Trolls, Banning, and Openness – Oh My!

Over the last few weeks there has been an increasing war of words on twitter. This happens with some regularity on twitter in London. We use twitter a lot in the forested city and there are some, me included, who use it to argue points hard. The problem is that can sometimes devolve into name calling. Today, Elaine Murray, aka @emlaughsallot88 on twitter, the frequent comments poster on almost all London Free Press articles, has had her account suspended.

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that Twitter banned her for spamming or abusive behavior. Twitter says, “Spam: You may not use the Twitter service for the purpose of spamming anyone. What constitutes “spamming” will evolve as we respond to new tricks and tactics by spammers. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be spamming are:

  • If a large number of people are blocking you;
  • The number of spam complaints that have been filed against you
  • If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #.“

The above may indicate some of the reasons why her account was suspended but there is an underlying issue here that I think needs some airing.

Over the last four or five months there have been a number of posts by a number of folks about blocking people on twitter, about hearing everyone’s opinions, and about being more inclusive in hearing differing viewpoints. This is all laudable and I agree with these points in principle. BUT they should not become shackles to enduring personal attacks or in continuing to hear viewpoints when they are argued only to inflame and lower the conversation. I have seen this behavior in Elaine’s arguments with Megan Walker last week, and I have seen a number of people go after Glen Pearson, and many others in personal attacks and innuendo a number of times. This is an ongoing behavior pattern.

The problem is that in the argument about being open and fair and hearing everyone’s opinion, there must come a point when we recognize that these arguments are only about creating a climate of hostility and attack. At that point, I draw the line and move on. I block and at times report for spam or abusive behavior. I have not done this for Elaine but have for some others.

Now some will argue that the “left” gang up on the “right” on twitter or that a group of “like-minded” people will bully the others who disagree. That this “left” group is not open to debate and discussion. I don’t buy that argument for one simple reason. It is a choice to debate or to devolve, and in my opinion many of the people I am talking about  choose to devolve and lower the conversation with innuendo and attack.

Do I want to see honest, respectful, and open debate stifled? No, absolutely not. Do I want to see people banned from participating? No, absolutely not. Will I engage with someone who continually devolves the conversation to juvenile name calling. No, absolutely not.

In our need to be seen to be fair and open and engaged we must recognize that there are some that prefer inflaming to engaging and at that point I block and will often defend others who are being attacked. I don’t feel sorry for Elaine at all, though there is a freedom of speech line here,and have no guilt what so ever about calling out those who crash the conversation just to inflame the debate. Fairness and openness is important to me but it must not become a cudgel to allow abuse and derision to occur unanswered or without consequence. Engagement is about the conversation not about scoring points.

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One thought on “Trolls, Banning, and Openness – Oh My!

  1. Pingback: TWILT Ep. 38 | This Week In London Tweets

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