When Does It Become Abuse 4


Three weeks ago, I reported a group of people on Twitter for what I thought was a pretty clear example of abuse/harassment.12345 Well, I just heard back from Twitter on one of the reports; the first where I was called a human manatee and he told me that I never needed birth control.6 According to Twitter, that wasn’t a violation of their rules.

Their policy on abuse and harassment includes something called “targeted abuse”, which they define as:

You may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be targeted abuse or harassment are:

  • if you are sending messages to a user from multiple accounts;
  • if the sole purpose of your account is to send abusive messages to others;
  • if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure that calling a person a human manatee should qualify. Maybe they think that isn’t enough. As I didn’t call him any names to provoke this sort of behavior or the comments that followed, I’m fairly certain it should be considered one-sided. How it isn’t considered to violate their rules confuses me. And if that isn’t abuse, then will they consider his comments that I had anal sex with Ronald McDonald’s for Big Macs abuse?7 Or where he said that I looked like a guy?8 Or when I was called Honey Boo Boo in 15 years?9 Or the suggestion that Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs could use me for his outfit?10 And the friend suggested my skin would make 4 outfits?11 Or where the first guy suggested that a forklift would be needed to move me?12 Or where the group offered that idea (that I looked like a man and had no breasts) as a poll?13 Or where his friend said I was a poster child for birth control?14 Or the meme image they made that said that I would suck someone’s dick for a Big Mac?15 Or the one that said my face is birth control?16 Or the suggestion that if I were on birth control, it would put a buffet out of business?17 The tweets came one after another over a very short time period, and made me cry at the time.18 They replayed in my head quite a few times over the next few weeks. The comments that even contributed to my contemplating hurting myself last Sunday. Will Twitter somehow say that those were not abusive?

Why is it okay to make these kinds of statements? When they don’t get involved or stop these types of remarks, they are essentially saying this behavior is acceptable. Why do they even have an abuse policy if it’s not going to apply it to abusive remarks? I’m aware that Twitter isn’t the only site that does this. There have been pages and accounts on Facebook specifically devoted to harassing people. Even when they get reported, Facebook would do nothing. They also claimed that the abusive remarks don’t meet their specific standards for what is and what is not abuse, even though they meet legal standards for harassment and professional standards for abuse.

I know both get rid of some abusive accounts. I’ve seen media reports about them doing so when children, teens, and adults have been bullied or harassed to the point where they do take their lives. I’ve seen them do so when a celebrity gets harassed. So why is this not considered to be some form of abuse? Why can’t Twitter, at the very least, admit that this does qualify as cyberharassment/abuse? Why can’t they delete the tweets involved?

I don’t understand how this type of behavior isn’t considered abusive. I don’t know what they must think abuse is like if they don’t think that this is it. If people are using their platform to humiliate other people19 and they are doing nothing to prevent that from happening, then they are letting it happen. They are contributing to this kind of behavior with their indifference and I have to wonder what it will take for them to change their ways and admit that this is not appropriate.

Update: As I was writing, I got the update that gwilliams1967’s tweets were not considered abusive.

Update #2: I questioned the first decision that his tweets weren’t abusive, and got this response: “Twitter provides a communication service. As a policy, we do not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users. Users are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, provided that they do not violate the Twitter Terms of Service and Rules.” Why do you have a policy if you refuse to enforce it?


  1. If you don’t remember my entry about it, it’s this one

  2. Here are definitions of “cyberstalking” and “cyberharassment” adapted from the National Conference of State Legislatures (Note: “cyberbullying” is a term generally limited to interactions between minors): Cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors, including communicating a credible threat of harm. Cyberharassment. Cyberharassment differs from cyberstalking in that it is generally defined as not involving a credible threat. Cyberharassment usually pertains to unconsented conduct such as threatening or harassing email messages, instant messages, or to blog entries or websites dedicated solely to tormenting an individual. Harassment does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose (i.e., free speech). — Michigan Tech University and the National Conference of State Legislatures

  3. Cyberharassment (also called online harassment) is the use of a computer to cause a person harm such as anxiety, distress or psychological harm, including abusive, threatening or hateful emails and messages and the posting of derogatory information online. Online harassment includes: threats, cyberbullying, or intimidating messages sent directly to the victim via email or other Internet communications mediums, and/or the use of technological means to interfere with a victim’s use of the Internet such as hacking or denial of services attacks. Online harassment can also include spreading rumors about the victim in Internet forums; subscribing the victim to unwanted online services, or sending messages to others in the victim’s name.
    IT Law 

  4. “Emotionally abusive behavior is anything that intentionally hurts the feelings of another person…In some respects, emotional abuse is more devastating than physical violence, due the greater likelihood that victims will blame themselves.” – Psychology Today

  5. Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased. – EQI.org

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  18. If you’re thinking that that makes me weak, imagine having that many tweets being directed at you in a 10-15 minute period, and seeing those tweets being retweeted and favorited multiple times. 

  19. I was not the only person being called names that night. And these people are probably still making hurtful comments because they have no reason to change if they know they can get away with it. 


About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.


4 thoughts on “When Does It Become Abuse

  • Ashley

    This is horrifying. How do these kids even find you? Have you considered submitting this to a feminist blog like Jezebel or Feministing to get more attention for the issue?

    • Janet
      Post author

      I know. They found me when I responded to Cobra’s comment about a tag on Sandra Fluke:

      how they found me

      When he compared me to a manatee, I made kind of a snarky response, and then all hell broke loose.

      I honestly hadn’t thought about bringing it to either’s attention.

  • Jenn

    Society is disgusting. I’m so sorry, Janet. *hugs* I know it’s not always easy to remember, but words on a screen do not define who you are, and you should not define your self-worth by what people who don’t know anything about you have to say. Some people are mean just for the sake of being mean, and that is something I will never understand.

  • Ann Amos

    Just a casual reader here but wanted to say that what happened to you was disgusting and horrible. I’m so sorry Janet. You’re beautiful and smart and certainly didn’t deserve that. Thinking of you and sending you lots of love.

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