Jack and Biz don't want to fix Twitter
Today, at the urging of software engineer Kelly Ellis, thousands of women are boycotting Twitter to protest the company’s lack of action on bullying, threats and harassment.
At the same time, a huge number of women of color are rallying around the hashtag
#AmplifyWomen, refusing to be silenced or driven away from twitter by that same bullying, threats and harassment.
As a largely un-harassed white guy, it behooves me to keep my nose out of the intersectionality debate playing out between the two hashtags: I’d be wiser to strap on some snowshoes and go dancing in a minefield. Instead, I’ll focus on the two things on which every sane Twitter user should be able to agree.
One: Twitter has become increasingly unbearable for anyone who isn’t a white, straight, male, Christian, neo Nazi.
Two: Jack Dorsey has absolutely no intention of doing anything to actually fix it. Not today. Not next week. Not when Trump declares war on North Korea or someone is brutally murdered after being doxxed by Tweet. Not ever.
Point one won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has spent any meaningful time on Twitter. Point two is slightly more contentious.
For months here on Pando I’ve begged and pleaded with Dorsey to do the right thing. To ban the biggest Pied Pipers of hate from his platform, even those who also happen to be the President of the United States. I wrote those pieces because I believed that somewhere deep inside Dorsey, a conflict was raging. A conflict between Dorsey’s natural cowardice (specifically his fear that the neo-Nazi mob would come for him if he did the right thing) and his desire not to see his company become entirely without value. Perhaps if enough of us pushed Dorsey to act, his better angels might prevail.
After all, didn't Dorsey once wear a #woke t-shirt on stage? And what about Biz Stone's hard-line veganism? (so ludicrous that, rumor has it, he refused to allow Twitter's janators to lay down rat poison at Twitter's infested former HQ - foreshadowing alert!). Surely evolved, caring, hashtag-feminist dudes like those must truly care about draning the Twitter swamp?
Now I realize I've been wasting my time. The clues have been there for a while, but they snapped into sharp contrast recently: The callous banning of Rose McGowen – the company blithely explaining that there were no senior executives around to countermand her automated account suspension; Biz Stone’s revolting self-pity at being blamed for rape threats and nazi stalkers on the platform that has made him wealthy beyond measure.
When Dorsey and Stone have been criticized for their role in enabling Twitter’s awfulness, their standard gambit is to try to turn the complaint around on their “Trust and Safety” team. Per Stone…
Y'all pile on us. You really think the issue doesn't weigh on us? And you're so dismissive of the Trust and Safety team. We're all people.— Biz Stone (@biz) October 1, 2017
But then as the New York Times reported…
A person familiar with Ms. McGowan’s account said her account had been frozen partly because of timing: The key decision makers at Twitter, based in San Francisco, were out of the office when the account was locked overnight. When the workday started, Twitter’s executives decided to lift the 12-hour freeze several hours early.
Think about that for a second. Stone puts the burden of Twitter’s anti-nazi enforcement on his employees but those same employees aren’t able to make a simple a judgment call without first checking with Stone, Dorsey or one of their fellow senior executives. Executives who apparently aren’t reachable outside office hours. And a CEO who, lest we forget, only works at Twitter part time.
These are not the behaviors of an organization that has any desire to change, or even the slightest glimmer of self-awareness. These are not the policies or practices of an organization that gives a single shit about the victims of bullying or abuse. Rather, these are the excuses and blatherings of a brace of wealthy white dudes who just want women and people of color to leave them the hell alone.
To people like that, a 24 hour boycott is a dream come true. 24 hours without having to hear the voices of the women whose lives they have helped ruin. An
#AmplifyWomen movement might be slightly more effective, but ultimately it only plays into Biz Stone’s victim complex. Why can’t these people just be grateful for all we’ve done for them?
The sad truth is that no amount of protest – not even a nuclear war triggered via 140 characters – will be enough to change who Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone are, or how little they care about the plight of their users.
The rest of us have a choice: To continue using Twitter knowing it will forever be like swimming in a toxic swamp, or to make the boycott total and permanent.