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Wed Feb 4, 2015, 09:02 AM

What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll

Thought provoking, well written piece

For the past three years or so, at least one stranger has sought me out pretty much every day to call me a fat bitch (or some pithy variation thereof). I’m a writer and a woman and a feminist, and I write about big, fat, bitchy things that make people uncomfortable. And because I choose to do that as a career, I’m told, a constant barrage of abuse is just part of my job. Shrug. Nothing we can do. I’m asking for it, apparently.

Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat to rape, but perhaps they’ll saw you up with an electric knife? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs.
Sometimes the hate trickles in slowly, just one or two messages a day. But other times, when I’ve written something particularly controversial (ie feminist) – like, say, my critique of men feeling entitled to women’s time and attention, or literally anything about rape – the harassment comes in a deluge. It floods my Twitter feed, my Facebook page, my email, so fast that I can’t even keep up (not that I want to).


It was in the middle of one of these deluges two summers ago when my dead father contacted me on Twitter.

At the time, I’d been writing a lot about the problem of misogyny (specifically jokes about rape) in the comedy world. My central point – which has been gleefully misconstrued as “pro-censorship” ever since – was that what we say affects the world we live in, that words are both a reflection of and a catalyst for the way our society operates. When you talk about rape, I said, you get to decide where you aim: are you making fun of rapists? Or their victims? Are you making the world better? Or worse? It’s not about censorship, it’s not about obligation, it’s not about forcibly limiting anyone’s speech – it’s about choice. Who are you? Choose.
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/02/what-happened-confronted-cruellest-troll-lindy-west?CMP=fb_gu

53 replies, 8227 views

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Arrow 53 replies Author Time Post
Reply What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll (Original post)
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 OP
Android3.14 Feb 2015 #1
vlyons Feb 2015 #16
hlthe2b Feb 2015 #2
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #4
CrispyQ Feb 2015 #18
Pacifist Patriot Feb 2015 #3
mother earth Feb 2015 #5
barbtries Feb 2015 #6
Skinner Feb 2015 #10
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #14
barbtries Feb 2015 #20
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #23
hopemountain Feb 2015 #37
davidthegnome Feb 2015 #7
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #13
AverageJoe90 Feb 2015 #42
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #52
nomorenomore08 Feb 2015 #53
deutsey Feb 2015 #8
La Lioness Priyanka Feb 2015 #9
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #12
F4lconF16 Feb 2015 #21
F4lconF16 Feb 2015 #22
Avalux Feb 2015 #11
lovemydog Feb 2015 #15
brer cat Feb 2015 #17
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #35
1StrongBlackMan Feb 2015 #19
pnwmom Feb 2015 #24
SunSeeker Feb 2015 #25
Warpy Feb 2015 #26
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #31
arcane1 Feb 2015 #27
Curmudgeoness Feb 2015 #28
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #33
1StrongBlackMan Feb 2015 #29
cui bono Feb 2015 #30
Number23 Feb 2015 #32
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #34
mackerel Feb 2015 #36
DeSwiss Feb 2015 #38
BainsBane Feb 2015 #39
arikara Feb 2015 #40
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #45
AverageJoe90 Feb 2015 #41
JTFrog Feb 2015 #48
Hekate Feb 2015 #43
phantom power Feb 2015 #44
ismnotwasm Feb 2015 #46
Curmudgeoness Feb 2015 #49
AverageJoe90 Feb 2015 #51
JTFrog Feb 2015 #50
Javaman Feb 2015 #47

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 09:19 AM

1. Trolls have always seemed broken

 

Few see himself or herself as the bad person when they are in the moment. But the trolls i have seen, especially the ones that return and return, stacking up their sockpuppets with posting numbers and detailed fictitious histories, I have always felt the most profound sadness at the structure of their world.

Sure, they are annoying, but underneath it all is the cry for attention, even negative attention.

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Response to Android3.14 (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:41 AM

16. you are so right about their cry for attention

We have a concept in Buddhism called "right speech." The concept is not unique to Buddhism, and we all know what it is. It's to not lie, to not say hurtful things, to use words to reconcile people, to calm afflictive emotions, to inspire to better and more beneficial behaviors. The people that purposely troll to be hurtful are deeply disturbed mentally. I don't get deluged by these folks because I don't engage in tit-for-tat insults. But I do ask them why they delight in being hurtful. Or I might ask if they remember the first time they felt hurt by mean-spirited words. Or I might tell them that their words don't make me angry because words are not that powerful. Words are just sound moving thru the air, or electrical impulses received by my computer. Or I might ask them what it feels like to walk around with so much hatred inside their heart. Would they like to trade in that anger and hatred for happiness? I don't know what effect my responses have, but I'd like to think that at lease a few of them pause for a moment to think about it.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 09:35 AM

2. I heard a piece on this with the author on public radio a few weeks ago...

one of those weekend shows that the local affiliate just started carrying...

It was really compelling. While I guess we all have to credit the guy for fessing up and apologizing (finally), it still was so beneath humanity to do what he did. Beyond vile.

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Response to hlthe2b (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 09:41 AM

4. Yes, and he's just like one out of thousands

While perhaps the larger number of trolls are pathetic, sad little people, it doesn't negate their responsibility for the culture they are fostering. It's not just about individuals, it's about a acceptance of sorts, of really vile behavior, especially toward women and feminists

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 12:09 PM

18. This: "...it doesn't negate their responsibility for the culture they are fostering."

This is the point that so many miss. We let the lowest common denominator define our culture & then we're surprised that we live in a cesspool.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 09:38 AM

3. That was a fantastic read. Thanks!

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:12 AM

5. Excellent article, TY for posting this. This kind of behavior is not limited to the internet, so I

will disagree with parts of this, but one thing is for certain. There is a mentality that some feel entitles them to be an asshole, plain and simple, as though the perp has perfected what it is to be "human" and if you are the scapegoat, sucks to be you. I've seen this in the workplace plenty enough. One doesn't have to be fat, skinny or anything really, it's not about the victim, it's the perp's mentality & what they perceive they are getting from their actions.

The big piece missing is that it speaks volumes about the perp, no matter what they think they are gaining by this sociopathic behavior, or if they even feel they are gaining anything. I think it's done for sport more often than not.


I didn’t mean to forgive him, but I did.

This story isn’t prescriptive. It doesn’t mean that anyone is obliged to forgive people who abuse them, or even that I plan on being cordial and compassionate to every teenage boy who tells me I’m too fat to get raped (sorry in advance, boys: I still bite). But, for me, it’s changed the timbre of my online interactions – with, for instance, the guy who responded to my radio story by calling my dad a “faggot”. It’s hard to feel hurt or frightened when you’re flooded with pity. And that, in turn, has made it easier for me to keep talking in the face of a mob roaring for my silence. Keep screaming, trolls. I see you.


Above taken from the conclusion of the article.

Yeah, absolutely, we see you. Like in the movie, The Avatar, good or bad, what you put out into the world tells everyone who you are. But then, one has to be capable of empathy to understand that.

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Response to barbtries (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:49 AM

10. I heard that when it was broadcast a short while back.

Fascinating.

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Response to Skinner (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:30 AM

14. I missed that

It sounds very fascinating

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 01:33 PM

20. it's good

and their website is wonderful, you can listen to every single show they ever did.

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Response to barbtries (Reply #20)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 03:49 PM

23. Thanks--I think I will

It sounds wonderful

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Response to barbtries (Reply #20)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:45 PM

37. yes it is!

their free streaming helps me get through washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen. it is a painful ordeal for me and hearing others' stories helps me get them done.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:31 AM

7. I would find it very difficult

perhaps even impossible, to forgive someone who used my dead father's name and image to harass me. Fortunately, my father is still alive, but, as someone who aspires to one day perhaps write professionally... and given my political leanings, I can imagine something like this happening. Especially on the internet.

There is a certain level of anonymous protection on the internet - and a greater level for those who know how to hide their identity. So, generally, it's not as if you have the opportunity to confront a person like that, either personally or legally. I can imagine that, as a feminist, this lady gets a lot more insults and threats that she didn't mention in the article.

It takes a lot of fortitude - and courage, to keep going in the face of the kind of adversity that she most certainly faces every day. I applaud her courage and her compassion.

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Response to davidthegnome (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:29 AM

13. I have a friend

Who is being viciously trolled (by another woman) this person used her dead son to cause an unimaginable level of pain. My friend, who is a very good person, is stopping participation in all social all media-- she's done.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #13)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 02:41 AM

42. I'm sorry that happened to your friend. =( nt

 

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #42)

Fri Feb 6, 2015, 12:05 AM

52. Thank you AJ90

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #13)

Sat Feb 7, 2015, 12:26 AM

53. I second Joe's post. That is just awful.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:31 AM

8. K&R

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:49 AM

9. years ago there were a few trolls on du, who decided to photograph themselves

 

in caricatures of my photos. it was really disturbing, and unless online trolling happens to you at that personal level, its sometimes hard for people to understand why its so disturbing. i think most people wondered why these trolls were so disturbing for me, after all they were only on the internet etc.

i have a lot of sympathy for women who get trolled online, because it seems like men dont get trolled as much in this manner. men get a lot of mean comments, but people dont seem to get as obsessed with them on the deeply personal level, like they do with women.

and i think trolls especially get obsessed with women who are not ashamed of themselves. i think we as a society tend to want women to be ashamed of their bodies.

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Response to La Lioness Priyanka (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:24 AM

12. +1000

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 02:58 PM

21. Edit: whoops, meant to respond to La Lioness Priyanka. nt

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Response to La Lioness Priyanka (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 02:59 PM

22. +1

i have a lot of sympathy for women who get trolled online, because it seems like men dont get trolled as much in this manner. men get a lot of mean comments, but people dont seem to get as obsessed with them on the deeply personal level, like they do with women.

Absolutely. There's a level of viciousness in the attacks on women on the internet that is simply unparalleled (as far as gender, anyways--being gay, black, etc., will often net you the same cruelty). I think it's a very direct reflection of our culture, taken to extremes. When you have men who feel entitled to harass women in the public arena, they will happily do much, much worse to women if they think they can't get caught. Our society is already incredibly anti-woman; providing a "safe space" for them to verbally and emotionally berate women only captures that.

it was really disturbing, and unless online trolling happens to you at that personal level, its sometimes hard for people to understand why its so disturbing.

I think much goes the same for rape. Many men I have talked to have simply no concept of the trauma involved. There's a total lack of understanding, shown in comments like, "Heh. A woman can rape me anytime.", or "It's not rape if you liked it.". Really, there's a huge empathy gap in our society: it is very challenging to cross that gap and attempt to understand things from another perspective. Sadly, all too many people are just not interested in doing so. It's much easier to ignore it, or victim-blame, or any of a number of things.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:16 AM

11. Trolling allows people to act in ways they can't get away with in person.

I think they do it because they are inhibited in real life from being who they are....of course all self-imposed. As the author shows, that inability to love themselves and be who they are manifests in extremely negative online behavior. It is a form of self hatred; I think more about themselves than their targets.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:37 AM

15. Excellent article.

Thanks ismnotwasm. It's a real thing that can cause real pain.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:41 AM

17. I am going to be rereading and pondering this for a while.

Also sharing it. Several points hit me right off. IMO using "troll" in this situation is wrong and mendacious: to me a troll is simply someone who gets his jollies disrupting online discussions by posting provocative messages, and such persons are easily ignored and dismissed. We even enjoy playing with them on DU. What Lindy describes is stalking and harassment, and it should be called such.

We have discussed the "free speech" issue many times here, and I liked the way Lindy framed it: "When you talk about rape, I said, you get to decide where you aim: are you making fun of rapists? Or their victims? Are you making the world better? Or worse? It’s not about censorship, it’s not about obligation, it’s not about forcibly limiting anyone’s speech – it’s about choice. Who are you? Choose." That opens the subject to a more thoughtful conversation.

Last, I was hit very hard when she described the "message" from her deceased father. Pure slime. I don't believe I could have forgiven him. She is a very strong person to reach out in order to learn from him.

Great thread, ism.

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Response to brer cat (Reply #17)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:44 PM

35. I'm too aggressive

I could forgive, possibly reach out, if I could get to that point. It would take a LOT to get me there

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 01:30 PM

19. posted to for later

 

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 04:48 PM

24. Thanks. What a great piece. n/t

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 05:40 PM

25. Exactly right. Mere criticism of misogyny is not censorship.

Yet, ironically, mysogynists try and often succeed in suppressing feminist speech by accusing feminists of calling for censorship.

I'll never forget the onslaught of taunting, ridicule and charges of censorship I got hit with in a thread here on DU for simply pointing out that the way Spiderwoman was drawn on the cover of a comic was sexist. You'd think I had attacked the Constition instead of a comic book peddled to 13 year olds (and those who think like them).

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 05:50 PM

26. "How do you deal with a bully without becoming a thug?"

This TED talk is about dealing mostly with institutionalized bullying, something that internet trolling like gamergate is a symptom of. It seems West has adopted the tactics, which do work well for adults. I've used them.



It's not as good at dealing with schoolyard bullying.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #26)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 08:00 PM

31. Wow

What can I say? Wow.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 06:14 PM

27. A great piece, thanks for posting!

 

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 07:05 PM

28. That was heartbreaking to read.

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be in her situation. Strong or not, this has to be difficult.

I usually stay out of the fray when things get nasty in a post, but this article has changed my attitude on that. From this day forward, whenever I see hatred posted in any comments on any article, I am going to call the hater on it, and I am going to post support for the writer. These writers need to have the support of others....to keep them from feeling defeated. We can all do that.

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #28)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:41 PM

33. Yes we can

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 07:33 PM

29. posted to for later.

 

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 07:44 PM

30. Wow. That was fascinating. Going to listen the the TAL show.

This line in particular hit me:

Why should I have to rearrange my life – and change careers, essentially – because you wet your pants every time a woman talks?

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 09:40 PM

32. This is great and very powerful

Over and over, those of us who work on the internet are told, “Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t talk back. It’s what they want.” But is that true? Does ignoring trolls actually stop trolling? Can somebody show me concrete numbers on that? Anecdotally, I’ve ignored far more trolls than I’ve “fed”, and my inbox hasn’t become any quieter. When I speak my mind and receive a howling hurricane of abuse in return, it doesn’t feel like a plea for my attention – it feels like a demand for my silence.

And some trolls are explicit about it. “If you can’t handle it, get off the internet.” That’s a persistent refrain my colleagues and I hear when we confront our harassers. But why? Why don’t YOU get off the internet? Why should I have to rearrange my life – and change careers, essentially – because you wet your pants every time a woman talks?


Hell yes.

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Response to Number23 (Reply #32)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 10:42 PM

34. Oh yeah

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 11:18 PM

36. When I was a kid my Father had real live trolls always after him

during the Peace Marches of the late 60's and early 70's. There were these 3 brothers and their mother who would follow my Dad and his activists buddies around when they organised a peace march or were doing their lettuce boycotts. They would hurl stuff as they drove by. They would sometimes jump some of the teenagers marching. They were madass crazy. But the po po didn't do much about it. It took years of these guys doing all kinds of mean violent stuff before they were finally put in prison and their mother was left all alone to cry in her beer. (They even beat my science teacher up once for asking them to not spend all Sunday day revving their motorcycles - he lived down the street.)

Cyber trolls are just insecure people with keyboard courage. Some of them take it to real life though.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 12:18 AM

38. K&R

 

On the Internets I use Troll*B*Gone. IRL I tell the motherphucurs to go fuck themselves.

- Just like I do here, but only nicer.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 12:37 AM

39. I didn't see that ending coming

Last edited Thu Feb 5, 2015, 02:14 AM - Edit history (1)

really interesting.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 01:30 AM

40. This thread reminded me of a new reality show that I heard about

Its one that I might even watch...

Swedish reality TV show will hunt online trolls

CBC interviews Robert Aschberg, who is hosting a new reality TV show in Sweden about exposing online bullies.

The Swedish reality TV show Trolljägarna (Troll Hunter) sets out to expose the anonymous users and shady characters fuelling online hatred and harassment. Show host Robert Aschberg interviews their victims, then tracks down the so-called trolls to confront them in person.

Guest host Candy Palmater speaks to Aschberg about his ethics, techniques and motivation. She also checks in with technology journalist Adrian Chen to ask whether Troll Hunter's approach to fighting trolls is inadvertently feeding them.

Listen to the interview here
http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Q/ID/2649357662/

http://boingboing.net/2015/01/23/swedish-reality-tv-show-will-h.html

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Response to arikara (Reply #40)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 08:39 AM

45. Hey- thank you

Sounds interesting

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 02:37 AM

41. There are a few truly nasty people out there, who will go to ANY length, to make others feel like...

 

complete and utter shit. But it does seem like this story, at least, had a happy ending:

But he did explain how he changed. He started taking care of his health, he found a new girlfriend and, most importantly, he went back to school to become a teacher. He told me – in all seriousness – that, as a volunteer at a school, he just gets so many hugs now. “Seeing how their feelings get hurt by their peers,” he said, “on purpose or not, it derails them for the rest of the day. They’ll have their head on their desk and refuse to talk. As I’m watching this happen, I can’t help but think about the feelings that I hurt.” He was so sorry, he said.


So, yeah, kudos and brava to Lindy West for being able to get the courage to stand up to this (now former) troll.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #41)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 10:00 AM

48. There are all kinds of trolls out there.

 

The worst ones seem to be unaware of how blatant and obvious they are. Even after being confronted and exposed, they will walk right into your online community and feign ignorance. After an onslaught of offensive posts, they'll make a few posts pretending to be on your side, all the while complaining about "radfems" and "social justice warriors".

Some real characters out there.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 04:29 AM

43. What a remarkable piece. Thank you. nt

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 07:59 AM

44. "it’s not illegal to reach elbow-deep into someone’s memories ... and twist them and weaponize them"

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 08:43 AM

46. And the backlash continues

Twitter CEO: 'We Suck at Dealing With Abuse And It's All My Fault'

We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.

I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd. There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing.

We're going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.

Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.


http://jezebel.com/twitter-ceo-we-suck-at-dealing-with-abuse-and-its-all-1683894216

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #46)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 12:53 PM

49. I hope he is sincere, and follows through. nt

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #49)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 05:50 PM

51. Yeah, me too.

 

Twitter's had a problem with a lack of action against harassment in general; honestly, it's about time they did a 180 on this. Enough's enough.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #46)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 01:44 PM

50. I can only hope this would make other "CEO's" do a little self reflection on how this affects their

 

customers/members. I have been so disappointed with the way some just make it worse with the ridiculous mindset of "Well you asked for it". Especially when they go out of their way to shame a woman for bringing her harassment to other customer's/member's attention. A couple of times I have even been tempted to contact jezebel myself about some of the more outlandish responses I've seen from "CEO's" regarding online harassment.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Thu Feb 5, 2015, 09:42 AM

47. This was on This American Life, two weeks ago...

really interesting story.

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