Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

The Curious Tweet

* Caveat: I just want to say that while I do not believe there is a word that should not be spoken, a topic that should not be broached, or an image that should be hidden from sight, I do believe that when any of the aforementioned are used to hurt, slander, or otherwise harm another person, they become weapons.

So, with that in mind, I am going to share a story with you. I’ve found much of the information on this recent controversy to be fairly insider, so I’m writing this for the rest of us (hi Dad! The underlined text? That’s a link – move over to it until you see a Mickey Mouse-like hand then click the mouse) to understand – the case of Twitter, its Terms of Service, and Ariel Waldman. Why? Because few others have, not even Wikipedia.

Ariel Waldman is a fairly well-known blogger and a “social media insights consultant.” Although I can’t judge her skills, I would translate that title into “expert at observing social interactions online and how they can be improved.” Among other excellent jobs, she is the community manager (that’s just what it sounds like) for Pownce, a micro-blogging and social networking site.

Twitter is another such site. The basic concept is, you use this one site to keep in touch with people (often constantly) via cell phone, your computer, another computer, or other device and publish what you’re saying on this site onto other sites, if you so choose. Programs like twitterific and twhirl (which I am mad at, because I cannot install it on my MacBook) can aid the process

Ariel Waldman, according to herself and other sources including (apparently) her own mother, was being stalked and had been for some time, even prior to her becoming well-known online. The person had harassed her on Flickr and began to harass her on Twitter as well. Among other things, Ariel was called a “cunt,” a word at which I take extreme offense when used in that manner. I don’t think I’m alone there. And I believe that most people would agree using that word in an aggressive way (as in toward another person) is harassment.

Ms. Waldman complained about that incident (among others) to Twitter. Twitter’s terms of service, after all, read: “…4: You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users…” and “…Violation of any of these agreements will result in the termination of your Twitter.com account. While Twitter.com prohibits such conduct and content on its site, you understand and agree that Twitter cannot be responsible for the Content posted on its web site and you nonetheless may be exposed to such materials and that you use the Twitter.com service at your own risk…”

It would seem from the above that Twitter takes a strong stand against harassment. At least that’s what I would be lead to believe. And so Ms. Waldman filed her complaint (not her first, incidentally, but the preceding was resolved satisfactorily) and Twitter responded (the details are outlined in Ms. Waldman’s blog, but if you’re feeling clicked-out, the long and short of it is that Twitter claimed to be afraid of possible lawsuits (from the alleged harasser) and concluded that they could do nothing further to assist Ms. Waldman.

This comment sort of sums up my feelings on the subject. I am aware that when one puts herself out there on the internet, she is taking the risk of being harassed, but that, were she to complain to the site where the harassment is taking place and said site happens to have a TOS agreement that states that harassment of another user is grounds for termination of your Twitter account, the moderators of that site will take action against the perpetrator.

Will I leave Twitter? No. Do I necessarily believe 100% of what Ms. Waldman claims? No. But given that the details of the particular story I mentioned have been confirmed by both parties, I can see clearly what should have been done. If Twitter wants to change its Terms of Service tomorrow, it should – but not before issuing an apology for failing to uphold its previous ones.

*Addendum: Mashable! makes a point as well. Skip to the last three paragraphs if you’re tired of reading.

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