22 May 2008 4 pm eastern

A Tweet Too Far

Ariel Waldman’s “Twitter Refuses to Uphold Terms of Service” makes a disturbing read and a depressing revelation.

To summarize: Twitter’s Terms of Service (TOS), modeled on Flickr’s, forbid one Twitter user to harass another. If you harass, you lose your account, according to the TOS. Yet Twitter user Ariel Waldman experienced painfully offensive harassment from another Twitter user for months. Unable to make him stop or to get help through normal Twitter channels, she escalated the issue to Twitter’s CEO and asked him to fulfill Twitter’s Terms of Service, i.e. to warn or ban the harasser. Instead of dealing with the harassment, the CEO decided to alter Twitter’s TOS. (Alter them to what, one wonders.)

Disappointing.

One expects corporations to behave in cowardly and callowly self-interested ways, but one expects more from one’s heroes and friends.

Comments off.

Comments have now been turned off, although you’re welcome to read what the first 77 people had to say.

[tags]arielwaldman, twitter, TOS[/tags]

Filed under: tweets, twitter

77 Responses to “A Tweet Too Far”

  1. Edward Atkinson said on

    Why are they standing in their boots, afraid to take concrete action in the face of conflict? This is a pretty show of cowardice indeed.

    Perhaps they have convinced themselves that they are upholding free speech so that they may hide behind inaction, letting “freedom” take its course. Lame.

    The definition of a group or person can be found in their actions, and comparably their inaction.

    A shame that Twitter has now taken a full year long to define themselves in the wimpiest of ways.

  2. Phil Nash said on

    This really is a shame. I hope that the spreading of this story will cause them to rethink and ban those that harass. I can’t believe that going all the way to the CEO still didn’t result in a positive move by Twitter.

    Complaining about up time and how Twitter crashes all the time is nothing, but failure to uphold TOS and protect a user is a serious issue.

  3. Erin said on

    Word.

  4. Mike D. said on

    I think the saddest part is this:

    “Jack explained that they’re scared to ban someone because they’re scared if it turned into a lawsuit that they are too small of a company to handle it.”

    What a complete misunderstanding of the law and community management that statement reflects.

    This is the golden rule for private operators of websites: You can ban anyone you want, at any time, for any reason according to most modern Terms of Service policies. It’s no different than the old sign that’s been up in retail shops for probably 100 years now: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”.

    The fact that fear of a lawsuit over banning a user is even coming up shows a startling lack of understanding. If you’re going to get sued for anything, as the operator of a community website, it’s going to be negligence or *in*-action when something terrible like a stalking death occurs… not too *much* action.

  5. Kevin said on

    @Mike D

    That’s how I understood things as well. I wonder what’s the reasoning twitter’s lawyers had for not taking action?

  6. Jon said on

    Reading Ariel’s post made me genuinely feel for her, and incredulous at the same time. The response from Twitter is ridiculously weak. Some of the taunting comments on Ariel’s blog are equally perverse. Such people are pitiful. This is why it’s even more important that she does not delete her account, as some have suggested, and that we as a community act to counter people like her stalker. I’m glad you highlighted the issue.

  7. Tim Murtaugh said on
  8. Foster said on

    Seems some in-house training is needed at Twitter (with a special invite to some of Waldman’s commenters), first up is “Free Speech: What it IS. What it ISN’T.”

    I think Waldman’s experience is actually rather scary. It must be unbelievably stressful to experience this kind of attack, but then to be left to fend for yourself…

    Nice going Twitter.

  9. Josh Stodola said on

    Twitter is scared to ban somebody because they might come back with a law suit?! They should get sued for not being able to scale the damn application! God, what a worthless company. QUIT USING TWITTER!

  10. CSSquirrel » Blog Archive » Twitter Behaving Badly said on

    [...] not going to write a massive post on the topic, as much more eloquent people than I already have. However, I’ll explain the essence of it. Twitter user Arial Waldman described recently in [...]

  11. RayMcK said on

    Disappointment

  12. John said on

    I am thinking Arial should be able to sue twitter for negligence, breach of contract (in essence what a ToS is), failure to take responsible action, etc. Then again, I am not a lawyer. Why don\’t we launch a counter attack against the guy attacking her? Get everyone with a twitter acount to not stop pester the guy till he closes his own account. What\’s twitter going to do, ban us?

  13. Robert Fauver said on

    Come on Twitter CEO does Carl Ichan have your ear or something? Maybe a similar letter should be written to you.

  14. Ryan Cannon said on

    Another interesting example of Twitter’s behavior regarding its TOS

    You’ll note that Twitter did the right thing with regards to http://twitter.com/mims, I’m sure they’ll get this right eventually.

  15. Evan Williams said on

    Jeffery,

    You’re one of my heroes. And it’s disappointing to me that you would take such an absolute position on this, without hearing more than one side of the story.

    Have you (or anyone else here) actually *seen* the content that is so clearly “harassment”? We did when Ariel complained about it, and we made a call. While these things are rarely black and white, the objectionable content wasn’t even close, in our view, of being account-delete-worthy.

    Secondly, the statement, “Instead of dealing with the harassment, the CEO decided to alter Twitter’s TOS” is a falsity. We didn’t deal with the “harassment,” because we didn’t consider it harassment. We are changing the TOS (which was a project in the works *before* any of this went down) in order to clarify our policy.

    People are people, and they’ll fight. And it’ll be messy. Every company has to decide how to deal with this when it happens on their platform, and a different stance is completely legitimate. We’re taking the one that we think is best for Twitter and Twitter users, long-term.

    (For more on our stance, see: Biz’s post here.)

    Love,
    Ev.

  16. Aaron Mills said on

    Wow this is getting interesting. I love blogdrama

  17. Ara Pehlivanian said on

    I don’t get it. Couldn’t she just block the person? Am I missing something here?

  18. Ara Pehlivanian said on

    P.S.: Something else that makes the Ariel vs. Twitter saga kind of unique is how accessible Ev et al. are. You think Zuckerberg would be getting his hands dirty if this were happening on Facebook? (read: phalanx of lawyers)

    I think the fact that Ev is in the trenches posting comments on blogs about this is pretty avant guard, open and transparent. Dare I even say, vulnerable.

  19. AJ said on

    @Evan Ariel has given examples. She was called a cunt, a crack whore etc. Is that not abuse? And if it is, are you saying that she is making up those expletives directed at her?

    Yes no one has seen the content, so how about you come out and DO present the offensive content?

  20. Your page is now on StumbleUpon! said on

    [...] Your page is on StumbleUpon [...]

  21. Roho said on

    Jeffrey,

    I must say that I am totally on the side of Evan Williams. It strikes me as odd that you (being one of my web hero’s as well) would judge the story after hearing only one side of it.

    Having heard Evan Williams side of the story I get the feeling that there hardly IS a story and surely not any to make such an outrage over.

    Although, there are some valid remarks in your post I don;t think that these apply here.

  22. Bill Heaton said on

    I was really shocked by the post on this. Mean people should be banned or set their IP to redirect to a mirror site where every post automatically inserts their name and quotes the language they used to harass someone. The internet is still a bit of the wild west, right. Give ‘em a taste of their own medicine and see how they like ranking in SERPs for their own choice of words.

  23. Ariel Waldman » Blog Archive » Twitter responds said on

    [...] the critical and supportive sides to this. It’s extremely inspiring that people feel as passionately about these topics as I do, whether or not they agree with me or [...]

  24. Design-Feed Latest said on

    [...] A Tweet Too Far Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report | 4 hours ago [...]

  25. vjo said on

    Sad and surprising, and it also reminded me that I reported a hate speach (nazi / white power) twitterer over a month ago. I did not receive a reply, and looking it up again today shows that the account is still up and running..

  26. Warshaw said on

    To those taking sides: remember that both Ariel and the Twitter folks are people that most of us do not know personally. While we want to believe what either side says, we have no way of knowing who’s telling the truth. I think we should wait and see how it plays out instead of taking sides without proof. Yes, it seems unlikely that a person would invent what Ariel has described, but then, I don’t know Ariel, and stranger things have happened in my life. I want to believe her because hers is the only side of the story that could conjure sympathy and outrage if true, but I would be irresponsible if I accepted what I read on the Internet without fact-checking.

  27. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    @Ev, from my heart, you are a hero of mine as well, several times over. Your contribution to blogging alone is impossible to measure, and that’s not the only great thing you’ve done for the web. Beyond your achievements, you’re one of the nicest people I know on the web.

    Sorry for the pile-on. Of course it would have been better to hear both sides of the story first. But Ariel’s story is upsetting to read, and all too reminiscent of incidents with which we’re both familiar, where women in leadership positions have received unwanted and unpleasant attention—and been unable to get help.

    This morning I read Biz’s post but I’m still not sure I understand Twitter’s position. Ariel’s story is long on detail. It lists specific things that were said to her by a Twitter user via Twitter. If I threw a party, and a guest was following a woman around the room, swearing at her, I’d make him leave.

    Where Ariel’s post is long on detail, Twitter’s responses have been short on it. I take what you’re saying to be, “Out of context, those words sound bad, but when we looked at was actually being said, we determined that it wasn’t harassment.” Is that it? Or is it that if Twitter is a utility (like the phone), you can’t be responsible for how people use it?

  28. Dave M said on

    I don’t know any more about this issue than what I’ve read here, but isn’t the key to harrassment the fact that one person FEELS harrassed and wishes it to STOP?

  29. Mike Cherim said on

    I read that this morning. It’s absolutely appalling.

  30. Rich Strucke said on

    If Twitter is taking the “we are a utility (like the phone)” stand, then that should have been expressed in the TOS when the harassment took place rather than “forbid one Twitter user to harass another”.

  31. Keith LaFerriere said on

    Since the alleged incidents occurred during the “rule” of the old TOS, it should be addressed as such. Seeing both sides of this story in their entirety may never happen, but I do think there’s a definite lack of communication on the part of Twitter management (people who are well-liked and respected via previous interaction).

    Either way, people are taking sides for what they deem to be closest to the truth which is expected. Good luck to anyone who feels that they’ve been abused; this should never happen. And, conversely, good luck to Twitter in regaining the trust of a portion of its base; even if it’s not as big a problem, you’ve taken a hit on this one.

  32. Rusty said on

    This case is a strong example of doing the right thing the first time. With the knowledge that, yes, we only know one side, in the absence of a strong case for the other, we can assume that the evidence given is at least in some way accurate. That being the case, it is interesting to see Twitter scramble from blog to blog to blog in an attempt to stop the chorus of disgust at their spinelessness in this issue. Pretending that they are simply a tool and not a community concedes a complete lack of understanding of how people communicate and ultimately co-exist. Unless correctly managed (which includes taking responsibility in this case rather than blaming the victim), Twitter is indeed sitting in a precarious position.

  33. Ed Finkler said on

    Jeffrey,

    You are surely conscious of the influence you have. Do you think maybe it would have been better to ask Ev what was up, and give him a bit of time to respond to you, before posting this?

  34. Matt Radel said on

    Man, with this and the constant downtime, I’m getting really hacked off with Twitter. Clearly they’re growing wayyyy too fast and can’t cope. I’m starting to wish that someone would create a copycat service that actually works consistently and protects its users.

  35. Joe Clark said on

    This is the kind of shit that killed Friendster. Twitter could be next.

  36. John said on

    @EV,

    Sorry, dude you are not a utility like the phone company! You are a business, like any other, even AT&T and Verizon have policies for harassment like that. There are laws regarding that kind of harassment, and phone companies have a dept that deals with law engforcement agencies, and harassers.

    If you want to pretend to be a utility you can be regulated by every states Public Utilities Commision, and the FCC. Sorry, this would be a $250,000 fine for failure to abide by you contractual obligation (ToS). If you want to change your ToS you have to get it approved by all the states regulatory boards, and the FCC.

    You sure you want to go there?

    If I owned a record shop and a male customer followed a female customer around calling her a cunt, and crackwhore, I would forcefully remove them from my business, and make sure they know they are not welcome back. At the very least you could have told the other user they are on a final warning.

    To me its not a two sides to the issue, and user called you out, and now you are essentially calling her a liar. Can you privide as much detail as she has? I haven’t seen it. If you feel that those terms are not harassing then I will never use twitter, end of story.

  37. RayMcK said on

    @John. Thank you for clearly articulating what’s been rattling around my melon for the last 24 hours.

  38. ben said on

    Ev, to dither about the ambiguity of the harassment is ingenuous. I will not weigh in about the alleged changes to the ToS, as I read community ToS’s as “don’t be a prick” and let the rubber hit the road.

    Ariel’s characterization is as follows:

    1. When you’re a community, some of your users will fling proverbial poo at other users.
    2. It’s become common (if not standard) practice to err on the side of the target in banning poo-flinging users from the community.
    3. Twitter has categorically refused to exercise that caution, despite implying in public that doing so fits their culture.

    In her shoes, I’d feel cheated too.

    Get your story straight – either you want an Wild-West-ish free-speech zone, or you want to defend targets, in so doing nurturing the participation of the more thoughtful and visible members of your community.

    …And then there’s the ad hominem aspect of it – once that happens, a target with an interest in reputation management is more or less forced to lock their account to un-approved users, the consequences of which I’m certain you can grasp without a detailed explanation.

    Ariel was a good sport, and refused to feed the troll. When the maleficience became intolerable, she asked for help.

    She didn’t get that help…

    Even when a simple e-mail to the trolling user stating “we’re watching you, cool it” probably would’ve done worlds of good. At best they’d’ve stopped. At worst they’d’ve up set sock puppets to continue their misbehavior, which surely would’ve resulted in drastic measures. Right?

    Instead, the bottom line spelt out to the community has been “sorry, we’re too busy worrying about scale to address our users well at an interpersonal level.” (Seriously. Let’s do a word count and calls to, or announcements of, action.)

    Y’all’s dilemma is that you need both infrastructure and users to keep the community going. As it stands, you don’t get to pick and choose.

  39. Twitters Issues - Russ Wittmann said on

    [...] not a mobster or part of a mob nor is zeldman, or for that matter anyone else that has blogged about [...]

  40. Noel Jackson said on

    If you are a company of integrity, you’ll build a product of integrity, and make sure that your community upholds that integrity. Your community at this point is now a reflection of you and your company’s integrity.

    “Integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles.”

    Twitter’s framework of principles is diluted and irresponsible.

    Joe said it best: “This is the kind of shit that killed Friendster.”

    My fear of the social web is becoming more real every day. I suppose it’s a realization that the web is just another tool in the criminal’s bag of tricks?

  41. Evan Williams said on

    @john: “Can you provide as much detail as she has?”

    I can provide more. And I can provide the things she left out. Will reply in a little while.

  42. Russ said on

    @EV
    we all await you response,hopefuly we wont have long wait

  43. Russ said on

    damn iPhone type… @EV: What I meant to say is we all await your response, and hopefuly it won’t be a long wait. I do have a question too, are you talking to your lawyers about your responses, wouldn’t want a lawsuit, seems to be a concern of yours correct?

  44. Foster said on

    @Ev

    First, kudos to you for entering the fray and addressing this issue directly.

    I read the Biz Stone response and my reaction was, “Cop Out.” I wondered if Waldman’s charge of harrassment was even given Twitter’s serious attention.

    While the disclosure of additional information may be useful for people to understand Twitter’s choices, you run the risk of others interpreting that information differently. In the light of user reaction, it may be time for Twitter to stop defending its actions/inaction and evalute whether—in hindsight—the correct path was chosen.

    As you said, you’re still figuring it out.

  45. Shelley said on

    Is it Twitter’s job, then, to censor how customers use the service, and what words they use? Words are just words — they only hurt when you let them.

    Harassment has to do with actions that are expressly taken in order to drive someway away from a course, event, or stand. In the case of Twitter, drive someone away from using Twitter we presume. All we see here is that she was called some words. You know, probably all of us have been called words we don’t like. Probably more than once–anyone that takes any kind of a strong stand will be called “words”.

    Ariel doesn’t feel threatened. Her only complaint was that some of the communications might show up on Google. I’m sorry, but that’s too bloody bad. Again, if you write online and take a strong or controversial stand, you’re probably going to have nasty things said about you. And yes, they will show up on Google. You counter these by all the good things others write about you. It all equals out in the wash.

    In addition, from my understanding, you can block people who you don’t like in Twitter. Block them so they can’t see your twits, as well as block them from showing in whatever feed shows who is communicating with you. This seemed to me to be a reasonable response to take. Why was this not sufficient?

    This was a piss poor flag around which to rally. This is more about PR than true harassment. You’re talking about kicking someone off a service for no other reason than they called another person a “name”. Is this really what you want from the internets, Jeffrey?

    But from a salacious, snoopy point of view (and yes, I feel so ashamed, I really do), I’m also looking forward to Ev’s post with more juicy detail.

  46. Evan Williams said on

    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.”

    THAT IS ALL.

  47. Evan Williams said on

    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.

  48. Mike D. said on

    Ev: My negative reaction to this came only after I read the passage about Jack (allegedly) telling Ariel that he was afraid to ban people because of the threat of lawsuits. If this reasoning was never put forth by the company, I take back my criticism entirely. As mentioned above, an operator of an online community has the inalienable right to either ban or not-ban any user for any reason (or none at all) at any time they want. The law plays no part in this decision.

    Whether a banning takes place should be mostly a business decision and in optional cases, an ideological one. If Twitter simply thought the tweets didn’t rise to the level of a TOS violation, then it’s Twitter’s right to do nothing, and the market will decide whether or not that decision was a net positive or net negative. If Twitter did think this rose to the level of a TOS violation though, they should not hesitate to ban with prejudice.

  49. Shelley said on

    Sigh, no juicy detail. You know Ev, I think your comment was the first that mentioned that the harasser was a woman. Shouldn’t matter, but it is interesting.

    I’m sure I’ll not rate a response, but do you consider that this event was inspired, in part, because Ariel works for a competitor of yours?

  50. John said on

    EW, thank you for your response, I appreciate your candor. If, what you say is true, then you have a great slander and liable case… most of the evidence for that is far beyond the ability to delete. But that would be a disastrous PR move for Twitter.

    I will suspend my own judgment, and await an outcome. It is true there are two sides to every story, but this has become an ugly he said, she said, and in most cases nothing good ever comes of them in this forum.

    In my business we try to settle these things in close door meetings, so we don’t go to arbitration, or court. My advice would be to try to find an amicable solution to the situation. What will make her happy, and makes Twitter shine? What will make the blogging/twittering communities happy?

    as to this is an argument about how we define “harassment” or “abuse.” In ALL cases I have been involved with, its not how the company defines it, it is defined as Did the victim FEEL harassed.

    Of course, if what Shelley said about Arial working for a competitor has any merrit, sue away my friend, sue away.

  51. Twitter: A community or a utility? » mathewingram.com/work | said on

    [...] comment by Ev Williams on this issue at a post by Jeffrey Zeldman. People have to ask themselves: do they want the Twitter folks to focus on fixing the service? Or catering to the sensitive needs of the dear, little community. “Oh no, precious dear. Were thou feelings hurt? Let me kiss them, make them better.” Because lord knows, the rest of the internet is such a polite, and safe place to be. reply — You are replying anonymously. Login [...]

  52. Don Ulrich said on

    There are two sides to every story. The line that EW is straddling
    is commendable. That is her side. I wonder what the other side is? A good friend told me this: “Don’t trust anyones content.”

    Is someone that naive to use a social service and not expect
    creeps, weirdos, and perverts? The world can be a creepy place.
    Social networking is nothing new, the same trolls killed CB radio way back when. Nothing has changed.

  53. Twitter refuses to uphold Terms of Service said on

    [...] 24, 2008 00:01 // Ev WIlliams posted some very JUICY facts that deconstruct her entire story http://www.zeldman.com/2008/05/22/a-t…   I’m pooping this solves the problem Add a comment This solves the problem [...]

  54. Slashdot | Blogger Incites Outcry Over Twitter Harassment said on

    [...] (where’s the full disclosure that the blogger crying out works for Pownce, a twitter competitor?), right here [zeldman.com]. # I have a list of 13 tweets that Ariel sent us [...]

  55. Mary Wallace said on

    Always blame the ‘sensitive’ woman, without addressing publicly the substantive complaint. “Words” have brought down large and small corporations, my friend, so I wouldn’t be flip about what words were used. In Sexual harassment cases, the words used have weight in court. What about the WHORE tweet sent two days ago. What about the CELL PHONE IN THE VAGINA? What about the LESBIAN PORN, all in caps? I object to the continued screaming of WHORE at her, by name. That is what should have ended in a very quick letter from Twitter to the harasser, then if it continued, as it has, a ban which is clearly approved in the TOS. You are so quick to undue the TOS, as it serves you. I, and every single Twitter user online now, agreed to abide by it, why don’t you? Ah, you are quick to diminish the value of words, as evidenced by your own betrayal of your own TOS.

  56. Popular blogger ignites uproar over Twitter harassment | The Social - CNET News.com said on

    [...] like Evan Williams deconstructed her story. Turns out it’s not entirely truthful (?) http://www.zeldman.com/2008/05/22/a-tweet-too-far/#comment-37320 >>and someone has very carefully painted a picture that has misled many people. (One might [...]

  57. Twitter: A community or a utility? » mathewingram.com/work | said on

    [...] Shelley notes in a comment, Ev Williams of Twitter has responded in a comment on Jeffrey Zeldman’s blog, in which he says that Ariel submitted a total of 13 [...]

  58. anon said on

    She’s a girl and we have to be concerned about teh girls and all men are teh rap3rs and K4thy sierra!!!

  59. Ariel Waldman said on

    @Evan Williams – I’ve been through enough hell from this relentless stalker — but I have the content, even more than I’ve mentioned. It sounds like you’re alluding to me not having evidence, when the reality is that I have multitudes of evidence linking this person to a harassment campaign that you didn’t disclose because *Twitter never followed up and asked for it*. I feel like if Twitter had been on top of this issue from the beginning and sat down with me to go over what to do together, it could have been resolved amicably. Instead, the choices Twitter made were to hide behind lawyers and technical definitions of harassment. It is only now, months later, does Twitter seem to care about the actual content of the messages.

    Also, I feel like Jack’s story is missing in all of this. I don’t appreciate my statement about my phone conversation with Jack being called a red herring to make Twitter seem cowardly. Jack did say that Twitter was worried about being sued for banning someone. The conversation I had with Jack I feel was a nice, calm conversation and I thanked him for taking the time to talk to me.

  60. Darren said on

    Pownce is brought to you by a bunch of geeks who were frustrated trying to send stuff from one cube to another.

    The team consists of Leah Culver, Mike Malone, Daniel Burka, Kevin Rose, Ariel Waldman, and Shawn Allen (in that order below). Together, we formed a wee company with a great big name, Megatechtronium, that makes this software.

    I’m sure there is no writer bias what so ever.

  61. charlie said on

    What a joke. A reknown blogger tries to shuffle backwards, only to be caught in her own web of lies. Frankly, I would not be surprised if Twitter took her to the proverbial woodshed over this smear campaign.

  62. Jillian said on

    I have not followed this story from the get-go, nor do I really care about the facts. I think it’s pathetic of Twitter, or those involved at Twitter, to be “afraid” of lawsuits from a harasser, if that is in fact true.

    Calling someone a cunt is harassment, period (at least in the U.S., and I believe that both harasser and harassee are from there). If Twitter’s TOS indeed claimed to protect users from harassment, then they have truly failed at doing so.

    Will I stop using Twitter? No. Do I think Ariel Waldman has perhaps abused her position to get attention? Yes. But as a woman, I absolutely don’t stand for the male staff at Twitter making a call that calling a woman a “cunt” is not harassment.

  63. Shelley said on

    Jilian: “Calling someone a cunt is harassment, period (at least in the U.S., and I believe that both harasser and harassee are from there.”

    No, it is not. It is nothing more than using a derogatory term against another. Whether you’re horrified about it happening or not, or think that words are the worst things we can throw at one another, it is still nothing more than a word and as such, only has power when we give it power.

    Ariel mentions about this other woman “stalking” her for years. There are anti-stalking laws, and as such she should resolve this issue with the police. If she were physically threatened, then she should do the same. Additionally, I have no doubts, whatsoever that Ev would have closed the account down if she–or anyone for that matter–was physically threatened.

    But Ariel wanted this account closed down because this women called her a name, said insulting things about her. Whatever goes on elsewhere is not the responsibility of Ev or Twitter, so let’s focus on what she did in Twitter–she called Ariel a name, and said insulting things about her.

    If we women fall and fold and run and flee, to this authority or that to “protect us” every time someone calls us a name, then we will be falling and folding and running and fleeing every damn day of our lives.

    In the comments here and elsewhere, I am not defending Twitter’s actions–I’m defending women. Every time an event like this happens, it sends a signal that we women are vulnerable to “names”. That we can be banished, sent fleeing, just by being called a “name”. We will never stop being called names until we stand, turn, and spit in the faces of those who seek to spend little effort for great return.

    Conferences that have only male speakers, men only on top weblog lists, women not given the respect our due–these hurt us. Names, are nothing more than words from simple minds, incapable of greater argument.

    In particular, once Ariel took the job with a Twitter competitor, the rules of the game changed. The fact that all of this arose after the job, rather than before must be weighed in this particular debate.

    As for the “harasser”, get a lawyer, Ariel, or go to the police. Don’t fight your battles bit by bit in every social network you belong to. Don’t ask us to fight your battles for you. We have our own.

  64. Phillip Kerman said on

    I don’t know if I get it: I THINK the official word from twitter is that this user did nothing wrong. I’d think a much better policy would be to ban anyone that receives a complaint but provide a way for them to dispute it. Err on the side of banning people. If the argument against this is that they don’t want to get in the middle of things–well, obviously, they’ve gotten in the middle of this one.

    The whole “we’re a utility” argument is laughable. What about the ISPs and hosting companies–what are they? Chopped liver? I mean really, you can’t have it both ways: have user account rules and then step back and not enforce them.

    Ultimately, I think there’s a bunch of wrong people on this issue… and even my opinion could be wrong. It’s time for someone to just sue someone already and let our legal system work it out. A bunch of web folks opinions here are very interesting but lack legal experience (mine included).

  65. Dreama said on

    Barring a denial from someone at Twitter that Jack did relay to Ariel that no action would be taken against this person because a.) Twitter did not deem her actions to be harassment and b.) Twitter feared a lawsuit if they banned her, I’m still coming down on the side of “Twitter screwed this one up.”

    I’m curious what is harassment to Twitter, if this isn’t. I’m also curious why the lawsuit matter is being ignored. For all the bloghopping to explain, there really isn’t transparency here.

  66. debutaunt said on

    Honestly, I did follow this when it was going on from the beginning because I was not feeling well and a bit bored.

    I can’t understand how someone who uses the phrase “Chitty Chitty Gang Bang” as part of her blog would be concerned about her reputation if someone Googled her. I’ve been stalked in real life by a truly dangerous person, not some name caller. It’s scary.

    I also know someone who has been stalked and e-harassed online. I can’t imagine putting it all out on the internet. Restraining order was filed. Police involved. When you start blogging and spreading the word all over the place, all you are doing is giving the harasser some attention. You let them know it’s bothering you. I don’t feed trolls. I thought this could have been handled with a little more tact. Really concerned, well you should have had your attorney contact Twitter to deal with it instead of blogging it. I hate Whinese.

  67. Jillian C. York said on

    [...] mouse) to understand – the case of Twitter, its Terms of Service, and Ariel Waldman. Why? Because few others have, not even [...]

  68. Prokofy Neva said on

    I heartily applaud Ev Williams. His post here is superb. He has done exactly the right thing. Twitter cannot be mobbed by people calling themselves the fake “community” — there is no such thing. It must be many things to many people using it in many different ways. The lynch mobs and the hanging tree on “Get Satisfaction” has been despicable to behold, along with the smarmy little posts from the mods.

    Even aside from the specifics of this case, the issue really does hang on interpretation of harassment, not “failure to enforce the TOS” by the lights of this or that huffy and neuralgic patron who believes they’ve been dissed. Harassment has to rise to a much higher threshold than –as Ev has very aptly put it — hurt feelings and being called a name.

    And that’s just the point — really serious stalking and harassing with incitement or threat of violence in real life to a real person at a real address is the sort of thing that your lawyer and local police deal with, not a social media platform. And what doesn’t rise to that test and is just annoying griefing can be deal with by *not following yourself on track or summize*. It’s just that simple. Read only people you follow and stop craning your neck to gawk at your vanity feed and you will have less whiplash.

    I sincerely hope Ev does NOT start a “block track” function precisely because I think it will mean that news aggregators like News Gang or Scobleizer will be able to get away with sanitizing their tracks free of criticism or alternative opinion and then feed that back as “the news” — which is scary stuff in a world where mainstream media is dwindling and *they’re it*.

    That’s what this is about. It’s about keeping the new media free, so that it does not become something worse than the old media, inaccessible to dissent or alternative opinions and presentation of different facts than the norm. If “the community” is to dictate what is acceptable and only spoon-feed itself happy little pablums, then it is worse than mainstream media, which at least had a vision of serving the public interest and vetting material through responsible editorial boards.

  69. Prokofy Neva said on

    Ariel, you truly need to be called to account. If you had a problem with a stalker BEFORE Twitter, why on earth are you trying to harness the Twitter reading public to your person battles?! That’s just inappropriate and manipulative. If you developed a stalker problem while only using Twitter, why did you continue to stare at these posts in your vanity feed? If you are that vulnerable to upset, why track your name? If you cannot take the rough and tumble of a huge public discourse, why not go back to talking to your friends inside AIM or Facebook?

    I’ve been called far worse things on other pages and on Twitter; I’ve had real nasty physical threats and vows by creeps to come punch me out in real life. I never reported this to Twitter, however, because if the threats are that serious, I need to go to my police, and not fool around waiting for a large and busy social media site to figure out their TOS.

    But…they are just empty threats and name-calling by the usual insecure lame Internet loons that exist everywhere. I don’t believe you get rid of them by borking and nerfing the entire platform around them and making it less free for everybody.

    It is not against the Constitution to call people names; indeed; it is held up by the Constitution (Times v. Sullivan) for public figures. And thank God for it. Where will the First Amendment take place, if it doesn’t take place here, where people are?

    I also fully support what Shelley is saying. I think it’s totally relevant that she’s pointing out that we’re being enlisted into a bit-by-bit battle that is beyond Twitter and beyond fixing by banning this or that account. I believe strongly in fighting back and exposing people like this continually, not by wilting and running and trying to get them banned. There is a kind of received wisdom that you shouldn’t publicize griefers or “feed trolls” (a term I reject completely); but we never say that about real-life terrorists like bin Ladn, whose every tape is publicized and scrutinizied. Cyber bullies should be exposed and condemned in the same way.

  70. debutaunt said on

    Great post Prokofy Neva. I learned not to “feed trolls” (lame term) because what ends up happening is that you spend all of your time addressing their attempts to upset you. I try not to waste space in my blog, nor my energy, time, emotion or even one breath on these idiots.

    I’ve been like that for a long while, but a few years ago I was diagnosed with leukemia and had a stem cell transplant (2 yrs remission), so now all of my time is even more precious to me. I spend it doing things I enjoy, spending time with loved ones, and having a good laugh every day. Life is way too short to spend it writing long drawn out blog posts addressing the losers of the internet. And if I feel like writing something, I do and just leave it at that. I don’t spend days addressing comments back and forth. Gosh, how stressful.

    The internet is a mixed blessing. But I find it much more positive than anything; perhaps it is an attitude thing?

    P.S. I own up to the names people have called me (or things I’ve called myself). I think they are funny: Cuntzilla, Bitchkateer, Osama deb Ladin, Whore-iffic, etc. If you don’t give them power over you, they don’t bother you.

  71. Ariel Waldman vs. Twitter: A story so dirty, I’m taking a shower… at theory.isthereason said on

    [...] the following excerpt came from a comment on Zeldman’s blog. Do practice caution as we need to verify that the commenter was indeed Evan Williams: Evan [...]

  72. aimee.mychores.co.uk said on

    Twitter, i do hope you know what you’re doing. As far as i can see it does not matter whether Ariel Waldman’s claims are founded or not. What matters is the way you react to foul abuse, harassment and racial hatred, all of which i have recently seen on Twitter. People have been taking advantage of the fact that you are turning a blind eye and trying to push to see how far they can go and get away with it. You seem to be saying it’s all okay. If that is the case, Twitter, i am disgusted at you and i want nothing more to do with you.

  73. boohoo said on

    Boohoo.

  74. DBL said on

    I find Twitter’s and Evan Williams’s replies to this to be repugnant, an attempt to smear the victim with things that aren’t really very relevant to the issue at hand, and completely unconvincing. (You’re a utility — riiiiiiight. That’ll never fly in court, pal. Even what we tend to think of as ‘true’ utilities like ISPs sometimes have trouble associating themselves with water and electricity successfully — a visit-by-choice website with no hardware into anybody’s home, like Twitter, *never* will. Twitter is getting very bad legal advice indeed. Give up this legal strategy before it destroys your reputation.)

    If Twitter is not going to ban users for repeated harassment then their competitive goals will simply *never* be achieved.

    So, to sum up: Twitter is its own worst enemy in more ways than one, and is clearly not competent to handle the kind of community that it has attracted, also in more ways than one. Furthermore, they clearly have lied to Ariel Waldman on several occasions since the statements that they have made (and even Evan Williams did not deny those statements to Ariel were made in his rather ugly and telling attempt to smear her credibility) simply cannot be reconciled with each other.

    Twitter could not possibly have come out of this looking worse.

  75. Second Thoughts: Where Will the First Amendment Take Place? said on

    [...] so far, developers Biz Stone and Ev Williams aren’t caving to the supposed “community” pressure on behalf of a drama queen who appears not to be telling her entire story. (It turns out that she’s community manager of Pownce, a Twitter competitor!). The correllary of [...]

Comments off.