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Twitter’s latest TOS change borrows more than just a page from the Scarlet Letter

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The goal is to shame the user. Twitter is changing the way users are able to interact with tweets that have been reported for bad behavior. Now, when a user has a tweet reported and is found guilty of violating Twitter’s terms of service, that tweet will be censored and the user will be forced to acknowledge their wrong doing and delete the tweet.

But the tweet won’t go away. Their Twitter profile will alert any new user to their past misdeeds for up to two weeks following the event. I’ve dubbed Twitter’s latest foray into the world of censorship and harassment their Scarlet Letter update—because that’s precisely what the update achieves.

The yellow highlight displays what will appear in the feeds of users that visit a page marked with Twitter’s Scarlet Letter.

Every profile that is forced to wear Twitter’s Scarlet Letter will be marked as a soft target for liberal reporting brigades and don’t think for one second that this fact escapes the engineers at Twitter Safety. They know that this mark won’t act as a warning to stay away, but rather as a beacon or target that enables the worst abusers of the report function to find their latest prey.

Twitter told Mashable that this update was meant to “make it clearer to users about when and how the platform enforces its rules.” But this statement is one of the most transparent lies imaginable. How does entirely covering up the offending Tweet inform anyone about which behavior is against the rules? It doesn’t. It only acts as a target that informs people that the account has been suspended recently and is vulnerable to a permanent suspension.

A badge that proclaims “this person was censored” doesn’t help people understand why, it only tells them who was censored. What really, other than targeted harassment, can be achieved with this information? Nothing.

And, for just one second, enjoy that Freudian slip Twitter let fly—they want to inform users of how and when the platform enforces its rules, implicitly admitting that it is selective in that enforcement. But please ignore all of those anti-white tweets from verified profiles and forget about that time Twitter added a verification label to an account after she tweeted about assaulting elderly white men.

Prior to this update, tweets that were reported and found to be in conflict with Twitter’s community standards were left up until the user chose to delete the tweet. Deletion of the offending tweet was a requisite to gain access to your account, but you were theoretically free to leave the tweet up and refuse to delete it indefinitely—you just wouldn’t be allowed to tweet anything new until you caved.

Is Twitter responding to Woods’ protest?

That’s precisely what actor James Woods did recently. You might recall seeing a story or two about his suspension from the micro-blogging social network. If you do, you’ll remember that, as a point of protest, Woods refused to delete the tweet that Twitter deemed manipulative and false information.

Woods was suspended for this amusing tweet.

Woods had tweeted a parody campaign ad asking liberal men to stay home from the voting booths this November in order to make the women’s vote count more. He pointed out that the image was almost certainly a gag, but was banned for election meddling regardless.

Twitter didn’t take his protest lying down. Despite Woods refusing to delete the tweet, Twitter took care of the dirty business and deleted it without his consent and then restored his account.

Thanks for reading…just one more thing:

Brett MacDonald

Brett MacDonald

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