Twitter has become the ubiquitous aspect of the comics industry and community — from advertising new projects, interactions between fans and creators, and sharing artwork. Hell, we here at Bleeding Cool get an absurd amount of our stories from that social media site alone.
Of course, one thing with the platform becoming such a vital part of the comics industry is that it becomes 100% necessary for a member of the community to be a part of it, even when it allows more damaging and hurtful elements to be a continued part of the platform.
Sadly, Twitter is continually turning a blind eye to this growing concern in the comics community. Numerous accounts repeatedly set out to launch hate campaigns against creators, critics and even fellow fans, but we’re not seeing Twitter do much about it at all.
Some users’ accounts seem entirely set up to continue to harass numerous creators for their perceived failings. Some of these users are taking a concerted stand firmly against increasing diversity in the comics medium, both within the content and the industry. Some of these users show massive distaste for any female characters being presented as anything other than bathing suit-wearing cheesecake T&A fodder, even pushing back against the diversity of female body presentation.
Particularly disturbing, however, is these users’ continued and targeted harassment of trans creators in the medium, and Twitter’s refusal to stop it. It doesn’t matter how many times they are reported; Twitter continues to allow the continued harassment of a group of people, and it’s genuinely starting to look like they just don’t care.
However, part of the problem stands in that the harassers are wise to Twitter’s rules of conduct, in particular, this rule:
Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.
As long as they do not explicitly makes threats to the lives of their victims, or suggest violence upon them, then these users can sneak past Twitter’s rules on hateful conduct. They can perform endless psychological and emotional harassment against their targets, as long as they manage their wording to avoid those specific actions — and they know that.
Unfortunately, we have seen this before. GamerGate saw the same tactics used, both in circumventing Twitter’s rules around conduct, and in targeting and harassing people of colour, women, trans women, and other members of the LGBTQ community. And many of the users talked about above are actively modelling their own movement within the comics industry on the heinous actions of this similar group that attacked the gaming industry.
And while Twitter may be an American-originated company, it is now a global concern, and the rules of freedom of speech and such are not the same throughout the globe. Additionally, while these people might have the right to express their opinion, Twitter is a company — a business. It doesn’t have to protect people who use that freedom of speech to enact psychological and emotional hate on communities.
At this stage, Twitter really needs to take a look at their rules of conduct and consider that threats of death and violence are one thing, but targeted harassment, psychological and emotional abuse, and actual use of hate speech can be equally as harmful. It needs to take a firmer stance on those who would use that to harm vulnerable members of the community.
Back in 2016, Twitter started the Twitter Trust and Safety Council, wherein it partnered with numerous groups working to make Twitter a safer place for users to be. However, it is arguable that 2016 saw a sudden increase in the amount of hugely visible abusive tweets and harassment on the platform.
Then in February 2017, Twitter said this:
Stopping the creation of new abusive accounts:
We’re taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts. This focuses more effectively on some of the most prevalent and damaging forms of behavior, particularly accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others.
And in July, Twitter reported that “people are experiencing significantly less abuse on Twitter today than they were six months ago.” The statement went on to say:
We’re now taking action on 10x the number of abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year. We also now limit account functionality or place suspensions on thousands more abusive accounts each day.
And yet, numerous creators, critics and fans of comics who are female, LGBTQ+ or POC are finding themselves the continued targets of deeply threatening Twitter users who seem to get off without consequence.
Twitter says it’s cracking down, but it appears the time and resources truly needed to take care of this situation are not being invested. The more they look the other way when it comes to these accounts, the more they are actively endangering the mental and emotional health and well-being — and even the livelihoods — of many of these creators, critics, and fans. Twitter must try harder.
If I haven’t convinced you, check out this man’s experience: