Twitter Sarkeesian Council: Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council Is Failing

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By Emily Zanotti | 1:51 pm, June 10, 2016

Twitter made a big show in February of announcing a “Trust and Safety Council” designed to improve Twitter users’ experience by making the social media platform a safer place to be.

Thanks to the policing efforts of a secretive group of “safety advocates,” including everyone from GLAAD to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Twitter users could now (supposedly) tweet to their hearts’ content without fear of harassment, misogyny, bullying, micro-aggression or, as Twitter’s UK head of policy Nick Pickles seemed to suggest, opposing viewpoints.

But while Twitter was quick to shut down critics of Trust and Safety Council member and #GamerGate foe Anita Sarkeesian citing their “online harassment,” the Council has been slow to address some real, violent, and virulently anti-Semitic content that’s flying around their “safe space.”

New York Times editor Jon Weisman shut his Twitter account down after he was flooded with anti-Semitic attacks from Bernie Bros, some calling him racial slurs, others threatening to “put him in the oven.” Bernie Bros also spent hours harassing a New York Times reporter who called the delegate count for Hillary.

Just this week, Evan Siegfried, a Washington Post contributor, revealed that he’d received violent threats on Twitter after penning an article critical of Donald Trump (one user Tweeted, “No you are trying to Make Hillary win!! When the Supreme Court gone we are hunting you!”). Conservative commentator Bethany Mandel provided Heat Street with an example of the threatening tweets she received after speaking critically of Donald Trump.



Charming, right? Photoshopping someone into a pile of bodies fresh from a concentration camp gas chamber should be enough to make any Twitter Trust and Safety Council member’s toes curl.

But while you may be scandalized by this sort of behavior, Twitter, whose Terms of Service specifically outlaw using its platform to issue threats of violence or engage in “hateful conduct” (which they define as attacking someone based on race, religion or national origin), has almost completely ignored victims’ request for relief. And Twitter’s crack anti-harassment force has been completely silent.

Mandel waited 15 hours after filing a complaint with Twitter before taking her frustration public —the only way she eventually got results.

Siegfried received help from Twitter only after he mentioned he was writing about his experience for the Post. Weisman used the Times‘ resources to try to get Twitter to move on the threats he’d received but ended up quitting Twitter in frustration over the platform’s complete lack of interest.

Mandel told Heat Street, “I’m not sure what’s happening on Twitter’s end but it doesn’t seem like they take the threats seriously.”

Twitter did not respond to Heat Street’s request for comment

Of course, as Twitter is a private company, their strategy in policing their own network is by definition subjective. They have a right to respond and not respond as they see fit, and a right to have as many sets of rules as there are individual users.

But Twitter has been aggressive in marketing its Trust and Safety Council as a way to guarantee that Twitter is safe refuge for users who face this sort of harassment—so why hasn’t the Trust and Safety Council followed up? Could it be that the Council’s mission is less shutting down real harassment and more about shutting down those “offensive” “challenging” and “upsetting” viewpoints?

Maybe they should rename it the Trust and Sarkeesian Council.