean, there had been plenty of online shitstorms before, such as elevatorgate and racefail. But the Sacco dynamic seems different. The Twitter model of rage-overload was new.)

              For the record, I do not support massive online pile-ons and rage-storms. Those are almost always terrible, and any of us could be a target as easy as any other. There is, however, a difference between being targeted for one dumb joke and being targeted for a sustained history of bigotry. Sacco’s response was basically, “OMG I didn’t mean it that way I’m so sorry.” Moldbug’s response is… not like that at all. That fucker means every word.

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                • Last week, I interviewed for a position as an assistant to a special master. A state agency was discriminating against persons in hiring due to their political beliefs, and after several years of getting away with it, there was a settlement which entails monitoring future job interviews. Enter me.

                  But I think (and I might be mistaken) that the only reason it was actionable in the first place is because it was a state agency.

                  Regionally, we’ve been having a problem with murder going around for the past several years. It’s always in the same jails, always someone who (it just so happens . . . ) was segregated from other inmates for some reason, and other features of similarity.

                  On a functional level, the government exists for the purpose of permitting state employees to commit felony crimes.
                  That is the purpose of government.

                  Were government pressed to do more and more, it is inevitable that one of the first things government would do is to cultivate and promote felonious conduct by its employees.

                  And that’s what really gets me about these discussions of, ” . . . but what about when someone gets their feelings hurt? What duty do we, as a society, owe to them then?”

                  For my part, I often wonder if those people hand-wringing over hurt feelings truly deserve elevator inspection certificates free from false markings.

                  Let them determine for themselves which issues are important to them.
                  And then make darned certain they live with the consequences.

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                • — Eich hates me and I hate him back. If I had worked there during this mess, and had he not stepped down within a reasonable amount of time, I probably would have sought employment elsewhere. (But then, I’m an “in demand” tech worker. Not everyone else has the easy option to leave their job.)

                  Short version: I’m glad he’s out. CEO is a particular type of position, which sets the tone of a company. A man with a track record of anti-LGBT hate is exactly the wrong sort of person for that job.

                  Let turds like him sweat it out in the server room or whatever.

                  There is no virtue in seeking a banal neutrality in the face of bigots. Hate should have a cost to the haters. If that cost turns out to be steep, then good. God knows I’ve paid enough already.

                  (Plus Javascript is pretty unforgivable.)

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              • No, the question should be “Find me someone who BACK THEN openly supports the firing of Justine Sacco? ”

                Because that’s the time when true colors are revealed, not years afterwards where actions can be smoothed and cleansed away.

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      • >>but I’m disturbed at the prospect of people being hounded from their jobs because of shit they say on social media.

        I think you have to reconcile this hypothetical risk with the actual occurrences of people getting hounded out of their homes by death threats and doxxing. Doubly so if you are not the kind of person that would typically be the target. How many female twitter users are *already* self-censoring because they know that one wrong-place/wrong-time tweet can lead to weeks of threats and harassment – doesn’t that unfree speech count? I would, for example, be much more convinced that Twitter is doing more harm than good with the Trust Council if actual victims of online harassment spoke out and said the response was heavy-handed.

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        • Why exactly do we have to? The people getting fired generally aren’t the people doing the harassing or doxxing. The people getting fired are getting fired for saying the wrong thing and the perception that they are on the same side as the people doing the harassing and doxxing. If you think that is the way it ought to be, that’s fine, but let’s stop pretending that it has to be that way.

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          • Do we have any stats on people being fired for “social media violations”? That would seem really important.

            Quasi-related, at least my last two jobs had sections of the handbook discussing social medis usage. This is a new reality. Whether that is desirable or it should be, it is.

            Lastly, let’s not be naive and think that people who do get fired for social media violations are fired because their employer cares about a free and open space for women or gays or people of color. They’re fired because the company views doing so as in their own best interests. For the vast majority of them, these firings are neither charity nor social justice efforts. They’re business decisions.

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            • They’re fired because the company views doing so as in their own best interests.

              That just begs the question of why it’s in their own best interest. The working assumption among those who support Twitter’s actions regarding RMS and Milo is that Twitter is engaged in keeping its platform from devolving into some form of horrible Reddit-like cesspool of racism, misogyny, and whatever else (which of course begs the question of whether Reddit is or ever was as bad as some make it out to be).

              I don’t agree with that. Rather, if it is in Twitter’s best interest, it’s because there is a sizable and concentrated group of progressive activists who can make things difficult for Twitter if they don’t toe the line. In other words, I don’t think that any of this is really in service of the median Twitter user.

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              • Well, who do you think is best equipped to determine what is in Twitter’s best interests: you? Me? The internet? Or Twitter? My money is on Twitter. So if Twitter — or any other company — determines that turning away customers or firing employees because they feel their presence is bad for business, why would we not take them at their word? That doesn’t necessarily make the action right… legally, morally, or otherwise. And it may turn out to be the wrong decision. Time will tell.

                Speaking specifically of firings (which does not include Twitter, to the best of my knowledge), my argument is that these companies aren’t makign personnel decisions in pursuit or conjunction with some broader liberal/social justice agenda. There are industries where social media goofs of the liberal variety will get you canned.

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              • You could write a whole screed on liberal hegemons, and the deliberate excisement of conservative views from the public sphere. It’d be great, I think. Bonus points if you involve the Oscars in a major way.

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        • I worry about it. I mean, I post on Tumblr using an obvious variation of my real name — it’s just a decision I made. So yeah. I’d be trivially easy to dox. I also post selfies on occasion. I’m a visibly transgender woman with purple hair. If the gaters decide to target me, I’d get recognized pretty easy.

          (And I work in Cambridge, MA, so “fedora guy” is not a rare sight around here. Like, that whackjob who posted videos about shooting Brianna Wu lived around here.)

          (As did Eron and Zoe. So whatever.)

          Anyway yeah. So far it seems like they ignore me. Which fine. But that seems pretty random. I mean, Brianna Wu posted one dumb meme. I’ve posted memes. In fact, I’ve said quite publicly that I think gamergate is a cesspool and gaters are terrible people. So anyway. Maybe someday they come for me. Maybe they don’t. I don’t know.

          I like to think I could handle it. I don’t know.

          #####

          Last year I was at a talk that Laurie Penny gave. During the talk, this big-tall aryan looking fucker stood up in the back row and started hassling her. And like, she handled it. But honestly, it was scary. Men like that are scary. It’s hard to forget how the gaters/MRAs/alt-right-ers/etc. (but I repeat myself) groups glorify the “beta uprising” and guys like Sodini and Rogers.

          Speech is seldom just speech. It’s more complicated than than. Words can be tools of abuse and fear.

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  7. I passed on a short story whose bizarre text was a kind of snuff fantasy, describing the satisfaction the author believed he would get from using a broken tequila bottle to castrate the previous President of the United States

    This person…didn’t beat around the Bush.

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  8. A quick review of his website suggests that much of his work is simply finding ill-thought-out tweets and YouTube videos by unknown teenage feminists and black men, and then mocking them and encouraging his followers to do so as well. The degree to which this makes him either a journalist or an internet troll likely depends entirely on the individual person considering the question.

    When I review his web-site, I do not get that impression.

    http://theothermccain.com/

    Not my cup o’ tea, politically or stylistically or otherwise, but I don’t see anything like the above. Does he have some other site?

    I vaguely virtually-knew him back when, and didn’t like his style at that time either and told him (he thought speculation about Sarah Palin’s sex life could be positive for “the movement.”). He didn’t stick around as a contributor at that site, and the only reason I have on occasion read anything by him at all has been in relation to his views on interracial marriage and Young Earth Creationism. He was heavily into theories of self-promotion for bloggers even before the term “clickbait” came into fashion.

    So, nothing I like or would support, but nothing I’d like to see criminalized or made virtually criminal – taboo – either. From time to time, I might find it to be a useful, ready example of just what it is.

    Part of the problem with banning him without explanation is that those of us who can’t recall ever seeing a single tweet by him can’t easily verify the levels of miscreancy being attributed to him.

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    • I think where Twitter is really in a moral gray area is in how opaque they’ve made the suspension process. It’s pretty clearly a decision for the sake of business expediency and without a lot of respect for the users. (and yeah, this is pretty much how the system works, there are hundreds of complaints about AdWords or YouTube over a suspension with no reason given that costs the users actual money).

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      • When a multi-zillion dollar corporation erases your existence in their space, you feel utterly powerless. Happens on eBay, too, for sellers who are x’d out of eBay-world and have no reasonable hope of a timely appeal. And it happens on blogs.

        If you’ve never been banned without explanation – or in your mind for any just cause – you may not sympathize, but if you invest minutes to months of your life in a virtual community, making friends, establishing habits, creating a history, etc., and it is suddenly erased… the experience is not one that contributes to a sense of “trust and safety.” In the case of eBay, you may be someone whose very livelihood depends on access.

        Goes for sudden, unexplained policy changes, too – like when your favorite site suddenly decides to stop allowing comments at all, or shuts down your favorite feature. Deep in the user agreements there will always be right-to-terminate-without-explanation language, and it goes without saying that a site isn’t obligated forever to provide you with a service you probably weren’t paying for (except by sweat equity), but it’s still demeaning and unkind. For some people it can be quite traumatic.

        It’s just crappy and cruel to ban without warning, explanation, or appeal, and it devalues the “experience” in a way that anyone else doing business on the internet, the mega-companies especially, should take into consideration more responsibly and accountably.

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      • I think organizations can do a degree of opacity when they have the trust and faith of their people. Part of the issue here is that Twitter does not.

        I was with them on Johnson (thought it was overdue). Their handling of the Milo situation left a lot to be desired, though, and has me rather skittish in supporting what they did for McCain. (Which is kind of funny, because not only do I consider Milo loathsome, but he is the only person on Twitter I have ever actually looked into “blocking”. Only one. There are more loathsome people on Twitter, but none so seemingly unavoidable.)

        So when Podheretz loses his blue check mark, even if just for an afternoon, I do not immediately come to the conclusion that it must have been a software glitch.

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  9. i dig most of this

    The truth is that Twitter has had a customer service problem that threatened its potential profitability for a long time.

    but this strikes me as wishful thinking for the small number of twitter users/thinkers who think it has a customer service problem due to abusive users.

    twitter’s profitability issues come from the difficulty it has with ad displays/sales and not being able to leverage their user data for money, or at least not serious dollars.

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  10. “Indeed, the thought that Reason and PJ Media would condemn another media business for not giving equal access to any and all political viewpoints regardless of whether or not they agreed with them is beyond laughable.”

    Could you unpack this bit for me Tod, as I can’t make heads or tails of it. Trying context clues, but doesn’t seem to fit anything. Both Reason and PJ Media are news/opinions sites, much like NPR, creating and disseminating there own content. Twitter is a social media platform, not providing any of its own media, mearly alowing the spread of others media, much like the radio waves that NPR rides on. That you would confuse that is.. odd.

    Beyond that, the fact that we have a commenting policy here, it is posted at the top. ” I also understand their decisions to not broadcast to the world their reasoning regarding actions toward individual customers or employees, as well as their choice to be purposefully fuzzy about what they will or will not accept in the future. Most people of good faith know at least approximately where such lines are without ever having to be told, and they act accordingly.” When one hold political views that could be deemed BadThink by a group, it is not wrong to ask for precisly what can get one unchecked, or banned even before hand. Otherwise one risks being the victim of bigoted policies. We might all think we know where the line is, but when we see others crossing it with impunity (see Sarah Palin, death and rape treats) we quickly see that there really isn’t a line.

    “Regardless of its efficacy, however, there is no reason why Twitter should not be allowed to do what they are doing.” Is there anyone calling for twitter to do anything other than what they are doing? Most of what I have seen has been that Twitter is a private company (publicly traded) and therefore can do what it wants. There have been calls to shame them, an activity that mirrors the calls of SJW’s.

    Kolohe said in the other thread something about fair use doctrine, and while like him I am not a fan, but if this is the only platform for this type of social media, well, they are showing the type of one sided rampant abuse that is possible. And in the process making McCain a bit of a martyr.

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  11. veronica d:
    I worry about it.

    This is the other reason for my concern. People on our side of the aisle aren’t the only ones that can decide to form a mob and call for somebody’s head, so the side that includes a bunch of minorities and outsiders might benefit from a stronger norm against public or career consequences for private behavior or political views.

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    • Right. I’m sure that will effectively answer the menace of gamergate.

      Better social norms — except we have zero tools to enforce or encourage those norms because the people targeting us are already reject basic social norms.

      Maybe if we ask nicely more. Perhaps if I get really pretty and act like an anime girl, then they gaters will like me.

      Good grief.

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      • You again, continue to assume that there never will be a back sliding of society. Are so you concerned about your own perspective’s issues that you cannot see the bigger picture? That protections for all is much better than protections for some? You are, theoretically, one generation away from a culture that becomes more retrograde and considers it perfectly fine to set up “camps” for all those they disagree with-namely your kind. Society and cultures have ebbs and flows. I’d rather tolerate some crap to ensure that rights are preserved for all, not only during the flow, but during the ebb.

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        • I think, and she can correct me, that rightly remembers that when the “other side” had all the power, that anybody who wasn’t a straight white (and to a lesser extrent, middle class or richer) male had actual freedom of expression or freedom of speech, so any protections we set up as evil liberals would be swept away pretty quickly anyway.

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          • — I remember it well. It was my childhood, in fact most of my life. In fact, I’m really quite flabbergasted that we’ve made this level of progress. If you had told teen-veronica where she would be today, she’d not have believed you.

            That said, you are missing the point if you describe the fight purely in terms of “freedom of expression.” That was a part of it, sure, but it was also a fight for human dignity. After all, the haters always had the right of expression, and my right to publish or paint was never the whole story. It was also my right to walk outside without abuse. It was my right to use a public toilet, or enter a restaurant. In other words, it was my right to participate fully in public life.

            And today — what we are talking about are people actively trying to deny those rights. And where they cannot, then they will turn to harassment, bullying, threats, and (ultimately) terror. The murder rate of trans women remains preposterously high, and it is rising. Likewise our HIV rates, our unemployment rates, etc., etc.

            But I have “free expression”!

            Yay. But I did as a young adult. I could say whatever I wanted. I could print what I wanted. I grew up in a world post People-versus-Larry-Flint. That was never the issue. If I had wanted to see pornography featuring some lovely gal with a stiff dick and a miniskirt, no one would stop me.

            If I wanted to see an openly transgender woman walking proud with a normal life — ha! As if!

            The “alt-right” wants to stop this, slow it down, turn it back. And when they cannot, they freak out and try to hurt women-minorities-and-queers any way they can.

            Are you so fucking naïve that you think, if we fetishize “free expression,” that they will say, “Oh yeah that makes sense I’m gonna totally respect trans people and not try to ruin their lives. Cuz freedom!”

            Geeze Louise.

            They’re still trying to hurt us. In the “flat and dismal” states, they might succeed.

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            • You are attributing HIV rates to oppression? Treatment perhaps, but infections? Last time I heard that took, like sex. Are you say that HIV positive alt right folks are intentionally infecting trans folks?

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                • That’s more “oppression of (suspected) sex workers” than “oppression of trans people.” Pretty sure the cops have pulled that same stunt on (suspected) cisgender prostitutes.

                  Edited to add the word “suspected”, since what makes it extra pernicious is that they scoop up non-sex-workers and sex-workers alike by using the condoms heuristic.

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                  • — But these things tie together, since we get typecast as sex workers, even when we are not, which means that cops assume that I’m a sex worker, despite the fact I’m not, which means they act on these assumptions, which means that I, despite the fact I write software, get harassed by cops, and assumed to be trash (which is unfair to sex workers in general, but the point is it lands more heavily on trans women). So blah.

                    There is also the issue where most HIV programs in the US focus on gay men (“MSM”), but trans women are not gay men, and in fact often get treated quite poorly in gay spaces, so the outreach efforts miss us. Furthermore, often poor trans women are denied access to shelters, since they cannot sleep with the men (rape) and they are blocked from sleeping with the women. This increased the desperation and need to seek shelter in unhealthy ways.

                    Again, this compounds, each little bit adding to the whole.

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  12. Tod, there are a lot of assumptions doing a lot of heavy lifting in this post. touched on some of them above, like the differences between a blog like The League and a micro-blogging platform like Twitter.

    One of the others is your assumptions about RSM. I’ve met the guy on multiple occasions and there was a point when I first got to DC in 2007 and hung out in libertarian/conservative circles that I knew him well enough to say hello. There are lots of folks who I met at that time, that I quickly decided to move as far away from as possible. He was one of them, but it’s worth mentioning that he never said or acted in any way towards me that was anything but friendly and gracious. At some point I was curious and did a little digging on his writings and the impression that I came away with was that he was probably a racist, but one who was savvy enough to leave his worst beliefs unsaid.

    None of this is to defend the guy, rather it’s to say that my assumptions about him are just that, assumptions. I don’t know who the guy really is and I never cared enough to try. I’m not an RSM fan, but my preferences regarding speech and expression don’t require me to be one to object to his exclusion from public-ish platforms for unspecified offenses.

    Here’s the other thing, there are two considerations that exist in some tension with other: the desire to make internet spaces safe for people who want or need to be shielded from certain forms of expression and the desire to let the marketplace of ideas function, which I believe in the long run does much more to expose and expunge odious ideas than outright banning. Having a heavy-handed moderation policy works towards the former, but it may work against the latter. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the reactionary corners of the internet and not because I like them, but for same reason that I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the SJW parts as well. I’m curious.

    The one thing that strikes me about those reactionary corners and the set of arguments that you find there is that they are rather banal, mostly unremarkable. The real allure, the real draw that these folks have is in their ability to credibly claim that they are being shut out from the mainstream conversation by progressive elites, which invariably strikes a chord with a large enough percentage of the population. If the lesson of Trump’s candidacy is anything, it’s that people who feel shut out of the mainstream will always find a way of having their voices heard. That’s not an argument in favor of doing away with all moderation or abandoning all standards, but it is an argument in favor of moderating in a clear way that communicates what is and what is not acceptable. If you have a set of moral or ethical norms that are hidden from view and enforced capriciously, then they aren’t really functioning as moral or ethical norms; they’re functioning as purely a means of keeping people in line.

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  13. What Twitter is doing is an overcorrection. Reddit, despite being generally interesting and 90% not crazy racist is branded as the place where upskirts and coontown happens. If it gets to that point, the amount of PR it takes to get back to normal (if it exists) is massive. So better to deal with it at the Milo/RSM level.

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  14. Has anyone here been banned from a site or platform? I was. I spent a few days commenter on Red State, challenging the echo chamber there, and one day went on to find I had lost posting privileges. The few attempts I made to get to the bottom of it went unanswered.

    Was this an injustice? Wrong? Was this better or worse than what Twitter did here?

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      • It depends, right? Some bans are valid. Some not.

        I’ve dealt with some stuff on this forum, but nothing too terrible. There was one instance, however, where someone posted something crass and transphobic, but the thing is, I never saw it. The poster was suspended (temporarily) and the post removed.

        I appreciated it. I see enough of that garbage. It truly adds nothing of worth.

        If that poster had repeatedly posted that kind of stuff, then yeah, eventually ban them.

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        • that kind of stuff

          My problem with twitter’s bans so far mirror Trizzlor’s. The fact that there doesn’t seem to be a smoking gun indicates that people are being banned for being the type of people who have bad opinions rather than being the actors who said the following: X, Y, Z.

          I suppose it’s good that it’s only happening to outgroup members… but I have no confidence that it won’t bleed over into others.

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      • Does what reflect poorly on whom?

        I thought it was lame that Red State blocked me for little more than posting divergent opinions in a provocative manner. And even more so if this is a habit for them. But, hey, it is their site. If they want it to be all echo chamber-y, that is their prerogative. And I venture to guess that such decisions are VERY good for business. People go there to be affirmed, not to be challenged.

        I fully concede that Twitter seems to have handled this piss poor. And without knowing the specifics of what this guy did on Twitter, I can’t say if Twitter is justified, lame or seriously fished up in their handling of the matter.

        What I’m struggling with is the idea that what Twitter did here was somehow novel or unique. It isn’t. Not in the least bit.

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        • I didn’t ask if they had the right to ban you.

          I asked if the fact that they banned you reflected poorly on them.

          Is anybody arguing that twitter doesn’t have the right to do what they’re doing?

          I’m pretty much under the impression that everybody is merely arguing that it reflects poorly on them.

          To be followed by the counter-argument that they have the right to do what they’re doing and, besides, both sides do it.

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              • — That’s a good question right. I mean, we can call Twitter a “platform,” which works precisely because that word is pretty flexible.

                It seems like, most online social platforms have a decent meatspace metaphor to guide our social intuitions. For example, this forum aims toward something “agora-like.” Others are “salon-like” or “private club-like,” and so on. (I guess 4chan is “mosh pit-like.”)

                None of these really quite work with Twitter. Twitter is a new kind of thing. We are grasping for new ways to think about it. Furthermore, Twitter as a company is struggling to find good ways to make it work.

                I think they’d like to have a platform that is a good place to form communities, but where you also freely brush up against other interesting communities. One might see that as “agora-like,” but in practice that hasn’t worked very well.

                (Of course, Twitter also wants to make money. Which, duh.)

                Anyway, maybe Twitter is socially unworkable for humans. I don’t know.

                I know this, what happens to Sarkeesian and company is profoundly horrible, and no community (or meta-community or whatever) should want that. The people at fault are largely the trolls and bigots and alt-right trash. Twitter took a look at the contours, Sarkeesian versus the -channer trolls, and made a pretty easy decision. We cannot have all of them. Get rid of the obvious jackasses.

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            • Unpleasant? So now a political opinion can be unpleasant? Reddit got rid of anyone that didn’t agree with climate change. Where will the liberal thought police stop next?

              It’s amusing how some seem to think that just because Twitter isn’t the gov’t that they can’t engage in censorship.

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              • I tend to find planned genocide unpleasant.
                Don’t you?
                Perhaps you only find the concept of people deliberately dismembering others for sexual fulfillment unpleasant, and if they put a political context to the whole thing, suddenly it becomes sunshine and rainbows?

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                • Are you referring to Robert Stacy McCain’s ban? If so, no one knows why he was banned and the “Trust and Safety Council” isn’t saying. If you have special insight and can tell us why they did so, please do. It’s not like his views are new but the suddenness of the ban makes one wonder about the real reason behind it.

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                  • Not in particular, no. (my friends with intelligence have been running Presidential campaigns lately, and that’s kept ’em quite busy).
                    Merely responding to the idea that a political opinion can be unpleasant. Of course it can, that’s obvious.

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          • I can’t answer that question without knowing more about the specifics. Which, sadly, we don’t have right now and that definitely reflects poorly on Twitter.

            I mean, we’ve banned folks from OT. Does that reflect poorly on us? I don’t think so given the lengths we avoid to banning people and the extremity of behaviors that result in bans.

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  15. I can’t figure out the check mark thing. Are they saying he’s not who he claims to be? Or that he’s no longer a notable public figure?

    It sounds like Twitter is short on levers to pull.

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    • When they begin the checkmark thing, the deal was “if you are using your real name and if you have a certain number of followers that aren’t bots, we will use our confirmation tools to confirm that This Is Actually You so your followers won’t be tricked into following the fake Ashton Kutcher or the fake Kim Kardashian or the fake Stephen King.”

      I mean, as someone who follows @dick_nixon, this is important to me to know that I’m following the real one and not some guy who is just pretending to be him for a giggle.

      Well, the check mark was removed from Milo in what appears to be a punitive act because, hey, it’s actually him and he actually has that many followers.

      And, of course, no one will talk about what happened on the record because the second they say “Well, we did it because Milo did X”, there will be a flood of tweets pointing out “Prominent Feminist Scholar tweeted *THIS*!” and “Prominent African-American Scholar tweeted *THAT*!” and they’re going to have to either remove check marks as a policy *OR* point out that it’s because Milo did X *AND* Y. (To be followed by another flood.)

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      • That’s what it sounded like to me as well. It seems like this was a case of somebody’s political views rather than their actual behavior being the real problem. I’m not a Milo fan (he seems to be just a clever troll who could argue some legitimate positions well but prefers to stir things up with a careful mixture of clever argument and over the top ridiculousness), but I can’t think of much he’s done that really constitutes harassment.

        I’m sure his followers harass people in droves, but that seems like a different question. Lots of perfectly legitimate commentators with perfectly “acceptable” views have armies of followers who generally just fling crap and don’t contribute anything. If Twitter thinks that the best way to solve that problem is to remove the blue check marks from the opinion makers, I think they’re in for disappointing results.

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        • Twitter has had the statement “An account may also lose its verified status if it violates the Twitter Rules or Terms of Service.” since at least mid-2014. Prior to that, Twitter was pretty explicit that Verification both implied “you are who you say you are” and that you produce “high quality” content, however Twitter feels like defining that. I personally would prefer a feature that’s 100% content-neutral but that’s not the direction Twitter chose to go and they have continued to be consistent on that.

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          • I certainly am not arguing that Twitter doesn’t have the right to do it or that they’re violating their own TOS. It just seems like the blue check mark means the person is famous, has lots of followers, and doesn’t politically disagree with Twitter. If that’s how they want to define “high quality” that’s fine, but it seems like some people want to make it sound like there are more objective measurements of quality than not disagreeing with Twitter.

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          • I don’t disagree. I spent about 3 hours listening to Milo on Joe Rogan’s podcast and it was… interesting.

            He came out of the gate as kind of a nasty guy but one who seemed to be able to make sharp points when he wanted to. But 3 hours of back and forth tends to wear down anybody and get to the core of it, and it became pretty clear to me that he delights in stirring the pot more than really making principled arguments. He does just enough to maintain credibility and then slips back to goading people. In a 10 minute chunk, I’m sure he can come off as a razor sharp, but over longer stretches he lets slip the fact that it’s all a game to him.

            I can certainly see why people would hate him. I might too, if I thought he had a little more substance.

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  16. Discussions like these could benefit from distinguishing between discussions external to any given community or business or platform and those internal to that community or business or platform.

    External. This is looking at the community in the context of the real world. The community–be it Twitter, OT, or something else–is not a government and doesn’t have the power of the government. Presumably it can ban and “disappear” trolls and engage in viewpoint discrimination, but it can’t arrest you or kill you or imprison you or forbid you from going elsewhere. Comparisons to state-imposed censorship or “Orwellian” totalitarianism are in this sense ridiculous or at least require a lot of heavy lifting.

    Internal. This is looking at the community from within the community and that community’s rules, which probably evolve continually. OT has its own rules. As Tod said in his OP, those rules strive to be as inclusive as possible but also set aside certain views (and uncivil tones) as beyond the pale. (As an aside, that’s not too different from Milton arguing for freedom of speech, except for Roman Catholics, because the latter are part of a faction designed to undue the Protestant state. Stanley Fish uses this example to argue that liberalism depends on excluding some views.)

    We–contributors and commenters at OT–can and sometimes do quibble at the margins, sometimes wondering aloud why some people are or aren’t banned, or whether something said crosses the line between civil discourse and ad hominem attacks. I suspect most of us here agree with Tod’s decisions not to post the submissions he talked about in the OP. Still, we have internal rules that posit a certain “freedom” of discussion, and within those rules and within the OT community, it would be almost unthinkable for one of the editors here to edit another person’s utterances.

    As far as Twitter goes, I just don’t know enough, and as I understand ‘s point, it’s not so much a community as it is a platform. I don’t Tweet and often get annoyed with people who do, but I can imagine that Tweeters have some conception of what rules should and shouldn’t govern Twitter speech, and that they disagree over where to draw the lines. Twitter, apparently, is a business, which I suppose the means that the true arbiters are and of right ought to be those who manage it and those who own it. Fine. I’m not very exercised over the “disappearing” in this case, nor over the fact that Twitter can and apparently does engage in such behavior.

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  17. Twitter can do what the hell they want. Frankly, I see no value in the platform and don’t use it. That’s me.

    It’s a private company and they have to deal with this. I lean towards a “free for all” personally, but I don’t own it and don’t want to make money from the business, which, after all, it is. How they manage this issue, among others, will be contributors to their long terms success or lack thereof. As to the folks who’ve incurred Twitter’s wrath, I’ve always considered it fairly risky to write things on the interwebs that can be used against you.

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  18. One thing I’ve noticed in Facebook social media’s algorithm is that their filters are willdly and stupidly off for their “People also shared” feature. So you can post an article from Tablet (an on-line Jewish magazine) and Facebook’s People Also Shared will come back with some seriously anti-Semitic stuff like “Watch this documentary that shows how the Protocols on the Elders of Zion are totally legit and Jews control the World Economy.”

    For the life of me, I have no idea why Facebook doesn’t fix this feature.

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  19. “Over the years there have been essays submitted to this site that I have declined to run based solely on the writers’ points of view. I said no thank you to a piece that argued — with zero tongue implanted in cheek — that women who went to college to compete with men in the job marketplace were by their very nature “devious whores” who deserved to be “given a good strong hand to the face.” I also declined to run an argument that Christianity existed for the sole purpose of knowingly enabling child abuse and pedophelia. I passed on a short story whose bizarre text was a kind of snuff fantasy, describing the satisfaction the author believed he would get from using a broken tequila bottle to castrate the previous President of the United States.”

    Ordinary Times was a lot more rough and tumble than I remember.

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  20. Both Reason and PJ Media are news/opinions sites, much like NPR, creating and disseminating there own content. Twitter is a social media platform, not providing any of its own media, mearly alowing the spread of others media, much like the radio waves that NPR rides on. That you would confuse that is.. odd.

    None of this is to defend the guy, rather it’s to say that my assumptions about him are just that, assumptions. I don’t know who the guy really is and I never cared enough to try. I’m not an RSM fan, but my preferences regarding speech and expression don’t require me to be one to object to his exclusion from public-ish platforms for unspecified offenses.

    Part of the problem with banning him without explanation is that those of us who can’t recall ever seeing a single tweet by him can’t easily verify the levels of miscreancy being attributed to him…If you’ve never been banned without explanation – or in your mind for any just cause – you may not sympathize, but if you invest minutes to months of your life in a virtual community, making friends, establishing habits, creating a history, etc., and it is suddenly erased… the experience is not one that contributes to a sense of “trust and safety.” In the case of eBay, you may be someone whose very livelihood depends on access.

    Man, when did the world’s libertarians and conservatives start channeling early-1980s liberals?

    Let me try this again, from a different tack.

    Once upon a time, at this very site, we had a writer that I think I can say without fear of exaggeration was hated 75% of our commenters; in turn, that writer returned that hate pound-for-pound.

    From a managerial level this situation was always less than perfect, but for a long while it was something we could live with. But the thing is, this writer and our commenters were like catnip to one another. It wasn’t enough for either to let the other be and just ignore them. It was like the very existence of one necessarily meant the other was overcome by a compulsion to engage. And so things eventually snowballed, and at the risk of offending the OT living as well as the OT dead, if the writer and our commenters were in the same room together, everyone suddenly and magically turned into a 6-year old. Eventually it got to the point that all of them, collectively, were ruining our com-boxes. Whenever the writer showed up (usually every day) the threads became unreadable, and we began to lose that percentage of commenters who weren’t loving the daily flame wars.

    We really have two products here at OT: Our writers’ content, and what we believe to be a superior commenting community. Our one writer and a whole lot of our commenters were wrecking the second, and whenever we asked either to please, ya know, maybe not wreck our commenting community, and the response from each at the time was pretty much always, “Fish you, we’ll destroy your com-boxes if we want to.” So we finally made a business decision and and we removed the writer from the masthead, hoping that would solve the problem. And it did.

    But here’s the thing: We chose to remove the writer and not the majority of our commenters not because we had decided to adjudicate childish squabbles, but because if our product was going to have a chance to thrive then one of them had to go, and it made business sense to get rid of one writer and not the majority of our customer base.

    I still occasionally get emails from people who had a problem with decision, and they pretty much all say the same thing: That the editors here somehow owed it to Truth and Justice to mete out punishment to the Liars and Sophists, and that we have a Obligation to ban our commenters and bring the writer back. What these people never understand is that I don’t really give a flying fish who was right and who was wrong way back. I didn’t even care who was right or wrong at the time. All I cared about was having a viable product. Period.

    Twitter is no different.

    Regardless of what aaron claims, Twitter does not owe anyone anything just because they are a social media company. There are actually tons of SM companies out there that do, in fact, cater to select groups of people: Jews, conservatives, sports fans, farmers, people-wanting-to-boink-a-stanger-at-2:00 am, etc. None of them is required to be a place that is all things to all people. Just because they chose to do business with one person yesterday does not obligate them to do business with that person tomorrow. Twitter is within their rights to decide next week to become a feminist social media group, or a Men’s Rights Activist social media group.

    Further, unless they charge you for their services, they owe you nothing. If a company offers you a free service, you can use it for free — or, if you don’t like the product, the company, or the management, you can decline to do so.

    Similarly, and contra jr and CK, Twitter is under no obligation to build a public case to convince you why it made a decision not to do business with someone who is not you — or for that matter, you. Why should they? Collectively, you, me, and RSM pay them exactly butkus. If we do not like Twitter, there are a ton of other social media companies out there that we can take free things from instead.

    And yes, it is true that, unlike RSM (or Chuck Johnson, or whoever) I have never personally been kicked off of a social media platform before. I would argue, however, that this is not an arbitrary distinction between RMS and myself.

    I don’t harass people I don’t know; even if I don’t believe that I am harassing someone, if they ask me to leave them alone I do. I don’t use social media to try to start flame wars. I don’t belittle people. If I have a sense that I am not welcome in a particular sandbox I don’t take it as a slight that needs to be paid back, nor do I decide that the sandbox owes me anything or that I am going to stay in the sandbox just to spite it.

    Were I to have a momentary lapse and change any of these behaviors — and I certainly could, being human and all — I would do so knowing that I was risking being publicly criticized, removed, suspended, or banned by that site’s management. And if I am someone like RSM, whose business model seems to rely heavily on being able to use those free services, it is on me to be aware that using my business to engage in things like Cracka Ass Twitter Searches puts that business model at risk. Twitter does not owe it to me, you, or RMS to value any of us as an equally desirable customer to everyone else.

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    • Seems to me there is a difference between making so-and-so no longer a contributor and kicking him off the site entirely (including commenting) . Which wasn’t what happened, and is more analogous.

      And even if he had been kicked off entirely, it was a one-off (at least as far as contributors go… things did get hairy there for a bit in terms of commenting policy). If this site made a pattern of it, that would be its right but it would also look really bad if the response was “we owe nobody an explanation.”

      Twitter is under no obligation not to kick out anyone it doesn’t want to kick out. People who invest a lot of time and energy into Twitter, though, are not wrong for wanting one. And observers can obviously form their own opinions.

      The opacity, here and there, is not wrong but is dependent on the goodwill of the people to whom things are not being explained or justified. I’d like to think we have that here. Twitter is kind of iffy.

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    • Man, when did the world’s libertarians and conservatives start channeling early-1980s liberals?

      As always, when their ox is gored. It’s the same dynamic as moving from decrying the culture of victimization to acting like a victim 24/7/365, which we’re seeing an awful lot of here. That miscreants like Milo and RSM count as their ox says nothing good.

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    • As for the event at this site that you describe in detail, I think the handling of it, from what I know of it, was far less than ideal, but at least there was finally an open announcement of steps that were being taken. I believe that the individual may have been the one who requested removal of his posts from the site archives, unless he removed them on his own. (Incidentally, I think the site would have been entirely within its rights to decline to do the former – if that’s how things went – but that’s a different topic.)

      You refer again to RSM’s alleged crimes, or appear to be doing so, in these sentences:

      I don’t harass people I don’t know; even if I don’t believe that I am harassing someone, if they ask me to leave them alone I do. I don’t use social media to try to start flame wars. I don’t belittle people.

      I would just like to see the evidence that RSM “harassed” anyone, or directed, encouraged, or asked anyone else to harass anyone. An article at VDARE in which another writer re-assembles tweets originally collected by RSM, with the intention of ridiculing the original tweeps and constructing a racial-stereotypical argument, may be a repugnantly stupid waste of time, but is not harassment, in my view. Where is the evidence that anything happened to the “cracka ass” tweeps?

      As a matter of fundamental fairness – whether in relation to the government or in civil society or just among your friends and family – if you spread claims about someone’s conduct, you’re obligated, in my view, to explain the bases of those claims. I don’t see Twitter or you having done that for McCain. If you don’t have evidence that he did the things you say he did, then you should stop saying that he did them.

      As for the larger connected issue, on banning people without explanation, I’m not sure why this is so hard to get. If one of us who happens to have the Awesome Power to delete a user’s posts or comments and ban him or her from the site went ahead and did so, without explanation, does the fact that the user never paid for the privilege mean he or she would have no reason to be upset, and that other users would have no reason to be upset on his or her behalf and on their own? What if the site just went down tomorrow, never to return, without explanation? Does the fact that few to nearly none of the people who use it every day have ever paid for the privilege deprive them of any stake in it at all?

      To cut off a user without explanation, evidence, or appeal is to devalue your own site: When you say that you don’t owe anyone even that much, you are saying that contributing to the site in general is worthless, and that no one who contributes to the site should make the mistake of thinking the investment of time and energy is worthwhile – that it should all be treated as nothing for anyone to care about. This relationship is essential: If taking it away is no big deal, then having it is no big deal. Since this message seems so hard for people to process, I will simplify: The value of having is the opposite of the value of not having. If having is a positive, then not-having is a negative. If not-having = 0, then having = 0.

      The truth is that Twitter knows full well that users really do value the site, and that banning would be painful for them. I’m still regularly annoyed that a few well-known tweeps – writers I was following and with whom I had occasionally had some completely cordial exchanges – blocked me for no reason I know of. I think they did it by mistake. I’d find it very depressing if my account were taken away completely.

      Now, this site didn’t treat itself as valueless in the specific case you bring up (though the site has devalued itself in other ways over the years). As far as I can tell, just in your comment above, you have given more of an explanation about the unnamed past contributor and your reasons for getting rid of him, than Twitter has in regard to RSM. As far as I can tell, you warned the contributor multiple times, and, in your telling, you gave him every chance to adapt his behavior. Was McCain given any warning?

      As for the would-be contributors whose works you have rejected over the years, and your defense of “the product,” you make a reasonable point about the site as a value proposition for all concerned. In every case you have now given us more information about why specifically you rejected those particular pieces than Twitter has seen fit to give its users about RSM – as far as I know – or has given RSM himself. He apparently received a form e-mail, and nothing more. It it is a social media platform, a platform devoted to expression, and the people who run it have gone silent about muting someone permanently. The contradiction is obvious to me.

      It makes no difference that Twitter is a business. Businesses do stupid, destructive things all of the time. When did social liberals turn into such stubborn defenders of corporations unaccountably abusing the trust of powerless individuals?

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      • When did social liberals turn into such stubborn defenders of corporations unaccountably abusing the trust of powerless individuals?

        This is hilarious. Honestly. If I get angry about garment workers dying in building collapses, I get told that business is business and it’s none of my concern, but my heart is supposed to bleed because Robert Stacy McCain can’t tweet.

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        • “If I get angry about garment workers dying in building collapses, I get told that business is business and it’s none of my concern”

          Quote that, please. Include the context, too. Please don’t paraphrase, rewrite, restate, “this is what you REALLY MEANT to say”, “this is what it’s LIKE you’re saying”. Show us those words, which were written to you.

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      • “Defenders of corporations unaccountably abusing the trust of powerless individuals?” What the hell are you talking about?

        They are a restaurant that asked some guy who was bothering other customers to leave. Maybe you think they should have sat down and talked to everyone in great detail, and then had the kitchen staff out to hear them out and make an impartial judgement, and then posted a notice in the menus later so that future customers would know full when what happened and why. But why the fish would they do that — other than it would obviously entertain people whose bees wax it isn’t?

        Of course I could be wrong, and RMS using Twitter to play “let’s point out which black people say crake ass” is just a big hug fest — a way to reach out the aisle and say, “You go, gals!” Maybe he’s jus a big sloppy sweet picture of internet politeness — the Miss Manners of 140 characters. If so, then boy does everyone who finds him annoying owe him a huge apology. But you know what? Twitter still owes him squat.

        Twitter can say to him, “That’s not helpful, we are going to say goodbye now.” Or they could have said to the people he was mocking,” You know, saying cracka as isn’t helpful, we are going to say goodbye now.” They don’t owe either a permanent place in their place of business.

        Facebook gets to decide to kick off people who post dick pics. OKCupid gets to decide to kick off people that people on the site have been complaining about. Schtick! gets to kick off people that keep asking its other members if they have heard the Good News about Jesus Christ. Twitter gets to decide to suspend customers it thinks reflect poorly its service, regardless of whether those end up being good business decisions or not.

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        • I’ve been at restaurants and other public establishments dealing with ill-behaving individuals. I’ve never seen a customer suddenly snuffed out of existence, while the staff points to some generalized statement about how everyone should be nice. Invariably, the customer is treated with the respect he (usually a he) may or may not actually deserve. He is asked to lower his voice or stop talking on his cell-phone during the movie or otherwise alter his behavior appropriately. He may be asked more than once. He may be given a warning. The other customers take notice, and in general people will understand what’s happening. If things go particularly badly, a person in authority may apologize for the disturbance.

          I have yet to see anything remotely like that in this instance. Did any actually existing human being at any point reach out to the actually existing human being Robert Stacy McCain and ask him to tone it down, warn him that he was in danger of losing his privileges? Are we supposed to applaud Twitter’s treating the actually existing human being Robert Stacy McCain as non-person, and converting him into one as far as the Twitter space is concerned?

          It’s just bad behavior. RSM may very well deserve to have been booted. I don’t know if “cracka ass tweets” was the reason, or the main reason, or one of a thousand reasons including some much better ones. I’d prefer a site or service – large or small – that aims to include, including by encouraging people to be better rather than turning them into examples while turning to a hygiene committee whose deliberations are secret. I see no evidence that Twitter has acted in the former way, better evidence that it has acted in the latter one. That’s what the Hell I’m talking about.

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          • “I have yet to see anything remotely like that in this instance. Did any actually existing human being at any point reach out to the actually existing human being Robert Stacy McCain and ask him to tone it down, warn him that he was in danger of losing his privileges?”

            Frankly, we don’t know. It seems that RSM has said they have not. Twitter, it seems, has declined to comment.

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          • It’s just bad behavior.

            Is that where we’re at now? Christ, I was under the impression, and gave due consideration to the proposal, that something REALLY IMPORTANT!! was at stake here. Like Freedom. Or Tyranny at least. But now…

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                  • This 100x.

                    Once we accept the fact that a comment policy will necessarily be imperfect the possible outcomes are: (a) weak comment policy and the current tradition where folks like McCain put big red targets on random users so their anonymous followers can send them rape threats (and the resulting chilling effect on speech in a pro-McCain direction); (b) strong, subjective comment policy and the risk of a chilling effect on speech in an anti-McCain direction. I will readily admit that people who have a predisposition against McCain will implicitly undervalue the risks of scenario (B). But what are the free-speech libertarians proposing to address the *existing* victims of scenario (A)? Could it be that the people who argue for a rough-and-tumble comment policy are also very unlikely to be on the receiving end of rape threats?

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                    • We could always pull a neopets.

                      Or a /b/, where the strong subjective “policy” led to the moderator banning himself. (said mod was known for banning people for ABSOLUTELY no good reason).

                      Really, people need to learn how to chill out. How many people have death threats on them every single freaking day???? I worry a LOT MORE about death threats from the Chinese Government (or Australia,or Japan, even), than I do about RANDOM PEOPLE OFF THE INTERNET.

                      I mean,for realz. Can we not fix the big problems first?
                      [I’d also honestly be a bit upset if Assange died, so ymmv.]

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                      • Kim, I think you underestimate how easy it is to make someone’s life very scary on the internet. Especially when that person is an academic, a cohort that usually tweets with their real names and have easily identifiable employers. The whole point is that Twitter does not want to be anything like /b/, and their enforcement policies are all about making people who are neither anonymous nor tech-savvy feel comfortable.

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                        • Oooh, people are skeered of random people!
                          Hire a Bodyguard, suck it the fuck up.
                          Be scared if you’ve got a government or two after you.

                          What, should I not be a bit irate that we care more about First World ScaredyKats than the two kids hiding in a van, under a blanket, hoping desperately no informant turns them in???

                          Personally, I don’t give a flip about what Twitter’s doing. I’m starting to care, though, that we’re giving people so much latitude for “That Upsets Me, so Stop It.”

                          Up Next: Trigger warnings for various sounds out of pro soundbanks.

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                    • “Could it be that the people who argue for a rough-and-tumble comment policy are also very unlikely to be on the receiving end of rape threats?”

                      I don’t think this point can be overstated.

                      What we really need are some liberals to launch McCain style attacks — complete with rape threats — against conservative targets so that Twitter can either ban them — and thus show that their policy is aimed at acts and not actors or ideas — or not ban them and prove themselves to be ideologues.

                      The problem, it seems to be, is a decided lack of rape threats coming from the left. If they are out there, PLEASE, bring them to our attention.

                      This should not be misconstrued to imply that all, most, or even many on the right participate in, endorse, or condone rape threats. But if the only example we have of a prominent and influential* Twitter persona initiating attacks that are laden with rape threats happens to be from the right, are we supposed to ignore that because it doesn’t allow us to claim BSDI?

                      * Being prominent and influential seems key here. I better Twitter is “okay” with lone, isolated wolves shouting vitriol at the moon. But when an individual can mobilize hundreds or thousands with a Tweet, the risk becomes enormous.

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                      • “What we really need are some liberals to launch McCain style attacks — complete with rape threats — against conservative targets so that Twitter can either ban them — and thus show that their policy is aimed at acts and not actors or ideas — or not ban them and prove themselves to be ideologues.”

                        Marc Randazza claims that is what’s happening.

                        I have tracked a number of Twitter accounts and even have set up decoy accounts. In what I’ve tracked, so far, pretty strong “harassment” emanating from accounts that purport to promote a “social justice” or feminist agenda remain unscathed – even with pretty extreme content, up to and including death threats. However, even slightly offensive messages coming from conservative voices wind up being disciplined.

                        “when an individual can mobilize hundreds or thousands with a Tweet, the risk becomes enormous.”

                        So Twitter is super-powerful and we should be careful about what happens there…but it’s also a private company who can conduct operations however they see fit.

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                        • I’ll admit I was expecting a lot more from that post. Do you not find it sorta slimy when someone writes a long screed about how they’re on to *Twitters’ bullshit and lies* but when actually presenting their evidence are all well, it’s not scientific, too early to tell, not ready for prime time. Maybe I’m biased from reviewing papers all day for a conference, but you don’t get to do a hypothetical study and then crow about the results that you know you will eventually get.

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                      • Kazzy,
                        Um, yes, yes it can. I know a troll, and, although he may not get rape threats often, he’s received considerably more death threats (and threats of imprisonment) than the people complaining about getting rape threats.

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                    • What is wrong with a clear, objective commenting policy that is regularly reviewed and updated as needs be? Someone up above complained that such is subject to rules lawyering, which is to me an extremely weak objection. I mean, rules lawyering is just a fact of life in every other aspect of modern society, why should Twitter be different (aside from the obvious that it’s their ball and they can take it and go home if they want)?

                      Here is the danger of the Trust & Safety* being opaque (assuming that it will be opaque, and that the current lack of information is nothing more than just “we have nothing to tell anyone yet, still hammering it all out”): that the members of the board will just walk in with grudge lists and request that everyone on the list be banned. Even if the actual process is much more rigorous, and there is someone playing the role of the defense/devil’s advocate, the reality is that to outsiders, it’ll be arbitrary and capricious, and the banned will be able to argue that it is arbitrary and capricious. Perhaps the most obvious trolls will fail to gather sympathy, but there will be collateral damage.

                      The question of the day will be, how much collateral damage will Twitter users tolerate before they decide they don’t like it and start closing accounts? How many well known public figures will be axed, play the victim card, and pull a good chunk of their followers away to something else?

                      Is it the end of the Republic? Hardly. Is it the end of Twitter? I doubt it, but if they are not careful, it could seriously damage their cultural relevancy in a way that is difficult to recover from, and if they are not turning a profit yet, or not much of one, they risk being eclipsed by someone who does it better. Which is the market at work, so that’s good.

                      Although, if a trend, actual or perceived, does develop that Twitter targets a certain political demographic, it could further the growing political divide in this country. Transparency of process is Twitter’s friend here. I hope that they wind up embracing it.

                      *Wow, that name… Was “User Community Interaction Policy Board” taken?

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                      • Except we’ve long crossed the point where people calling the police because of personal threats, and we haven’t even begun to approach the point where T&S council members are banning totally benign accounts for viewpoint violations. Why is it more just to worry about possible future victims than existing current victims? And, as I’ve said over and over, this isn’t a hypothetical – we already have an example in Reddit of how badly a rough-and-tumble policy can damage the community and the brand.

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                          • Do you have an example of such a policy working to address the issues that Twitter is concerned about?

                            One thing that was useful from the Randazzo article were some comments which actually provided examples of the way Milo operates. He identifies some feminist somewhere with whom he has a disagreement and sends her provocative messages that border on harassment; his followers then send her *thousands* of actually harassing tweets; he re-tweets some of the more creative ones to keep the fire going; this can go on for weeks. This is a huge challenge for an algorithm (let a lone a fixed policy), but it’s pretty easy to spot for a human. Twitter can tear their hair out coming up with algorithms that detect this sort of thing and developing features to address it from the victims side, *and* they can also hire some consultants who have deep experience with online bullying and would be able to apply a reasonable subjective standard.

                            I’ll also note that Randazzo’s description of the Milo blue checkmark scandal is total bullshit. The blue checkmark was always meant to represent verification *and* high quality content, objectively determined by Twitter. When it was first rolled out it was invite-only to hot opinion-makers in the art, fashion, and music industries (again, now how I would run things but nothing *unjust* about having this feature). That’s why the checkmark also comes with all sorts of features that help you monetize your content. So Milo actively works to disrupt the Twitter community and Twitter responds by removing his monetization perks. And people are seriously referencing 1984?!

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                            • I think you’re confusing policy with methodology. Policy just says “x behavior is unacceptable”, where hopefully x is as objective a standard as possible. The methods for identifying offenders is whatever works (algorithm, human, combination thereof). I don’t care how they ID offenders, just make sure that it’s clear why a person is getting the boot. Hell, I’d trap their account in amber and if they make a stink, find a way to display it for all to see (perhaps with notations as to what violates what. Make it a hall of shame.

                              Other things they could try is to make an account unretweetable. Or prevent the user from retweeting anything. Or ban them.
                              Just be transparent as to why.

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                              • I am confused because I thought we went through this. Twitter has listed bullying and harassment as a violation of it’s TOS; the way it determines if bullying or harassment occurred us by relying on a panel of experts on bullying and harassment to determine case by case; the panel membership is made public and the various panel meetings are regularly reported on the Twitter blog. In the case of RSM, he received a letter that his account was suspended for violation of this policy. He continued to post under a second account (which is itself a violation) and that account was suspended for the same reason, with a letter sent. There may be other interactions between RSM and Twitter which have not been made public. By all accounts, the people who have been suspended under this policy were definitely trolling the Twitter community and very likely in violation of these terms. So what exactly is the issue here?

                                As it happens I agree that a *potentially* good policy would be “trap the account in amber and make a stink”. But I also understand why Twitter has decided not to go this direction: there’s risk that the policy will lead to rule lawyering; that it will provide the offenders with notoriety; that it will actually encourage users to try to get into the dishonor roll; etc etc. Either way, I don’t see anything unjust about Twitter’s preferred policy.

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                                  • He had a post yesterday with screenshots of the letter:

                                    @rsmccain
                                    Hello,
                                    Your account was suspended because it was found to be violating the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules), specifically our rules around participating in targeted abuse.
                                    Your account will not be restored.
                                    Thanks,
                                    Twitter
                                    Reference #ref:00DA0000000K0A8.500G000000tVGuS:ref
                                    Twitter, Inc. 1355 Market Street, Suite 900 San Francisco, CA 94103

                                    I don’t know what McCain *specifically* did that resulted in the eventual ban (and did not mean to imply that I do) but it seems to me that the Cracka Ass Twitter Search would definitely qualify. I understand the desire to want to see full disclosure on this, but I also think it’s very likely that if Twitter posted the specific tweets then McCain’s thousands of followers would stage solidarity operations repeating whatever behavior was in those tweets (or toeing up to the line and saying “@jack, does this cross the line? what about this?”).

                                    I can tell you from personal experience being banned at NRO that the best thing they did was provide zero explanation and zero appeal. Because I was fully prepared to list all of the active racist and homophobic comments in good standing and contrast that with my forbidden comments pointing out that presidents nominate SCOTUS judges.

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                                • trizz,
                                  Twitter is ignoring the real trolls, who are making a mint off selling twitter accounts. I’d say that’s trolling the whole community pretty hard, as isn’t it kinda pathetic when you can’t even tell who’s writing the tweets? (let alone if they’re written by bots?)

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            • Well, I’ve seen “no shirts, no shoes, no service” many times. (I’ve never gone in to see what other rules they might have at a place like that, of course.) Oh yeah, “no smoking” and “restrooms for customers only.” At the movies, it seems there’s now a moment after the trailers when patrons are asked to turn their cell-phones off.

              Sometimes, it can be helpful to re-state or highlight particular local customs at places that attract a lot of visitors. Other rules like “don’t attack people at other tables” and “don’t literally pick up someone from a seat you’d like and hurl them out of the room” and “don’t get up and urinate in the middle of the floor” don’t usually need to be stated – restaurants, taverns, inns, and other public gathering places having been in existence for many thousands of years.

              Electronic social media have a shorter history. So, I don’t see much harm, probably some benefit, in posting rules of behavior – or Terms of Service in whatever desired detail – and I think they can complement other measures and approaches to provide for transparency, accountability, fairness, and even “trust and safety.” Might even be a good idea to add yet another annoying pop-up periodically reminding people about what they agree to when they use the service.

              What interests me here only has incidentally to do with Twitter in particular, however. I mainly use Twitter for link/text/image-sharing, only occasionally for anything resembling conversation or other forms of “socializing,” as when I’ll pseudo-gather with a few tweeps I know to observe a debate. I hope that if Twitter can’t make sense of its business for itself, that whatever reduced form it take or whatever successor or new service still efficiently covers the approximate equivalent territory, but what I don’t like about this incident and the way people are discussing it is an application in social media of what I consider to be rather basic notions of civility and fair dealing and not-being-evil.

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                • I’ve said repeatedly that for all I know RSM deserved to be banned. The “for all I know” is the problem, however. Why should the specific justification be a mystery? No one – as far as I can discern – has been able to state specifically what he did that broke the rule. All I know at this point is that in the collective opinion of some committee, produced by mysterious means, he broke the rule, somehow. My impression is also that he was never warned, never asked to mend his ways, and never provided any avenue to appeal or way to have his privileges restored.

                  If you can reach out and erase someone’s account, you can also have sent him a message or messages saying, “Keep up conduct like [example], and your Twitter privileges will be revoked.” Maybe that happened. If so, Twitter should have told him and us right at the top, and provided the evidence of the bad conduct as well as a record of the warning or warnings in some form, sanitized to whatever extent necessary. Given minimal access, I could have produced the message for them with less effort than I have expended writing comments on this thread.

                  I’d advocate – and have advocated – something similar for an itty-bitty site like this one as well as for larger sites, not just for the sake of the individual subjected to banning or (as I would normally prefer) suspension, but for the sake of the virtual community. If there is some practical, legal, or other reason why a social site of whatever size can’t or shouldn’t conduct itself that way, I’d like to know what it might be.

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                  • I assumed, given how strongly you feel not only about the situation, but about the way people here are talking about it, that you were operating on much more than impressions born of (in fact, dependent upon, as you admit) ignorance.

                    If you don’t know whether he was warned, then for my part your view of how Twitter should behave is noted (I largely agree with it, even), and your opinion of this situation dismissed as purely speculative.

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                    • Twitter has had ample opportunity to provide details, which I think should have been referenced in any termination letter as well – easy enough to provide in some publicly accessible, linked form. I don’t see anyone participating in this conversation so far going on anything beyond a) the fact that McCain was terminated, and b) that VDARE piece, which was written by someone else, and is not on its face evidence of anything remotely resembling “harassment,” in my opinion.

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                        • “Obligated”? As far as I know Twitter’s not legally obligated even to have sent a termination letter to McCain. It depends on how Twitter wishes to be perceived by its users and the general public, and what we consider or don’t consider good, admirable, acceptable, etc., conduct, to be rejected and rebuked or possibly to be praised and emulated. For me, to argue that Twitter is acting well amounts to arguing that the users of this site should be happy if that’s how we ran things here. If you want to have people view using your site as a valuable privilege, then perhaps you are “obligated” to treat it and them with respect – as though you value them.

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                          • I don’t mean legally obligated. You are making moral arguments.

                            And perhaps you don’t feel strongly, but in CK language, this thread has been so CK, what with the general criticism not of the opinions of those who disagree with you, but the way they’re expressing them, even in the case of a topic on which it’s now clear you’re talking out your ass.

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                            • From my first comment on this thread, I have requested information and clarification, which I think are obviously essential to any effort to assess the matter fairly. If for some reason you wish to make the discussion personal – about me – then I have no interest in pursuing it with you further.

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                    • And what gave you the impression that I felt “strongly” about “the situation” or about “the way people here are talking about it”? I’ve tried to make my principles clear, and the topic is of interest to me because it has to do with a long-abiding as well as professional interest of mine – since, you know, I build web-sites and am active at a certain social site that from time to time has user-relations issues. That’s it. I’m happy to have your agreement regarding a better model for handling this type of matter.

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                • This seems like a good enough place to make two random points:

                  One, the RSM thing bothers me much less than the Milo thing. Maybe McCain did engage in behavior that rose to a level that met Twitter’s harassment or abuse standards. Milo’s blue check thing, though, is odd. They know it’s him. And if he violated the TOS, why not just boot him? It is much more clearly a case of taking punitive action against someone for being on the wrong team.

                  And two, if RSM did do what Twitter booted him for doing, I don’t get why they don’t just identify the Tweets that violated the policy. That would be all upside for them, no? It would demonstrate that they take online harassment seriously. It would clarify the TOS to other users. And it would take the sails out of the #FreeStacy reactionary reaction.

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                  • Might there be legal reasons why Twitter has been so mum (at least publicly) on the issue?

                    It isn’t uncommon for big corporations to avoid commentary on ongoing disputes.

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                  • I’d bet that Twitter has been silent on the specific tweets (if it wasn’t a pattern over many years) for legal reasons, as Kazzy suggests. And I don’t particularly blame them. I do wonder whether he’s been warned, as Johnson was, though the fact that they’ve been very clear that they’re cracking down on the sort of shit McCain pulled regularly suggests that the writing was on the wall if he cared to read it.

                    And I agree, the verified account thing was stupid.

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                    • It also strikes me that Twitter is in a bit of damned-if-do, damned-if-don’t position.

                      If they take the current tack, they get criticized for a lack of transparency and seemingly acting arbitrarily and without cause.

                      If they layout all the evidence — after cutting off a primary avenue for the alleged to respond — it seems like piling on. McCain, obviously, has other means by which he can respond. But he is probably somewhat unique in that regard (at least in terms of the size of his audience). Imagine he didn’t have a blog and Twitter listed all his alleged misdeeds and he had no means by which to counter? That comes across as pretty unsavory too.

                      Now, that is a bit of a false dilemma. There are other routes they could take. And perhaps that is what they are doing… it has been, what, four days since the account was shut down? That is an eternity on Twitter but nothing in the real (legal) world.

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                    • I’ve not noticed any actual “legal reasons” specified, just vague notions that there might be some. What do you think they are or might be?

                      Where is the evidence of “the sort of shit McCain pulled regularly”? If you can’t provide links, then maybe you can take the time to state some factual particulars for me (as I think Twitter should have done for all concerned, not least for Twitter itself).

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                      • Wow, I feel somewhat foolish for thinking you knew what you were talking about, given your criticisms of others here. That you don’t is both disappointing and damning.

                        Do you even know that he’s been suspended before? Given your position, that seems like something you’d have researched.

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                    • Citing legal reasons is certainly true, but it’s also question begging. As a legal entity, just about everything that Twitter does is for “legal reasons.”

                      So sure, maybe they are worried about nuisance lawsuits (which is one of Chuck Johnson’s specialties) and want to minimize the paper trial. Makes sense, but it’s also a decision in service of a particular policy. Twitter could just as easily make it their policy to notify people of why they’re taking action and adopt a legal strategy centered around that choice.

                      We can argue all day about whether they should or should not be more transparent in their suspension decisions, but can we at least agree that they could?

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                          • I never got any reasons — or even so much as notification! — when I was banned from RedState. I even went so far as to email twice seeking clarity and got nothing in return.

                            Is that more, less, or equivalently Orwellian?

                            McCain didn’t play by the rules. Rules he was warned about prior. The consequences were loss of access to Twitter and removal of his tweets. Tough nuts.

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                            • I think they should have told you why you were banned and let you plead your case.

                              That is different than what happened here where twitter started the Trust and Safety Council, appointed someone that didn’t like RSM to it and then all of a sudden he gets banned. Can you see the difference?

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