How to uplift positive voices and challenge harassers online – part three

To read the first post, click here and to read the second, click here.

After the work of uplifting accounts on Twitter, I push back against harassment those who are being targeted experience. So that I am not overwhelmed, I focus on a handful of local accounts, especially ones that don’t seem to be using their anti-harassment tools like Block or Mute.

On Twitter, moderation is often crowd-sourced to an account’s Followers. This means accounts with numerous and motivated Followers can more effectively counteract harassment. The reverse is also true – harassment is crowd-sourced to the Followers of popular hostile accounts. Often, this is not coordinated or planned, it’s just a function of the large scale of interactions on Twitter.

The more intense attacks I’ve seen on Twitter will come in waves after a popular account draws attention to a health care worker – a twisted version of going “viral”. A hostile account will Quote Tweet or just Retweet the Target’s tweet and portray it negatively. Followers will then flood the Target with harassing Replies (throughout their timeline, not just on the Retweeted content), Direct Messages, mass Reporting and continue to Retweet it deeper into hostile online communities. 

They will also Follow the Target, search for the Target’s Tags or Mentions, and add the Target to Twitter Lists, so that they can be more easily monitored by hostile eyes. Sometimes a demeaning hashtag is used to rally a hostile community against a Target. Even large, popular accounts that are supportive of health care workers might risk drawing harassment towards the health care worker when they Retweet, since so many of those accounts are being monitored by troll accounts.

The volume of notifications this generates can be a burden.

Understanding how that process works allows me to use some of the same techniques to track harassers, find harassing content and report it.

Reporting “Misleading Information” is a limited feature and does not exist yet in Canada. Twitter’s instructions on how to report violations are here, and most of my reporting is within the rules relevant to Abusive Behaviour.

How to find harassing replies and quote tweets

If a Thread has been posted, check each post for replies. Since most people will only click on the first post in a Thread, the Replies to that post are not visible to most readers. Sometimes harassers comment on posts in the middle of the Thread to avoid being noticed and challenged by friendly followers.

Scroll down and click on “Show More Replies,” and then down even further to the “Show additional replies, including those that may contain offensive content”.

Check for Quote Tweets on each post and click on them to find other harassing content.

For some accounts that I monitor, these steps can be time consuming so instead I do a Search of their name/username (without including the @ before their Twitter Handle in order to see untagged mentions), find every Mention of them and read all of the Latest by chronological order.

Report Harassment

If you can make a good faith argument for these violations rather than Targeted Harassment, these Reports may have more impact:

Targeted Harassment is the majority of what I report:

  1. Click the “overflow” three dots on a Tweet you’re going to report and choose “Report Tweet” from the menu.

  2. Select “It’s abusive or harmful”.

    Note: Choosing “It’s disrespectful or offensive” only leads to being given an option to Mute or Block the user, it doesn’t create a Report.

  3. Select “Includes targeted harassment” against “Someone else”.
  4. Now, importantly, select “Add up to 5 tweets to this report”. You can almost always find more Tweets from a harasser to report. Usually I’ll finish that report, load up the harasser’s Twitter stream and report others. 

Important: Your Reports are not visible to the account you are reporting.

Twitter will respond by saying you will receive a response after making a Report. That used to happen, but for almost two years I haven’t received a reply from Twitter on any of my reports.

I’ll discuss why I don’t let that stop me in the next post.