Twitter has a serious problem. It’s too early to determine whether it’s a fatal problem, but if Twitter continues to allow trolls and stalkers to harass and slander other users with impunity, it could be the beginning of the end.
As The Daily Banter‘s Chez Pazienza has covered in the past, there’s a subculture of weirdos and paranoiacs who believe the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a “false flag” operation, staged by the government using actors in order to stir up support for new gun control legislation — or to distract from some other issue. The reasons for the false flag depends on the weirdo who invented it. As infuriating as it is, it’d be okay if they were merely blurting their half-cocked, ludicrous conspiracy theories on their blogs or in discussion forums, but as Chez covered last year, some of them have taken to desecrating memorials and directly harassing the families of Sandy Hook victims.
This week, a Sandy Hook “Truther” using the Twitter handle @InternetSheriff, along with other sock-puppet accounts, was reported by the family of a Sandy Hook victim for harassment after the Truther had spread lies about Victoria Soto, one of the slain Sandy Hook teachers who used her own body to shield her kindergarten students from Adam Lanza’s semi-automatic gunfire (a sentence that chokes me up every time I write it). Like many Sandy Hook Truthers, @InternetSheriff believes that Soto never existed.
— Team Vicki Soto (@TeamVickiSoto) February 12, 2015
It took 15 harassment reports filed by the family via their @TeamVickiSoto account, and 24 hours of waiting before the Truther was finally suspended, but only after Twitter was contacted by The Washington Post. In addition to Twitter’s unforgivable lethargy, the Truther has repeatedly registered as a new user and continued to spread lies about the massacre. One of the Truther’s sock-puppet accounts was shamelessly called @VICTORIA_SOTO. So, it’s likely the Truther has already registered under a new handle after being suspended on Thursday.
The Post also reported that Soto’s family has decided to pursue the desperate measure of trademarking Soto’s name, though it’s doubtful that’ll stop the Truthers and their twisted crusade.
I get it. It’s impossible to monitor all Twitter users all the time; it’s impossible to block users from registering sock-puppet accounts; and Twitter simply can’t suspend everyone who’s the subject of a complaint. But as one of the top-shelf social media platforms, it has an obligation to its users to act more quickly and to take harsher action in the face of increasingly frequent cases like this. Especially ones this egregious and obvious.
And it’s Twitter’s inability to effectively weed out the cranks and trolls that, in the long run, could drive users to another platform. It’s happened before, and Twitter is by no means immortal. Combine all of this with the growing perception that Twitter has evolved into nothing more than a post-apocalyptic shame-factory where swarm-like jihads engage in routine takedowns of anyone who farts in the wrong direction. Without fixing its obvious harassment problem, and given its other issues, Twitter risks becoming a second-class platform not unlike, dare I say, 4chan.