Can You Stalk and Harrass People on Twitter? Apparently So

Ariel Waldman � Blog Archive � Twitter refuses to uphold Terms of Service

Ariel Waldman, the community manager for Pownce, has a troubling story on her blog about a case of harassment that she faced on Twitter.

According to Waldman, she tried to get Twitter to enforce their TOS (based on Flickr’s) which says that twitter users can’t ““abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.”

from Ariel:

“The harassment continued throughout the course of 2007. Since Twitter and I had an open dialog started, I would periodically report cases of continuing harassment (some of which spread between Flickr and Twitter). Twitter would take no action while Flickr would immediately ban and remove all traces of the harassment.

Unfortunately, in 2008 it escalated to a level that could no longer be ignored. Tweets were being fired off directly calling me a “cunt” amongst other harassing language.”

In Ariel’s case the harassment on Twitter apparently continues with Ariel citing most recent examples of abuse last month where her harrasser continued to abuse her including her full name and email address attached to words like “crack-whore” and “lesbian porn.”

Waldman says that even after this, Twitter came back and wouldn’t do anything instead stating:

“Apologies for the delay here. We’ve reviewed the matter and decided it’s not in our best interest to get involved. We’ve tasked our lawyers with a full review and update of our TOS.”

While I do think that a site and service should give a wide berth to users to express themselves and am an ardent opponent of censorship, I do think that if a site is going to say that they won’t allow this sort of thing that they probably ought to stick to their TOS and honor it.

Obviously this is one side of what is likely a two sided story, but it’s still too bad to hear about things like this.

Also, even though off site of Twitter I would support anybody’s right to say anything that they wanted, even if it’s critical or offensive, I still think it’s disappointing when people choose to be cruel. And I think that too often when women especially complain about this kind of thing that they get seriously dumped on by anonymous cowards.

Reading through some of the comments on Areil’s blog post on this, “cry more you stupid cunt,” by satan, or “Sorry but I would have to agree with the guy who just called you a stupid cunt,” by mark, it makes you realize how many truly cruel people there are out there. That’s sad.

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  1. Mike D. says:

    It’s sad to see that the trolls have made there way to Twitter and it’s even sadder to see that Twitter is making it a safe haven for them (for now). I’m all for free speech but many of these trolling cases are clear cases of TOS violations.

  2. The choice of someone to speak in a cruel manner towards someone else is theirs, right or wrong. I know I’ve spoken mean things about many people, and sometimes I’ve regretted it, but other times I haven’t. The situation here is unknown, and whether this girl is or isn’t all the names she’s being called is debatable, I’m sure.

    I just think that, especially in the United States, we’ve become a nation of people who can’t take criticism or insults. We get so offended by each and every little thing. Like it or not, someone has the right to call you an idiot, a jerk, an asshole, or even a cunt. They can do it on their blog, their journal, their podcast, etc. I think they ought to be able to do it on Flickr, or Twitter, or any other social or micro-blogging platform. It’s free speech.

    But somewhere along the line, we as a people got this idea in our heads that if it’s offensive, it’s wrong. If it hurts someone, it shouldn’t be allowed. Since when do I not have the right to offend you? I think that right is just as important as your right to be offended.

    I don’t know either of the parties involved in this, but I don’t qualify this situation as harassment. This guy is not interrupting her life. He isn’t threatening her, or making any kind of direct contact with her (from what is said here). He’s calling her names. It’s a poo-flinging tactic as old as conflict itself.

    It sounds to me like this girl needs to get a thicker skin, and get on with her life. She is causing herself anxiety about the situation, which is more harmful than anything he is doing.

  3. Yeah, free speech doesn’t just apply to speech you like. If this person is stalking her and she can find out where he/she lives, she can file a criminal complaint.

    Still, Twitter should allow folks to block abusive users by IP and filter coarse language.

  4. TranceMist says:

    Simple advice: turn off Twitter.