The “parody” account with my name and photos was taken down late last week. Even though it was only one account, I felt physically and emotionally affected by it for a few days. Someone hated me enough to go through things I had said online and then repeatedly try to hurt me through insults. They weren’t parodying how I often talk in all lowercase letters or mention how my Canadian identity means I’m often confused about American politics. They straight up called me crazy. It was all clearly targeted, abusive language.
Many friends very kindly told me that the account was a kind of compliment, with clear indications a man couldn’t stand how confident and successful I had become. Except it also validated all my fears about being on Twitter and using it in the first place. I couldn’t even hide being vulnerable on Night Twitter any more, because now those often show up in the “while you were away” algorithm-driven feature of my friends’ feeds.
Dozens of people, mostly friends, immediately reported the account, which I believe is why it was taken down so quickly. It was a relief to see it no longer existed by Friday. But it also made me sad to realize how many women and people of colour who use Twitter don’t get to experience this outcome, or have to battle hundreds of these kinds of trolls and harassment for months or years.
Many women and people of colour have known this for a while, but a recent report by BuzzFeed put this in stark, undeniable terms. They surveyed more than 2,700 users about their experiences with trolls, harassment and violent threats on the social media service. Other reporting work from BuzzFeed shows I am far from alone, and details the horrific extent the company is failing so many of its users.
In fact, according to the responses of BuzzFeed’s survey, the final result of what happened to me is incredibly rare. “In just 56 instances (2.6% of the time) respondents said Twitter deleted the offending account, and in 22 instances (1% of the time) respondents said Twitter issued a warning to the user who’d sent the tweet.”
I’m relieved the abuse for me from this particular troll is over. But it’s depressing that a service I love has clearly hurt thousands of other people in both their online and offline lives and the company doesn’t seem to be in any rush to make it stop.