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If I can jump in here: we obviously get that this is a sensitive issue, and understand how it could elicit negative reactions, but I'd like to ask that you don't just immediately dismiss this as PC-policing — that's not the idea. We are of course not interested in restricting freedom of speech whatsoever, but rather seeking to take a stand against on-line harassment and hate speech, both of which have long been considered criminal offences in most developed nations and are, in fact, against Twitter's existing ToS.
Anyone's who's been on the receiving end of on-line harassment knows it's no joke. It can destroy lives — and I say this with the heavy heart of knowing there's no metaphor nor hyperbole there. That is, in part, the reason why we all tolerate the existence of a little link called "Guidelines" on the footer of this very page.
In Twitter's case, we understand it's up to them to try to enforce these rules. That's why we're not trying to erect a content firewall on the client-side, but rather taking advantage of Twitter's existing solutions for content-blocking to ensure everyone who opts-in to the service doesn't have to face (as much) racism, hate speech and harassment just to exercise their own right to freedom of expression.
I get the general purpose. Harassment is a real problem, but this won't solve it. In reality, most internet users consider a "troll" to be someone who just doesn't agree with them. Also, the phrase "hate speech" is thrown around pretty loosely and often ends up just meaning....yet again....someone who just doesn't agree with you.
The internet is already becoming a self-validating echo chamber by virtue of the fact that everybody chooses to follow only the people they already agree with. Let's not make it even more close-minded.
I mean, you can look at the list of people they blacklisted, and about 95% of the ones I saw have the n-word or neo-naziism in their bio, so I think they have a pretty reasonable definition.
So explain to me why you need a special service to prevent neo-nazi tweets from showing up in your feed?
I don't know about you, but I've chosen not to follow anybody who would retweet content from @Nazi4life69.
The accounts they've listed as blacklisted in their test run have an average of 20ish followers . If anything, this service has just given these crazies an even BIGGER voice by legitimizing them as significant enough to blacklist.
I just get the feeling this project is a bunch of opportunistic dudes trying to make money off of the social justice warrior zeitgeist the internet is on right now.
I think this is a noble thing—online harassment is absolutely a real issue that needs to be addressed—but here's what concerns me:
We need both time and money.
This problem has been tackled before, by people who are victims of online harassment, for people who are victims of online harassment, often without any sort of organized funding. For example, Good Game Auto Blocker, a block tool by Randi Harper to combat harassment from GamerGate trolls, is funded entirely through PayPal and Patreon.
I'm only going off the people on your company's website, so I'm sorry in advance if I'm wrong or out of line here. My worry is that this project—developed by a group of people who are by and large not systematically victims of online harassment—will profit from that harassment while little money and recognition will go toward similar efforts from those commonly victimized.
Again, I believe you have entirely good intentions here. But given that groups such as women and people of color are not only much more likely to be harassed online but also much less likely to receive any sort of funding for their work, please consider that it might do more good to draw attention and funding to their existing efforts than to enter this fray yourselves.
Fair point, Jake. I can certainly empathize with your concerns over a group of white men asking for help campaigning against on-line harassment. However, I think if you try to look beyond that initial friction, you'll see that we are neither proposing to build this on our own, nor are we suggesting that we intend to profit from it at all. This has been the hardest point to get across — that we are not really putting out a product or a service, but rather a proof-of-concept of a tool we think could be useful, not just for victims of harassment, but also for organisations working to fight it (who we are, as you can see from the article, inviting to join us on this endeavour).
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