Twitter has proven itself to be an embarrassment, after having suspended the account of actress Rose McGowan following her use of Twitter to speak out against the sexual harassment of women in Hollywood. McGowan is among the names associated with the sexual harassment allegations held against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Now, it is important to note that Twitter did not manually shut down Rose McGowan’s account. It was through the site’s anti-abuse algorithms that the suspension was triggered. This in and of itself highlights a major problem with Twitter. This is a site that is willing to allow users utter unspeakable statements of harassment towards women and that allows accounts to spread messages of racism and discrimination of all varieties. Yet, when Rose McGowan protests the mistreatment of women in Hollywood and the sexual harassment culture that persists in that realm, Twitter shuts her down.
Though her account has been reinstated, the silencing of a victim of sexual harassment reveals a lot about Twitter’s culture and the ways in which Twitter has built its algorithms.
When some accounts have contacted Twitter regarding hate speech and threats of rape against them, Twitter’s response has traditionally been that such comments does not violate the site’s community standards. This highlights a clear case of an infrastructure that does not respect women, that does not encourage women to come forward when they are being harassed, and that openly allows such harassment to continue. Despite Twitter’s rules stating clearly that targeted abuse, the harassment of others, and direct or indirect violent threats would not be tolerated, the social media platform has sent a very different message to victims.