Twitter bans indie cartoonist who fought back against abusive tweets

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UPDATE: Gfrorer’s account has been reinstated but I’ll leave this up as a cautionary tale.

Twitter has had a harassment problem for a long time. Like, a loooooooong time. Something about the impersonal format gives free reign to any and all disgusting behavior. I myself—along with several other women in comics—was the target of a troll who made all kinds of creepy threats (including rape) for years. It took many complaints to get him removed.

Which is what makes what happened to Julia Gfrorer so annoying.

Grrofer is an outstanding cartoonist and comics theorist, perhaps best known for Flesh and Bone, but also her many recent collaborations with Sean T. Collins. She goes by the handle @thorazos, and Twitter has suspended her account after she lashed out at some of her Twitter harassers. I wrote to Gfrorer and she explained what happened.

For context: Celine Loup had received several comments from a random guy (@AngryAsAllFuck) questioning her assertion that women often receive rape threats from strangers online. She and I were swapping some jokes at his expense. Another random dude (@angrrytweets) inserted himself into that conversation to suggest that violent feminist rhetoric like ours is the real cause of rape. I snapped back, “I’ll rape YOU if you @ me again.” I’m not proud of this comment, it was snappish and glib, but it was obviously meant to draw attention to the ridiculousness of his remark, and not at all a genuine threat. We hear this kind of garbage so much from misogynists online–that we’re responsible for any anger and violence that results from our activism–and it’s disgusting, tiresome, and nonsensical. You can take a look at both of these guys’ recent activity (@angrrytweets has since been deactivated but you can still see his mentions) to get a sense of what they’re about–they both look like dirt-common search-and-troll MRA activists to me.

The next day I was followed by several dummy accounts around the same time–no followers, no tweets, gibberish bios, similar names (@AlexandraMerton, @AmyBotteler, @AmySpebbington, @AlexaDaubernon, @AnaFollon, etc), all following the same ~30 people. I thought that was weird, but again, I don’t know whether it’s related.

I woke up to find my account suspended on January 1. It looks like it took effect just before one AM.

After so many people have suffered from trolls for months, it’s particularly galling that the Twitter axe fell so swiftly on Gfrorer after one facetious (if angry) tweet.

HOWEVER, for context, Twitter has been working to try to get its harassment policy under control, with new guidelines installed just last week.

The microblogging site announced Wednesday that it restructured its terms of service with stronger wording and emphasis by reordering certain paragraphs.

“As part of our continued efforts to combat abuse, we’re updating the Twitter Rules to clarify what we consider to be abusive behaviour and hateful conduct. The updated language emphasizes that Twitter will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice,” Twitter’s safety and trust director Megan Cristina wrote in a company blog post announcing the change.

Twitter’s new terms of service more explicitly bans “hateful conduct,” which is defined as promoting violence or directly threatening or attacking “other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”

These changes are long overdue, and while Gfrorer’s tweet was nothing to be proud of, she was clearly on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that the new guidelines are meant to stop. So it’s kind of like the kid who gets bullied all the time, finally fits back and is the one collared for starting the fight.

Many people have been tweeting to get Gfrorer’s account reinstated, but I’m guessing it will take a while for Twitter to investigate or do whatever they do in their titanium sealed bunker.

in the meantime, perhaps show your support by going to Gfroer’s store and buying some of her excellent comics.

On a related note, Carrie Fisher also recently lashed out at her Twitter complainers. Fisher is a brilliant, beautiful woman who will live on forever through her creations…and a few extra lines and pounds don’t change that and in fact are merely a testament to th human journey we all experience. Todd Alcott wrote an excellent response to this.

I know that putting yourself out in public does put yourself on the line for trolls, bullys and other assorted human dregs, it does come with the territory. But that doesn’t mean we should allow, tolerate or condone such behavior.

Comments

  1. TCW says

    “These changes are long overdue, and while Gfrorer’s tweet was nothing to be proud of, she was clearly on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that the new guidelines are meant to stop. So it’s kind of like the kid who gets bullied all the time, finally fits back and is the one collared for starting the fight.”

    So, Twitter should put an end to abusive and threatening tweets but not when they person is returning abuse? It’s OK then? I understand there can be a lot going on around each tweet but the basic story is she sent a tweet threatening to rape someone, joke or no joke, and under the new guidelines she was suspended for making that tweet. Your reaction/takeaway of “But she didn’t started it – they should just ban the one who first makes abusive remarks” is just ludicrous.

    Now, I don’t say this should be a permanent suspension, I’m not saying that, but I look at this situation and I 100% agree with Twitter that she was in the wrong.

  2. says

    TCW, you agree with Twitter that I should have been suspended for the comment, but you don’t agree with Twitter that I should be suspended for the comment? Okay, thanks for weighing in.

  3. says

    “So, Twitter should put an end to abusive and threatening tweets but not when they person is returning abuse? It’s OK then?”

    Yes, TCW, it IS okay then. An intelligent person who’s interested in actually working toward the just treatment of all people, instead of a dullard scoring points against strangers from oppressed groups behind an internet pseudonym, is capable of making that distinction.

  4. duncan says

    This article fails to demonstrate that anyone but the cartoonist, who tweeted a threat of rape herself, deserved to be blocked.

    I don’t doubt the situation but this article fails to actually make the point. If I’m judging only from what I read in this blog here, the right person was banned.

    If the other guys made threats like this and didn’t just “inserted himself into that conversation to suggest that violent feminist rhetoric like ours is the real cause of rape” then those examples should have been included – but as it is presented here, this guy was just annoying and was threatened with rape for his troubles.

    I don’t think that’s cool.

  5. Jordan says

    “His troubles” is a nice way to gloss over a torrent of MRA-speak mansplaining invective thrown at women constantly, and the mock offense when someone lashes out is basically just “WHEN’S WHITE HISTORY MONTH?” dressed up in a fedora.

    What’s not cool is tone policing the article to take the focus away from harassment of women online, which is pretty much what happens any time an article like this comes out.

  6. Michael P says

    Same as it ever was. Bullies get a free pass to make people’s lies hell, but if a target stands up to them, the system smacks them down, hard. Who knew adult life was exactly like junior high?

  7. George says

    I can understand why Julia snapped back, given what women in comics have had to put up with for so long. In case you missed it, here’s a Comics Alliance article that spells it out. Hard to believe this crap is still going on. I blame the superhero fanboy culture that still treats women as some alien species.

    And, “pete,” your childish, profane comment is utterly repulsive. How old are you, 13? That’s how you’re acting.

    http://comicsalliance.com/comics-industry-harassment/?trackback=fbshare_flat_4

  8. TCW says

    Julia: No. I said I agree with the suspension but don’t feel it should be a permanent suspension. And I’ll wager that your suspension will be removed without much trouble. It wont require other people tweeting support, you wont have to start an online petition, it’ll just take a few emails between you and Twitter.

    Blame other people all you want but you made a tweet threatening to rape someone. It’s a pretty straight-forward wrong. You can talk around it all you want, point fingers here and there, but the plain fact is that you made a tweet threatening to rape someone.