Call to action: Twitter needs to use its power to stop graphically abusive accounts

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nsfw not safe for work animated gif

Warning: Some of the images in this post are not safe for work.

Twitter is an open forum for anyone who wants to tweet their mind. That's great. I partake in a big way. But when I get tweets-- daily, hourly, sometimes piling on one after the other-- that are abusive, insulting, viciously demeaning, hostile, and sometimes violent, then it's time to take action.

Twitter sure doesn't. I know that for a fact, because I've tried over and over again to convince them that in some cases, it stops being free speech and starts feeling like assault.

[NOTE: This post is not about cyber bullies, although they, too, are abusive; I've been harassed and smeared for years by one "progressive" who many of you became aware of and have since avoided. This is about extremist trolls, who also happen to bully.]

I regularly hear from right wing extremists, tea partiers, and total nutcases (that's not hyperbole, there are some very sick people out there). When they're civil, I simply ignore or block them, and even debate them once in awhile. And yes, I admit to succumbing to occasional lapses of playing Whack a Troll just to share their ignorance with my followers, using as much snarky mockitude as I can muster up.

But then there are those who pop in repeatedly to suggest various activities that they want me to engage in-- with my own body or theirs-- and apply colorful words like c**t and suck my c**k, simply because they've read my tweets and don't agree with me. I don't know these people nor am I familiar with their accounts, but they get some kind of perverse pleasure out of following my threads and entering my stream with slurs, attacks, and irrational tirades.

Almost without exception, these trolls oppose me politically, and that's fine. But the intense hatred spewed by many of them is disruptive, highly offensive, and completely out of line.

There is a particularly rabid one who should be in jail or in a padded cell-- again, no hyperbole. If I were to post screen grabs of his avatars, messages, and profile photos, you'd literally want to gag. My own husband couldn't get through them. Unfortunately, catching sight of them is unavoidable when they're in my stream or when I go to block and report.

Imagine the most frantically vile, graphic images depicting blatant racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, bigotry, and self-loathing. They include explicit close-up photos of defecation and the most hard-core XXX porn you can imagine, abominable references, every kind of debasement of women and young men, degrading photos of celebrities and our president and first lady, you name it.

And the crude, twisted tweets he sends me match the vulgar visuals. He has also opened accounts using my likeness (taken from my Twitter account), as well as those of other high-profile liberals like Rachel Maddow, Lizz Winstead, John Fugelsang, Bill Maher, and Rosie O'Donnell, among others.

In short, he is an obsessed, deranged, seething, hostile, psychologically impotent (and likely, physically) conservative coward who consistently targets progressives, mostly women. Here are semi-cleaned up, edited grabs of two of his tamer suspended accounts. Trust me when I say, they get much worse than these:

troll xxx for post banner

troll xxx for post redo

troll xxx my IDHere is one of his defunct profile pages

Screen shot 2011-06-05 at 11.52.53 AM troll xxx wants my IDA tweet he sent out under my name and avi

This is one reason I stay anonymous. It started when a stalker came to close, sending me a Google map of my neighborhood, so that was that.

This person has been suspended well over 500 times. I've reported him to Twitter well over 100 times, and finally contacted my local authorities as well as the FBI more than once. But because he didn't threaten my life, they did nothing. As I type this, he's added at least three more Twitter accounts that I'm aware of.

I've endured this for years, literally. Because of this, I felt it was time to put out a call to action. Perhaps if enough of us demand more oversight from Twitter, especially those of us who are sick to death of being barraged with disgustingly offensive messages and photos, then maybe Twitter will take notice and do something.

It's unimaginable that they can't devise a better system to rid Twitter of such filth.

By the way, when I tried to fill out one of their complaint forms, I didn't have a link to the offending tweet, so the form wouldn't go through. I didn't have a link because I blocked him, and the account was immediately suspended so the tweet was no longer accessible. So I'm snail mailing them, and I'm including about two dozen graphic screen shots of 93 of the suspended profiles I've captured.

Here is the tweet:

"I'd like to take a 12 in figurine of a smiling G W. Bush and ram it up your stinking communist ass."

Please share this post and contact Twitter. It's worth a shot to at least try to turn things around for once. I'm fed up with having to so much as glance at the malignancies that come my way.

Thank you.

Twitter contact information:

Twitter, Inc.
1355 Market St, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94103

And to Twitter users, some general contact info, not that it will do much good:

@Support

@Twitter

@Spam

To file a ticket, go here.

To report an abusive or offensive user, go here.

UPDATE: Here is a sample letter sent by one of my favorite commenters:

Twitter, Inc
1355 Market St., Suite 900
San Francisco CA 94103

Attn: Dick Costolo, CEO

Dear Sir:

I’ve become more and more alarmed by the threatening, harassing tweets bombarding people like GottaLaff and urge you to take them seriously. One man who sends one tweet after another threatening her, even sending her a map of her neighborhood, forced her to resort to using a pseudonym on Twitter and he still doesn’t stop.

Spam is bad enough but when one is verbally bashed and/or threatened it is not to Twitter’s benefit and such tweets should not be ignored. Just reporting or blocking them isn’t sufficient to stop their abuse; they simply open a new account under a different name - as you know.

Surely Twitter can trace an account back to an IP address and demand that they cease such dangerous behavior. I understand that tweets can be sent from IP addresses that are used by many people (at cafes, for instance) but there is such a thing as product liability. I’m urging you to hold the owners of such IP addresses responsible for the damage their users do. Even bar owners who serve people after they are drunk are held responsible for the damage their customers do.

I’ve enjoyed Twitter for a few years and want to continue to do so but such threatening behavior makes a pleasant experience completely abhorrent and there’s a limit to the amount of such behavior I, and others, will accept.

Please develop a policy to identify & ban such people from the Twitter feed.

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  • R J Sterling

    Hey, sorry to hear of your problems. What would you recommend if a user DMs her followers to falsely claim a certain other user is secretly a RWNJ & they should block him immediately, with the evident intent of killing that user's account? You know, like you did to me in July of last year? Remember that? Think Twitter should develop policy regarding that too? And at the same time I had Jason Wade Taylor, the guy who has now been tormenting you, phoning my workplace with threats of violence. Your trying to kill my account on a false pretense just added to my fun.

  • http://twitter.com/Cody_K/ Cody

    He sure does have a thing for John Fugelsang... https://twitter.com/cody_k/status/397796944589754369/photo/1

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Oh I totally understood and appreciated your point. And I am in touch with an Internets lawyer now. We'll speak soon, so maybe he can come up with something.

  • Ryan Coatney

    I got that. I'm just saying that it's the police who are in the wrong here for not taking action. If it were phone calls, or someone repeatedly harassing you at home they wouldn't have referred you to the phone company or your landlord.

    By all means, try to get Twitter to take action in the absence of legal support, I'm just arguing that you shouldn't have had to. (and that on a mechanical level Twitter is ill-equipped to do something decisive)

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    I went to the police several times, created a paper trail. They sent me to Twitter for resolution.

    Next.

  • Ryan Coatney

    They probably could, but requiring a phone # tied to the account would seriously reduce their user base. A lot of people, myself among them, don't want our personal data tied to a non-vital system because of the risk of that data leaking out. That isn't even accounting for places where that type of leak could get you killed or imprisoned by the state.

    Twitter relies heavily on use by casual and anonymous use, and while securing it more completely would be helpful on a social level it could devastate their business.

    My view is that this really isn't and shouldn't be Twitter's problem to resolve, it's a legal matter. Law enforcement can and should take action on something like this, and can subpeona Twitter's IP records and other data to do so. If you make harassing calls, people don't expect your phone company to stop you, and this shouldn't be any different. The problem is partly that the law enforcement agencies who ARE responsible for handling this don't understand the technology very well. Even when they do, prosecution can be extremely difficult which makes them reluctant to get involved to begin with.

    TL;DR - they could do that, but very likely won't, because $. Make the cops do their damn job.

  • kiguy

    Can they perhaps implement a verification process for each account by connecting it with a phone number like other websites do? Then people can't create endless accounts (unless they keep getting new phone numbers).

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Yes, CA law calls is harassment too. Thanks David!

  • King David

    I don't know if you used this part of the argument in your msgs to them but the fact he uses your handle guaranteeing you'll see the post in your timeline repeatedly (beyond the hateful disgusting talk) moves it to harassment beyond free speech as well. He could talk about you all he wanted & you'd never know. Using your handle means he knows he trying to specificly heap abuse towards you & not merely freely express speech.

  • http://leftcoastoracle.blogspot.com LeftCoastOracle

    Here's the letter I'm sending to Twitter:

    November 2, 2013

    Twitter, Inc
    1355 Market St., Suite 900
    San Francisco CA 94103

    Attn: Dick Costolo, CEO

    Dear Sir:

    I’ve become more and more alarmed by the threatening, harassing
    tweets bombarding people like @GottaLaff:disqus and urge you to take them seriously. One man who sends one tweet after another threatening her, even sending her a map of her neighborhood, forced her to resort to using a pseudonym on Twitter and
    he still doesn’t stop.

    Spam is bad enough but when one is verbally bashed and/or
    threatened it is not to Twitter’s benefit and such tweets should not be
    ignored. Just reporting or blocking them isn’t sufficient to stop their abuse;
    they simply open a new account under a different name - as you know.

    Surely Twitter can trace an account back to an IP address
    and demand that they cease such dangerous behavior. I understand that tweets
    can be sent from IP addresses that are used by many people (at cafes, for
    instance) but there is such a thing as product liability. I’m urging you to
    hold the owners of such IP addresses responsible for the damage their users do. Even bar owners who serve people after they are drunk are held responsible for the damage their customers do.

    I’ve enjoyed Twitter for a few years and want to continue to do so but such threatening behavior makes a pleasant experience completely abhorrent and there’s a limit to the amount of such behavior I, and others, will accept.

    Please develop a policy to identify & ban such people from the Twitter feed.

    Seriously,

    Pat Tibbs

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    I'll be driving to my local FBI office soon, too. Thank you so much for your help!!

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Thank you Sandy! Hugs!

  • http://leftcoastoracle.blogspot.com LeftCoastOracle

    Sent them two tweets. Will also write them a letter. I may hand deliver it since they're only about 2 miles down Market Street from me.

  • sandinbrick

    I see now why you don't share your name Laffy, but I will try to go to support and report this hatriot, you know I always got your back. hugz

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    You were awfully quick to judge, but I do appreciate this comment.

  • http://nicholasorr.com Nicholas Orr

    I don't know you or this site, only looked at this page. There are sites that exist to generate hits only. I said "if", I didn't say "you are", realise the clear distinction and again put your energy somewhere else.

    I get the situation is one I wouldn't want to be in and I would hope you get out of it quickly.

    My point is, this person or people like this have nothing better to do and engaging them will increase their energy towards you or anyone they are targeting. I doubt this person is interested in any physical confrontation, based completely on the fact that they are so persistent online, this person is easily identifiable and would be caught. Of course I'm a realist and get that dismissing this person is risky.

    I have a different view on this situation and life in general. In simplest terms: I have emotions, do what works.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Thanks! I already mailed mine off. Maybe tweet it to me, I'll RT?

  • http://leftcoastoracle.blogspot.com LeftCoastOracle

    Will do but I think the more people who do so the stronger the impression on them would be.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    I do too, but this is beyond blocking and reporting. Thanks Threemo! xo

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    <3

  • Jack Boardman

    I too gotcher back and will do all I can to help (but I bet you already knew this).

  • Frances R

    Dear Laffy, I am so sorry you've endured this for years! This is beyond free speech. This person needs to be off the internet & put in a cell. I've noticed the trolls have become more vicious & hateful. It is not about disagreeing with one's political views, it has become hateful personal attacks. I just block them all & report as spam.

  • http://nefariousnewt.blogspot.com NefariousNewt

    Just saw this and am appalled. Given Twitter is about to launch an IPO, perhaps it's time to put a little more pressure on them to take an active role in eradicating these people from their system.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    That is a great idea. Would you mind dropping them a line to that effect?

  • Paddy

    I find it so amusing to see someone so willfully ignorant trying to make sense. You think multiple instances of being physically threatened and horribly verbally attacked will be fixed by "block & report"? Ask your mom or sister how they feel about that,

  • Dave Fouchey

    As always Laffy Lass I got your back on this, I've seen too much of this kind of crap it goes way beyond discussion and straight to stalking.

  • http://leftcoastoracle.blogspot.com LeftCoastOracle

    Laffy, perhaps we should remind Twitter that when tracking back to an IP that is used by many different entities, they should caution the IP holder that it could be legally held responsible for the actions of those using the IP.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Well that wasn't at all insulting. You think this is about "views and hits"? Seriously?

    If you read the post, you know "blocking" does nothing. The guy tried to get info on me.

    Now go back to whatever YOU do to try to "get hits" while I try to resolve a harassment issue.

  • Jeff Wegerson

    The problem for Twitter is that their current remedy requires a real person with real eyeballs to make a judgement call to remove the offending account. At least that's my guess. So they are loath to spend the money to pay enough people to do it and I get that.

    So what they need to do is to give you the power of quick and easy, as in one click, account removal. You have demonstrated a history of abuse and founded complaints so you should be considered trustworthy by them. Then as each new account is created and used to attack you, you, as a de facto twitter agent, easily and quickly remove the account and force the abuser through the process of recreation. Anonymously of course. And since it is likely that the abuser does this to others then they will not know who is removing them and maybe not even know it's not twitter.

    Anyway I guess this is a fantasy FWIW comment.

  • Ryan Coatney

    This sort of thing is horrible, but unfortunately Twitter has very limited ability to take action. By creating multiple new profiles, they are circumventing Twitters ability to ban them, and if the authorities are unwilling to act then they really have no other recourse.

    I totally understand your feelings here, but getting mad at Twitter won't, and can't, help. Short of extremely involved and complex censorship of all tweets, there's nothing they can do at the moment.

  • http://ramonasvoices.blogspot.com/ Ramona

    I'm glad you posted this, Laffy. We need to know this is what we could come up against. This is ugly stuff. I've just recently started to use my real name and I thought long and hard about this kind of thing happening when I did. So far, nothing, for which I'm grateful.

    Twitter has an obligation to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen. You shouldn't have to work so hard to get it fixed. Shame on them.

  • http://nicholasorr.com Nicholas Orr

    Putting way too much energy and effort into this. Block & report, done. That's how Twitter works, your choice to use Twitter or not.

    Does it suck random people are annoying to deal with, sure.
    Does it suck that a single person is able to create accounts on Twitter and do the same thing over and over, sure.

    Like any troll/bully they are getting their payoff from you. I doubt "block & report" is what they are looking for , so keep it simple.

    If you're purely after views and hits on this article, well done ;)

  • Matt Loach

    I agree. Ppl who engage in violent/abusive behavior over social media should be prevented from harassing others. Especially when they do it over and over again. Twitter _should_ be more on-the-ball in this regard (especially since they are trying to launch Tw. as an IPO.).

  • Phil Perspective

    You'd think, because of Twitter's desire to go public(stock market), that they'd clean this kind of thing up.

  • aspromised

    To add to the horror is the latest availability of these MASSIVE embedded pictures.

  • Rini6

    This just saddens me..

  • PMom_GA

    Sorry for the twitter hell. Twitter does need to step up its game in terms of getting rid o0f these kooks.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Thank you! And I'm really glad I did open your eyes. That was something I didn't even think of, so good.

  • mea_mark

    Clearly, Twitter terrorism should not be allowed.

  • Emilíana Chávez

    I have your back! opening my eyes regarding using our identity online...yikes!

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    <3

  • Russell Noel Jones

    I'll help you out Laffy. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. There's free speech then there is harassment!

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Thank you both!

  • RepublicanSwine

    People like that are clear Psychopaths! Just the dedication and hate spells Freak. I'll help anyway I can Laffy.

  • Tommy6860

    Wow Laffy, that is nothing short of terroristic, let alone frighteningly abusive to the point where one would be afraid to go out in public fearing for their life. I've seen previous engagements you've had with those you've had to report and helped in getting them banned, but WTF!, The scale of this goes way beyond the pale. Twitter should address this, whether or not you have linked proof to these encounters. Had these kinds of tweets been directed against a government official, even without Twitter's requirements for proof, they'd mete out justice right away. You should get the very same from Twitter as well. I'll help anyway I can as NO ONE should ever have to experience this kind of abuse and threats.