Hounded relentlessly in every conceivable way

Twitter has a terrible record of dealing with long-term systematic harassment and abuse. I know this from personal experience; most of the people I know know it from personal experience. Hannah Jane Parkinson knows it.

It was a great development when Twitter introduced inline gifs and videos, but not so great when Jewish women routinely receive messages such as “go back to the gas chambers” and it somehow doesn’t violate their terms of service. Some 2.6 million antisemitic tweets were sent last year. One woman was even suspended for reporting a tweet that told her: “Welcome to Trump’s America. Welcome to the camps!”

Rose McGowan, however, the actor at the forefront of calling out Harvey Weinstein’s alleged decades of sexual harassment and abuse – just one of the women whose stories are only now coming out because of the aggressively patriarchal culture of fear that has rendered them silent – has been temporarily banned from the platform on which she had found her voice.

It is possible that whichever specific tweet triggered the 12-hour suspension has been automatically removed (as is often the case) – and Twitter has since said it was down to the posting of a phone number – but it seems hugely over the top and counterproductive to take McGowan’s account offline at a critical time of debate.

Remove the tweet with the phone number and explain it to McGowan, but don’t suspend her account.

I haven’t spoken much about this, but for nine months a couple of years ago, my life was made a living hell by a group who objected to a report I wrote about an enterprise of theirs that was scamming people after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. I was hounded relentlessly in every conceivable way online. Some of the methods are more known about now, but back then they were not.

Fake news sites – populated with otherwise real content and respectable-looking domain names – were set up with hoax stories about me being corrupt, being mentally unstable, and even being an ex-porn star. The SEO was gamed so that they appeared at the top of Google searches for my name. Mass emails were sent out to journalists across the industry, warning people against me. Social mediaaccounts were combed for personal information about my family and friends to spook me. But perhaps the most consistently disruptive aspect was this one: this group flooded my Twitter account with bots, and also bot-retweeted every tweet I sent. This made it impossible to use a medium that I relied on as part of my job. As well as this, my friends and colleagues were soon also targeted.

If making someone’s life a misery in this way does not violate Twitter’s terms of service then clearly there is something not working about Twitter’s terms of service.

Quite a lot of something, actually.

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