Dear Twitter: This is not OK

I believe any sentence that is directed at a human being and ends with “Before WE start shooting back” is a problem. But apparently, this statement doesn’t breach The Twitter Rules.

No, this isn’t the most abusive thing ever written on Twitter.

No, I wasn’t stalked, threatened by name, or directly and with precise harm.

Still, I was shaking for half an hour.

The incident occurred during a Twitter conversation about the January 20th University of Washington shooting. (A man claims he shot another man in self-defense during a protest of Milo Yiannopolis speaking on campus.) It was evident the other person in this conversation held opposing views, and I was determined to maintain a civil tone. In fact, I had just thanked them for correcting me and asked a clarifying question.

Their use of all-caps should have tipped me off, but I was determined to engage politely, firmly, and with empathy. In my response I included the sentence, “We’ve all got to calm down.” Never in a million years did I expect:

No YOU have to calm down. Before WE start shooting back.”


Apparently, according to Twitter, that tweet is okay.

I reported the tweet and, in responding to my complaint, Twitter said, “We reviewed your report carefully and found that there was no violation of Twitter’s Rules regarding abusive behavior (https://twitter.com/rules). “


The Twitter Rules

Let’s take a minute to look at Twitter’s rules, specifically at the section titled Abusive Behavior.

Twitter identifies seven categories of abusive behavior:

  • Violent threats (direct or indirect)
  • Harassment
  • Hateful conduct
  • Multiple account abuse
  • Private information
  • Impersonation
  • Self-harm

Violent Threats and Harassment seem most relevant. Let’s look more closely.

Harassment

You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider … include … if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats…

“No YOU have to calm down. Before WE start shooting back.”

Hmm. Not a threat? The behavior was one-sided, but not targeted. So, perhaps not Harassment.

Violent threats (direct or indirect)

“You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.”

“No YOU have to calm down. Before WE start shooting back.”

Hmm. Not a threat of violence? Really?


Bottom Line

Naturally, I blocked this person, but that’s not enough. When people are allowed to say things like, “you calm down, before we start shooting back,” it creates an atmosphere of violence and fear in which people are afraid to respond. And, by not responding, we leave behind a trail of violent content that only emboldens others with similar leanings.

If this tweet doesn’t constitute a “threat of violence,” then let’s figure out what to call it and make sure it’s clear that This is not OK.
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