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Uh, what the hell Twitter?
May 22, 2008 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Twitter refuses to uphold own Terms of Service. After being shown the very definition of harassment, Twitter alters its terms of service rather than protect one of its users from behavior that its own TOS prohibits.
posted by o2b (93 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, a separate incident: When having the same name as a rap star means you’re violating Twitter’s Terms of Service… and you’re left feeling kind of violated
posted by o2b at 2:28 PM on May 22, 2008


Dollars to donuts the TOS was a cut-n-paste job that nobody'd looked at since they put it up. I can see why they'd change it -- you don't even really want to have one, but they lawyers say you have to...
posted by sdodd at 2:30 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting this would come out the same day it's announced Twitter raises $15 million dollars in a new round of funding.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:32 PM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


And besides the Twitter/Flickr thing, that linked blog post also says nothing about anybody altering their terms of service. They're choosing to ignore it, yes, but they don't seem to be altering it.
posted by penduluum at 2:33 PM on May 22, 2008


Flickr is involved, since the user was being harassed on Flickr as well. According to the post linked above, Flickr acted in accordance with their own TOS; Twitter simply altered their TOS: "Twitter would take no action while Flickr would immediately ban and remove all traces of the harassment."
posted by k8lin at 2:35 PM on May 22, 2008


"We’ve tasked our lawyers with a full review and update of our TOS" seems like alteration to me.
posted by k8lin at 2:35 PM on May 22, 2008


I'm sorry, is this something I would have to be a self-absorbed "social media" blogger to understand?
posted by dersins at 2:36 PM on May 22, 2008 [18 favorites]


I find something strange here, I have a hard time believing that there is only one side to this story, but there's no other information to go on.
posted by chibikeandy at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2008


outragefilter.
posted by krautland at 2:40 PM on May 22, 2008


If one user violates the terms of service, that does not mean another can insist on any particular enforcement action.

I imagine that they will probably alter their terms to make this more clear.
posted by grouse at 2:42 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


An apparently official response from Jason Goldman, Official Rep.
posted by o2b at 2:44 PM on May 22, 2008


Part of me wonders how much of this is unintentional sexism. The other part of me says "No, sexist would be the other way around." Both parts are sad scared that Twitter actually thinks it's a legally safer thing to do to leave this harassment up. I hope they find lawyers with more than one third of a brain cell before something bad happens.
posted by Plutor at 2:45 PM on May 22, 2008


Bitter about Twitter. More tither at 11:00.
posted by netbros at 2:46 PM on May 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


@dersins: Harassment? You don't understand harassment?
posted by crickets at 2:48 PM on May 22, 2008


“Unfortunately, although [this user’s] behavior is admittedly mean, [s/he] isn’t necessarily doing anything against our terms of service. I’ve been following [their] profile since your first complaint to monitor [them], as well. We can’t remove [this user’s] profile or ban [this user’s] IP address; [they’re] not doing anything illegal.”

Twitter's legal dept. is 100% absolutely in the right. I suppose I feel bad for this person, but making insulting remarks online is no more illegal online than it is in public speech. There was no slander involved, just name-calling.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:51 PM on May 22, 2008


Social apps, instant messengers and that kind of thing do a good job of presenting themselves as fair and reasonable businesses, but the truth is they reserve every right they possibly can. AIM, for example, has the rights to anything you've ever sent with it. And honestly, you can't expect modern companies to put customer satisfaction ahead of immediate profits.
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:52 PM on May 22, 2008


so, if someone continually, for months, kept posting tweets or whatever they're called about the CEO of Twitter, calling him a "cunt" and posting his private email address and insulting him and in other ways openly engaging in character assassination, would they let it stand?
posted by shmegegge at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2008


so, if someone continually, for months, kept posting tweets or whatever they're called about the CEO of Twitter, calling him a "cunt" and posting his private email address and insulting him and in other ways openly engaging in character assassination, would they let it stand?

It sounds like they can if they want to.
posted by Hicksu at 2:56 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Twitter's legal dept. is 100% absolutely in the right. I suppose I feel bad for this person, but making insulting remarks online is no more illegal online than it is in public speech. There was no slander involved, just name-calling.

I personally agree with this, but it might not hold up in court. The federal government is currently charging someone else under the federal hacking law for violating MySpace's terms of service. The reason why they had to resort to the hacker law is that there was no way to prosecute her for breaking any normal laws.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:00 PM on May 22, 2008


Twitter's legal dept. is 100% absolutely in the right.

No they're not. No one has to break the law to get banned from Twitter. People get banned for legal activities from online services all the time. Hell, I just read an article the other day about how Microsoft banned some guy's gamertag because it had the word Gay in it. His name is Richard Gaywood. It's unfortunate, I guess, but that's the name on the credit card he pays for the account with and everything. What law did he break?

Twitter's legal department is just scared that they might have to go to court one day, so they pretend like they can't take your account away unless you break the law, but that's simply untrue.

If I ran twitter, I could - if I wanted to - add a clause to the TOS after the fact saying that I could ban you because I was in a bad mood and it would make me feel good. Then I could ban the entire userbase and send one last tweet saying "bad day, motherfuckers. deal with it." and it would be perfectly within my rights.

allowing harassment to go unabated on the service, on the other hand...
posted by shmegegge at 3:00 PM on May 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


on further reading, maybe "absolutely" right was a bit strong. Posting someone's private email is probably harassment by any definition. Calling them names though, however unpleasant, is basically just expressing an opinion. Twitter is not really a "community," it's a soapbox to shout, and whoever wants to listen can listen.

If they make a policy banning any insulting language, does that mean I can be banned as soon as someone sees it on the public timeline and complains? Even if I was joking around with a friend by calling him names? I feel bad for this girl, but if my freedom to use the language I want starts being restricted because of the flavor-of-the-month boogieman "cyber-bullying," I won't be using their service for long.

There is a lot of grey area here.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:02 PM on May 22, 2008


Twitter's TOS does say "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time."
posted by inconsequentialist at 3:03 PM on May 22, 2008


Violation of any of these agreements will result in the termination of your Twitter.com account.

Geesh, they should really get that out of their TOS.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:10 PM on May 22, 2008


drjimmy11 writes "Twitter's legal dept. is 100% absolutely in the right. I suppose I feel bad for this person, but making insulting remarks online is no more illegal online than it is in public speech. There was no slander involved, just name-calling."

I think twitter's fundamental error is letting the legal department have final say in what is obviously a PR/customer service issue. They could absolutely ban assholes if they wanted to. Heck, they could just randomly ban users for no reason at all if they felt like it. They have no legal obligation to provide service to anyone, and this is a total dipshit move on their part.
posted by mullingitover at 3:11 PM on May 22, 2008


If they make a policy banning any insulting language, does that mean I can be banned as soon as someone sees it on the public timeline and complains? Even if I was joking around with a friend by calling him names? I feel bad for this girl, but if my freedom to use the language I want starts being restricted because of the flavor-of-the-month boogieman "cyber-bullying," I won't be using their service for long.

There is a lot of grey area here.


Well, there's always gray area when it comes to enforcing behavioral policy. But, in this particular case, it's about a dude spending months explicitly insulting someone, posting their private information and harassing her. I mean, I don't think anyone is asking twitter to adopt some hard line "if you cuss, we ban you" stance, but they're not doing ANYTHING.

the question, of course, is whether what's-her-name, here is being honest about the circumstances. for all we know she's been saying worse shit on HER twitter, or something.
posted by shmegegge at 3:12 PM on May 22, 2008


People get banned for legal activities from online services all the time.

No kidding, have you visited Television Without Pity lately?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:12 PM on May 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


The "official" response is actually interesting:
As a communication utility, Twitter does not get involved in these disputes between users over issues of content except in limited circumstances. Twitter is a provider of information, not a mediator. Specific physical threats, certain legal obligations, privacy breaches of specific types of information (e.g. SSN, credit cards), and misleading impersonation are some cases where we may become involved and potentially terminate an account.

Overall, we hold ourselves responsible for building tools that allow our users to control their own experience. Twitter is not a judge for resolving disputes over most content issues—our focus is on providing a service.
Seems like a pretty reasonable approach, actually. If you want to sue someone for harassment over Twitter, just sue them for harassment.

It's good that they're changing their TOS to reflect the policy, though.
posted by tkolar at 3:16 PM on May 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Her argument would be stronger if she posted some of the actual offending statements by the harasser rather than paraphrasing and characterizing them.
posted by brain_drain at 3:18 PM on May 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


This seems pretty clear cut even against Twitters newly revised TOS:

You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.

Violation of any of these agreements will result in the termination of your Twitter.com account.

I can see at least 3 of those terms breached for starters.

Twitter's TOS were indeed inspired by Flickr (apart from the termination of account bit).
posted by panboi at 3:25 PM on May 22, 2008


[generic anti-twitter comment]
posted by Burhanistan at 3:27 PM on May 22, 2008


immediate profits.
twitter? hahahahah.

lame response though. Ban the account, ffs.
posted by bonaldi at 3:31 PM on May 22, 2008


I'm sorry, is this something I would have to be a self-absorbed "social media" blogger to understand?

I think the term you're looking for is "self-facilitating media node".
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:32 PM on May 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


I too, would like to know what was actually said before passing judgment.
posted by grouse at 3:37 PM on May 22, 2008


I'd be interested to know how many people actually leave Twitter because of this. I doubt it would be many, but I'm still curious.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:39 PM on May 22, 2008


Twitter: from ego-casting to id-bludgeoning.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:45 PM on May 22, 2008


mullingitover: I think twitter's fundamental error is letting the legal department have final say in what is obviously a PR/customer service issue. They could absolutely ban assholes if they wanted to. Heck, they could just randomly ban users for no reason at all if they felt like it. They have no legal obligation to provide service to anyone, and this is a total dipshit move on their part.

I agree with you that it's definitely more of a PR issue than a legal one (assuming their legal department is competent), but I disagree that they made a bad move.

They're opening up a can of worms if they start policing their service for content that's objectionable but not illegal. Lots of people, myself included, would be a bit concerned if they went down that road, because it's inherently vague. There's a lot of grey area between "this is a nasty thing to do" and "this is illegal" and many people may prefer that they just stay out and draw a line in the sand only where people start breaking the law in their jurisdiction. That's certainly my preference, not that I have any say in the issue -- I'd prefer that they do the absolute minimum amount of censorship required by U.S. law. Yes, people will be nasty to each other. I think that's a fair price to pay for not having some vaguely-defined and arbitrarily, selectively enforced 'decency policy'.

The fact that they can ban anyone they want, and regulate their own service to whatever extent they desire, doesn't mean that they should play nanny if they don't have to, or that their users necessarily would appreciate that on the whole. It's clearly a matter of opinion, so I assume they'll do whatever they think the majority of their users (and potential users) would prefer.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2008


self-facilitating media node (reference)
posted by ao4047 at 3:54 PM on May 22, 2008


I'd be interested to know how many people actually leave Twitter because of this. I doubt it would be many, but I'm still curious.

Into the tens I'm sure.
posted by justgary at 3:55 PM on May 22, 2008


The author of the linked-to post is the community manager for twitter-clone Pownce, which kind of makes me re-asses what's really going on here.
posted by cell divide at 4:08 PM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dramafilter. Couldn't-care-lessfilter.

This woman is a manager at Twitter's competitor... just FYI.
posted by loiseau at 4:08 PM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Twitter is like one step on the annoying scale above IM. I'm glad that nobody expects me to use it, and the day that they do is the day that I unplug from the grid. Permanently.

I hear there are some very nice organic farms upstate.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:10 PM on May 22, 2008


They're opening up a can of worms if they start policing their service for content that's objectionable but not illegal.

The harassed user brought the problem to their attention, and helped them to monitor it. Twitter didn't have to do anything but enforce their TOS, and they failed. (Except, of course, that we haven't seen the actual harassment.)
posted by owhydididoit at 4:13 PM on May 22, 2008


This woman is a manager at Twitter's competitor... just FYI.

Yup, and she disclosed that in her own post on this matter, and pointed out that Twitter has been having these sorts of problems since before she held her current job.

Dramafilter. Couldn't-care-lessfilter.

Don't-read-this-far-in-the-thread-if-you-don't-carefilter.
posted by ubernostrum at 4:20 PM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


so, if someone continually, for months, kept posting tweets or whatever they're called about the CEO of Twitter, calling him a "cunt" and posting his private email address and insulting him and in other ways openly engaging in character assassination, would they let it stand?

Of course not. Don't you know what the point of a TOS is? It's the reasons they can ban you, not the reasons they must Ban you. Just because you write up a TOS doesn’t cause you to be mandated to enforce it with monotonous efficiency, or any other efficiency. TOSes are just there to give an excuse to ban people, and lay out some guidelines about what kind of behavior is expected.

The idea that TOSes are there to protect users, or whatever, is absurd. It's up to each site owner to enforce their TOS as they see fit.
posted by delmoi at 4:23 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't understand Twitter (the service) in the slightest. Every time I read somone's--anyone's--updates, I think, "Who fuckin' cares?!" It is mind boggling to me that anyone uses their service at all.

They were given $15m in funding? Jesus Christ I'm in the wrong business.
posted by dobbs at 4:27 PM on May 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


If they make a policy banning any insulting language, does that mean I can be banned as soon as someone sees it on the public timeline and complains? Even if I was joking around with a friend by calling him names?

Twitter acknowledges the posts are harassment and in violation of the TOS, because they have been deleting the posts when Ariel complains. They just won't take it a step farther and kick the guy out. As for getting banned because you might razz your buddy, not likely, Twitter isn't actively monitoring for uncoth language, they only act on complaints.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:28 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


WHY can't social networking sites learn from more established online communities who've had to deal with the exact same issues?

Sigh.
posted by jdfalk at 4:29 PM on May 22, 2008


It's funny to sit here at WebVisions where every fifth word is "Twitter" and read this.

I'm in between on this. I'm very anti-bully, but if Twitter is arguing they're nothing but the conduit (or "the messenger"), then I understand.

Of course, if they are, then they should be treated like an information conduit. Like a phone company. Or an ISP. With all those regulations....
posted by dw at 4:35 PM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, Twitter has been deleting these allegedly offensive messages all along?

That's something that was totally omitted from the write-up. Interesting.
posted by grouse at 4:35 PM on May 22, 2008


(And I mean this detail was omitted from the write-up by Ariel Waldman, community manager for Twitter competitor Pownce, not the blurb by o2b.)
posted by grouse at 4:44 PM on May 22, 2008


Grouse: Ariel's write-up includes an email she received from Twitter stating that they had decided to remove the user's updates from the public timeline.

However, this sort of deletion does not, I believe, prevent the updates from being seen by the user's followers or anyone who stumbles on his or her profile.
posted by inconsequentialist at 4:49 PM on May 22, 2008


i've just in the past few days started looking at twitter (same userid as here). so far, it was striking me as livejournal with ADD. the same "here's my boring life" with less context and inertia. which is not a bad thing - i can see the appeal.

i intentionally haven't started putting much effort or attention into it yet, figuring that it hadn't yet started suffering its tempests-in-teapots. i guess it's starting now. i'll be curious to see how this all turns out.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:56 PM on May 22, 2008


Oh, okay. I took the "Twitter would take no action." in contrast to Flickr's delete/ban as meaning that Twitter would... well, take no action. That's still action. Unless they only deleted them initially and now have stopped.
posted by grouse at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2008


Why do people always feel like they should have someone in authority do something about their problems and issues? Can this little crybaby click "ignore" or "block" on the so-called cyber-bully? It's seriously pathetic to bitch and moan about "oh whine whine whine, someone called me a cunt" and "boo-fucking-hoo someone has my EMAIL address and I might have to delete messages I don't want to read now! wah!"... likw there's such a thing as a "private" email address.

On top of that, wtf is the point of twitter, anyway?
posted by triolus at 5:04 PM on May 22, 2008


In related news: Twitter Ends Its Greta Garbo Routine -- "Company breaks a prolonged silence to offer a discourse on its tech problems."
posted by ericb at 5:05 PM on May 22, 2008


I have a really great rundown of the issues on my page at 10:00, 10:30, 10:45, 11 and 11:30pm.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:34 PM on May 22, 2008


It seems rather strange to engage in activity that opens themselves to a lawsuit from a victim of harassment, in order to protect themselves from a lawsuit from a perpetrator of harassment.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:37 PM on May 22, 2008


grouse: they're not deleting them, they're marking them friends and search-only, in flickr terms.
posted by bonaldi at 6:00 PM on May 22, 2008


In spite of having taken some pokes at Twitter, I enjoy it quite a bit. I almost feel as if Twitter was designed with me in mind.

I work at home, and I spend many hours drawing. It's pretty isolated. As it turns out, a lot of webcomics artists are also on Twitter -- presumably for similar reasons -- and some of them are friends of mine. Twitter ends up being kind of like your standard office banter for me, enough to feel social, but not enough to keep me from getting work done.

I also follow some people, like Jonathan Coulton, that I don't know personally. In spite of jokes I've made, the fame factor is enough to keep me interested in how his latest tour is going or whatnot. So I keep him on my list, but I wouldn't join Twitter just to follow him.

I think in the end going into Twitter and following random people is like going into a coffee shop and listening to random conversations. You might theoretically overhear something fascinating, but it's more likely that you'll just be bored to tears. You need a certain critical mass of people you care about in one way or another before it's worth it.
posted by lore at 6:21 PM on May 22, 2008


The difference, to me anyway, is that removing the offending posts from the public timeline is a cosmetic response. The post has still been published on the public timeline, possibly indexed, and seen by everyone who was reading the public timeline before the point at which someone alerts the management and incites the deletion. It's still been pushed out to anyone who follows the offending user, or reads the offending user's timeline.

Twitter management is allowing their PR guy to manage this so, so poorly. They should really know better at this point. Already facing serious technical issues, plus community grumblings about the low barrier to entry for spammers,

(to wit:
"What this means is that legit users that are just discovering Twitter are going to have a harder time acquiring an audience, since those of us that have been around a while will become skeptical of people with a disproportionate following-to-followers ratio. If these people can’t find an audience, they’re likely to stop using Twitter, which means the company’s ambitions of crossing over into the mainstream could be short-lived."
~ Mashable, 3-24-08)

it's classically bad damage control to hold up their palms on this and go, "Don't blame us, we're just the conduit, we're not responsible if people get hurt."

(which is how it reads when Ariel Waldman complains of private information being made public, and being the target of physical threats, after getting called a cunt and whore)

Hey Biz, Ev and Jack: with that latest round of VC funding, might be time to consider hiring some community managers, eh?
posted by pineapple at 6:23 PM on May 22, 2008


...on further reading, maybe "absolutely" right was a bit strong. Posting someone's private email is probably harassment by any definition. Calling them names though, however unpleasant, is basically just expressing an opinion. Twitter is not really a "community," it's a soapbox to shout, and whoever wants to listen can listen.

This is an interesting point: does everyone agree that posting somebody's private email is probably harassment by any definition? It's difficult to think of circumstances when posting a person's private email without that person's prior consent is OK, but harassment?
posted by Slap Factory at 6:42 PM on May 22, 2008


[generic anti-twitter comment]

Wait, let me have a bash at it.

Fucking Twitter. How much further can we go in slicing continuous, connected thought up into tiny bites? Auto-erotic distributed attention deficit disorder as we social-network hamslap our transient brainfarts into the aether, accumulating 'followers', ignoring the sad fact that our latest 140 characters of fame pecked out on a Blackberry while taking a shit are a less-than-stellar legacy for the ages.

And, you know, I'd Tweet that, but it won't fit into 140 goddamn characters.

Now get the hell off my lawn.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:46 PM on May 22, 2008 [12 favorites]


Kadin2048 writes "They're opening up a can of worms if they start policing their service for content that's objectionable but not illegal."

This isn't a matter of policing their site. This is a twitter saying 'Hey, why don't you just shut up' when a user complains that an asshole is publishing their personal information in a public place and calling them some pretty horrible things. I'm not saying that twitter has to go looking for trouble, but to be blatantly user hostile is breathtakingly stupid for an ambitious company that's trying to win the VC lottery. In a community site, assholes and abusers should be struck down with the wrath of a thousand angry gods, not lazily taken out of the public view.

Personally, if I were running a community site, I'd have people come to your house and backhand you for this kind of behavior.
posted by mullingitover at 6:54 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fucking twits, the lot of you. Jesus Christ.
posted by aaronetc at 7:37 PM on May 22, 2008


For those always wondering why anyone would use Twitter, it comes down to this. You have to have friends for Twitter to be useful.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 8:06 PM on May 22, 2008


In solidarity, I will not twitter, blog, or post about this, starting.... now!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:26 PM on May 22, 2008


Well it is pretty obvious to me. They've stated that their own policies mean nothing--just the threat of lawsuit.

She clearly should have a lawyer threaten them with a lawsuit (maybe even a class-action suit) if they don't take action.

The terms of service include an implied protection against harassment, which they are not providing her.
posted by eye of newt at 8:35 PM on May 22, 2008


Next up, suing the owner of the bathroom wall because someone wrote your phone number on it.
posted by tkolar at 8:46 PM on May 22, 2008


Next up, suing the owner of the bathroom wall because someone wrote your phone number on it.

If they refuse to take it down themselves, refuse to let you take it down, refuse to stop the guy who keeps writing your number on the wall from writing your number on the wall, and when you point to the "no writing numbers on the walls" sign they say "that means nothing", you might have a case.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eh, just sue 'em. Lots of claims, lots of dollars, and don't sweat the details. You're not suing to win damages, you're suing to create headaches, press releases, and massive, intrusive discovery. When you get bored, drop the suit and accuse Twitter of procedural foot-dragging, ignoring discovery requests, and generally acting in bad faith.
posted by ryanrs at 10:55 PM on May 22, 2008


when you point to the "no writing numbers on the walls" sign they say "that means nothing", you might have a case.

Alternatively, you might claim one of their employees wrote your number on the wall in retaliation for [whatever]. Then demand logs of all employee bathroom breaks (req'd by Sarbanes-Oxley). File for an injunction prohibiting employees from using the bathroom until proper controls are in place.

Don't forget the press release:
Twitter: Web 2.0, But Management Still "BETA"

Confidential customer data released by rogue employee...
Extent of breach unknown due to non-existent audit processes...
Lack of oversight, accountability...
"I didn't know we needed to pay attention to that stuff," says CEO.
posted by ryanrs at 11:52 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then wait for a lazy journalist to reprint story (they will, just for the snappy headline). Then use a sock puppet to add your FUD to Twitter's Wikipedia article, citing "reliable source".

Bonus points: Use a second sock puppet to remove FUD from Wikipedia. Restore info using first sock, call out corporate whitewashing, shock, OMG, drama!
posted by ryanrs at 12:19 AM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, the 140-character limit, while discouraging the sort of self-indulgent maxi-musings that characterize LiveJournal, ends up being too short for interesting topics, while remaining way too long for boring ones.

Boring: "I need a new shoelace. Well, I guess I need two. I don't want mismatched shoelaces."

Eighty-three characters, and already about 70 too long. I'd suggest shortening this to "I still exist."


We love you, Lore.
posted by Mayor West at 5:22 AM on May 23, 2008


As far as the wording goes, any TOS is there to go "here are a rough set of guidelines as to things you shouldn't do that will get us looking at you and making musing 'hmm...' noises while we hover our fingers over the big red button". As far as the site it concerned they can do what they like with any of the user accounts at any time. They could change everyone's font to yellow and put everyone's text in Swedish Chef mode if they like, and the TOS would back them up:

1. We reserve the right to modify or terminate the Twitter.com service for any reason, without notice at any time.

leads to the possibility of an instant modification as per:

7. We reserve the righty-dighty to putty-wutty alla youry-woury text inta de Sweeeedish Chef de bork de bork.

It's basically impossible to say that a company is 'acting against' it's ToS - or rather, it's impossible to make it stick in any kind of measurable setting because there's always wiggle room for 'But we were ratifying the new ToS' in any and all examples you'll see online. It's absolutely not a document that says 'this is how the company will act', it's 'this is how the user should act'.
posted by stelas at 5:59 AM on May 23, 2008


On top of that, wtf is the point of twitter, anyway?

It's a red flag for nerd fights. Keeps 'em good and irritated.

Why do people always feel like they should have someone in authority do something about their problems and issues? Can this little crybaby click "ignore" or "block" on the so-called cyber-bully? It's seriously pathetic to bitch and moan about "oh whine whine whine, someone called me a cunt" and "boo-fucking-hoo someone has my EMAIL address and I might have to delete messages I don't want to read now! wah!"

See? Works like a charm.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:07 AM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, this and the rapper-stealing-the-journalists'-account-name make Twitter look like its run by total idiots. Good luck with that VC hunt, guys.
posted by mediareport at 7:09 AM on May 23, 2008


Isn't Twitter some sort of glorified SMS gateway? How much of their service actually lives in the telecom world? Does the CEO or other top execs come from the telecom sector? Also check their VCs and law firm.

This could explain their shitty attitude. They might be trying to pass themselves off as a common carrier or something.

Apologies for not making an effort to look this up myself. Everything I know about Twitter comes from researching Sun servers. (Their previous ISP was a Solaris shop.)
posted by ryanrs at 7:32 AM on May 23, 2008


I really don't get the hate directed toward the woman asking that Twitter actually follow through on its TOS. Seems kinda basic to me.
posted by waraw at 7:58 AM on May 23, 2008


No hate, just disagreement. And frankly a little suspicion.
posted by grouse at 8:06 AM on May 23, 2008


I'm generally averse to lawsuits as a solution, but in this case, the CEO let her know that he thinks she's right, but that the actions of the company are going to be directed by the threat of a lawsuit.

He's practically begging "We're spineless wimps! Please sue us so we'll get some backbone!" The concept is this: if the threat of lawsuit exists on both sides, then the issue of being sued won't be the deciding issue anymore, and maybe they'll make the decision based on what they think is the right thing to do.

One can hope, anyway.
posted by eye of newt at 8:11 AM on May 23, 2008


They're opening up a can of worms if they start policing their service for content that's objectionable but not illegal.

As I just wrote on my own blog, even web-two-point-no MySpace allows you to report spammy and abusive content and contact, which will generally get the offending profile banninated asap. When MySpace is doing a better job at something, I would hope the lifestyle techies over at Twitter would at least get offended enough to take steps to rectify that.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:02 AM on May 23, 2008


My BS detector is telling me that we are not getting the whole story here. This cannot possibly be a new phenomenon occurring to just a single person - this should be a slam dunk for an outfit like Twitter. Also, getting a hold of customer service reps who have access to the company lawyers? And a phone call? That's pretty impressive customer service, in stark contrast to the customer service non-outcome of the story.

There is more than meets the eye here. I am not ready to call BS, but I am certain there is more going on than our protagonist narrator is letting on. Just because she got to us first doesn't mean she isn't full of baloney.
posted by Xoebe at 10:21 AM on May 23, 2008


It's either impressive company service or a very, very good ass-cover while waiting for the lawyers to figure out if they're in the clear or not. In any event, rather than just clicking "ignore," Twitter doesn't have to actively police the jerks who harass, but they really should get some kind of "report" button in place. Get reported multiple times? Well, it might be time for the banhammer.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:17 PM on May 23, 2008


Twitter claims that the user in question quit in March, so there's not even anyone to ban anymore.
posted by grouse at 5:00 PM on May 23, 2008


One of the accounts from which this person was allegedly harassing Ariel was deleted in March. There was more than one.

As I posted on Zeldman's blog, for as much as Biz and Ev are running around from blog to blog (I'm waiting for them here) to explain why the experience Ariel had isn't harassment or intimidation, why Twitter is right and why Ariel is wrong, they haven't denied or clarified Jack's comments to Ariel by phone, so the assertion that Twitter will not ban users for fear of a lawsuit still stands unchallenged by anyone who has the power to set the record straight on the matter.

Given multiple comments from them both and no denial of the fear of lawsuit issue, I see no reason not to believe it and judge the company accordingly.
posted by Dreama at 9:23 PM on May 23, 2008


Twitter co-founder Evan Williams responds:
I have a list of 13 tweets that Ariel sent us as examples of the abuse from the account she wanted banned. According to our records, this is everything she sent us, except for those from the “confessions” account, which Ariel says was not the main problem. (I couldn’t look those up, because the posts themselves were deleted before we could look at them.)

I would *love* to post the whole file of these examples. I think it would clear a lot of things up. Unfortunately, since this content is the source of all this strife, and it’s now off the Internet, that seems…well, not quite right.

What I will tell you is this:

Out of these posts, exactly one mentions Ariel by name. It calls her “experienced.” The others do not personally identify Ariel.

One of them uses the word “cunt” (with a quote, presumably from Ariel). None contain either “crack” or “whore.” None contain threats, physical or otherwise. Most are insults about physical or personality attributes without referring to anyone specifically. If you were following both Ariel and the account of this woman when these posts were made, it may have been clear who she was referring to. Out of that context, you would probably have no clue. But even if they would have mentioned Ariel by name, most of them are not actionable, because we don’t have a rule against insulting people or hurting their feelings.

Caveat: Many of the examples she sent us were from Flickr. I didn’t look at all of these, because…well, we don’t run Flickr.

Our stance is this: We stand by our TOS. We have deleted accounts for abuse of various kinds. We had to make a judgement call here, as one does in all such cases. This didn’t meet the bar for being banned, in our opinion.

You can disagree with our judgment call. And that’s fine. But you’re choosing to do that without seeing the content, and someone has very carefully painted a picture that has misled many people. (One might ask why Ariel didn’t post the full tweets in order to strengthen her case.)

Even if you do disagree with our judgment call, this is not an argument about whether or not we’re enforcing our TOS; this is an argument about how we define “harassment” or “abuse.”
And, for Dreama:
One more thing:

@Russ: “…a lawsuit, seems to be a concern of yours correct?”

No, not correct. That is a total red herring that was probably constructed to make us look like a cowardly corporation (clever!).

Not that we can’t be sued — sure, we can. But that has not motivated our actions here.
posted by grouse at 1:41 AM on May 24, 2008


For those always wondering why anyone would use Twitter, it comes down to this. You have to have friends for Twitter to be useful.

I totally disagree. Twitter is genuinely (and possibly only) useful for things like breaking news alerts.
posted by streetdreams at 2:03 PM on May 24, 2008


Response on official Twitter blog
posted by grouse at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2008


A Wired article on the issue, including another Twitter response from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.

We reviewed this account at the time of the complaint and did not find it in violation of our Terms.

we are engaged in an editorial review of those Terms to make it more clear what actions we will and won't take.

I guess being publicly called a cunt isn't considered abuse by Twitter. I wonder what direction their 'review of those Terms' will take?
posted by eye of newt at 11:27 AM on May 25, 2008


I guess being publicly called a cunt isn't considered abuse by Twitter.

They're saying that it's not clear that when the user in question used the word "cunt" that they were referring to Ariel Waldman. We would be able to make our own judgment if she would disclose the actual text of the message. Until then, I see no reason to take Ariel's word for it instead of that of Jack, Ev, and Biz.
posted by grouse at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2008


They're saying that it's not clear that when the user in question used the word "cunt" that they were referring to Ariel Waldman.

Check it again--it's just a couple of posts up the page--"it may have been clear who she was referring to" if you were following the posts when they happened. (I wonder who we would think this was referring to otherwise). This implies that they consider only public, easily identifiable, four-letter word insults as abuse or harassment, even if the not-quite identifiable four-letter words and non-four letter word insults take place over a years time.

Would you consider this harassement if it were happening to you? Would it hurt your enjoyment of using Twitter?
posted by eye of newt at 3:03 PM on May 25, 2008


Would you consider this harassement if it were happening to you?

I'd have to know what "it" was first.
posted by grouse at 3:08 PM on May 25, 2008


http://whentwitterisdown.com/
posted by pineapple at 10:48 AM on May 31, 2008


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