Saturday, December 10, 2022

TIL That Compiling The Fuckery That Wokestan Puts On Public Display Is Extremist Hate Speech

Slate |  On Thursday night, the latest installment of what CEO Elon Musk has dubbed the “Twitter Files” was published on the social media platform, this time with a bombshell-promising thread from former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, who now runs an online magazine called the Free Press. Weiss, like fellow Twitter Files author Matt Taibbi, was given access to internal documents of the company by its new owner in order to interrogate the content-moderation actions of Twitter’s leadership before Musk bought the company. Many extremely online right-wingers have long accused Twitter of being biased against conservatives. Weiss’ thread, like Taibbi’s from a week earlier, tells them just what they want to hear.

Weiss’ focus is on Twitter’s ability to deamplify accounts so that, for example, they are boosted less by the platform’s news-feed algorithm or are barred from trending topics or search (a policy Twitter has been open about, publicly describing it in a blog post in 2018). Among several examples, Weiss cites the platform’s treatment of Libs of TikTok, a Twitter account that remains active despite its connection to multiple acts of terror and intimidation from far-right extremists, including multiple bomb threats against a children’s hospital. This portrayal of Libs of TikTok as representative of accounts posting conservative views is alarming. The implication seems to be that platforms that seek to protect users from harassment and violence—which is what Libs of TikTok has repeatedly inspired—are engaging in anti-conservative bias when they do so. Weiss contrasted the treatment of Libs of TikTok by Twitter with a post harassing Libs of TikTok using personally identifying information that was not taken down by Twitter staff, which seems to have been an error on Twitter’s part. (All content moderation involves human error, and thus far Weiss has not demonstrated any sort of consistent pattern on any side.)

Weiss may be best known for a column introducing “the intellectual dark web,” a group of anti-progressive types fixated on the concept of cancel culture and the idea that liberals routinely censor conservative ideas. With the Twitter Files, she describes herself leading a team that has been given “broad and expanding access” to Twitter’s internal documents and communications. This group includes opinion writer Abigail Shrier, who is best known for writing Irreversible Damage, a book opposing transition for female-assigned people on the grounds that an unproven social contagion is the root cause of transmasculine identities.

It is unsurprising that this team highlighted the treatment of an account notorious for its anti-trans activity. But Libs of TikTok goes far beyond expressing political opinions about transgender issues. That would certainly be allowed under Twitter’s policies, which exist to curb harassment, violence, and hate speech, not opinions. In fact, Libs of TikTok has repeatedly highlighted specific individuals, events, and institutions with inflammatory language, often falsely suggesting they are guilty of heinous acts against young children. The account’s spotlight has repeatedly resulted in harassment and violent threats toward the individuals involved, in a process typically referred to as stochastic terrorism. Those targeted include doctors and hospitals that provide gender-affirming care for youth, teachers and schools with inclusive policies, and all-ages or youth-focused drag events.

Contrary to the extremist rhetoric, gender-affirming care is supported by all mainstream medical organizations as potentially lifesaving for young people with gender dysphoria. It is also perfectly possible to speak with children about the existence of transgender people and about families headed by same-sex parents in an age-appropriate, nonsexual way. All-ages drag events are places where kids can see members of the drag community in elaborate full-body costumes providing innocent entertainment in the name of inclusivity and fun, and even adult drag shows are raunchy rather than sexual in nature. However, the issues with Libs of TikTok and the Twitter Files are fundamentally not about anyone’s opinion on gender-affirming care, diversity in schools, or drag. They’re about the conflation of stochastic terrorism with conservative opinions, and the refusal of many conservatives to recognize or respect any line drawn between the two.

Armed white supremacist gangs seem to closely monitor Libs of TikTok’s posts to find new targets, based on the multiple incidents associated with those named on its Twitter feed. Account owner Chaya Raichik, meanwhile, has done nothing to attempt to calm, dissuade, change how she communicates, or otherwise bring an end to the pattern of violence and near-violence driven by her posts. These often include misinformation as well as a conflation of healthy, age-appropriate discussions of diversity with child abuse. Instead of seeking to end the violence directed at the targets she chooses, Raichik and Libs of TikTok are constantly toeing the line, attempting to stop short of what is officially considered either harassment or hate speech, and occasionally catching a ban when Twitter decides that line was crossed.

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