New Rules: Scientists Stay Away from Twitter

In a hostile, dangerous environment Twitter will not protect you, your privacy, or your family. Here‘s why I plan to deactivate my account. We are not safe.

I used to love twitter. I mean really love twitter. I used it for three reasons.

  1. I shared my podcast and my writing, my students’ work and our laboratory’s outreach.
  2. I loved sharing the beautiful stories of science in the news that were fast and digestible, with a link to more information.
  3. I was grateful for the opportunity to engage others that had questions about science, as Twitter provided a space for a fast, public exchange that allowed for others to chime in. There were good discussions that changed hearts and minds- sometimes including my own.

In over 400 public seminars on science communication I spoke of Twitter as a necessary component of science communication, encouraging scientists and farmers to use twitter for sharing content and amplifying the work of others. I promoted the use of Twitter as a forum for discussion and debate.

Not any more. Stay away, or be very careful about what you post. The bottom line is that Twitter is now ruled by automated bots that target you, sock puppet accounts that will be dedicated to harming your reputation, and endless legions of trolls that all the blocking and muting will never block or mute. Twitter is the hive of the anonymous slander artist, those that pass out pitchforks and torches and then say, “Go get ‘em.”

Your reputation will suffer if you are a target. If you create positive change, Twitter’s trolls will tarnish it. If you make a mistake, you will pay forever with eternal reposting. It is all about character assassination.

Twitter also allows malicious posting of personal information, like social security numbers and bank account information. This happened to me, and after I lobbied a complaint, they eventually (after hours available) removed my social security number. Right now my bank account number, routing number and home address remain online 36 hours after posting and 24 hours after I first reported it.

Paul Thacker posted a W9 obtained from FOIA of my emails, including my personal phone number and social security number. I did the redaction. The phone and address had to be changed. The W9 was so I could be reimbursed for exact costs of travel to speak to farmers. Even after providing personal, sensitive information, Twitter allows him to continue his harassment.

The worst part is that they didn’t give any sanction to those that provided personal information. Malicious users posted my social security number, my address, my routing number and bank account number. The users were allowed to continue harassment, while I had to buy identify theft protection, close accounts, cut debit cards to shreds, and rejigger automatic payments.

Their baseless accusations and allegations are amplified with hashtags, promoting retribution against the targeted. Allegations and malicious statements are coupled to “#MeToo” with the intent of garnering retribution. You are guilty, because Twitter says so. Lock your doors, load your shotgun, and sleep with your eyes open. They say you are dangerous and publish your home address. Protect your family.

Your personal safety, your family’s safety is compromised using Twitter.

My Revised Guidance

If you choose to use it, use Twitter only for dissemination, but not engagement. Share your best content, use it to reach your audience. Do not engage.

Let the trolls and bots have their day, as Twitter will let them thrive regardless of their messages. Community Standards are weak, almost non-existent, and hateful, targeting accounts that are dedicated to your harassment are allowed and protected. Check out @evelyngreenburg or @RailaeRauoy (‘Your are a liar’ backwards) accounts and how they almost exclusively focus on me, with a few other things added in to appear legitimate. I’ve reported them, but Twitter says that targeted harassment is acceptable.

Or better yet, use Instagram and Facebook. Set up professional accounts there and use them to share your information.

Again, I was a huge fan of Twitter, but it is dominated by hate speech and harassment. In a world where we are (thank goodness) recognizing harassment, intimidation, doxxing and bullying in all it’s forms, it is time to abandon Twitter until they denounce the anonymous, nameless accounts that harass, intimidate, doxx and bully, and remove permanently those that use their network to hurt others.

Someone should start Qwitter. Authenticated users and one-strike-your-out moderation.

I’d sign up in a heartbeat.