Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why Twitter Should Ban Donald Trump: Part 2 Perverted Twitter Justice

UPDATE 2/16/16: I forgot to mention that Twitter's Trust & Safety VP Delbius aka Alison Stewart aka Del Harvey blocked my account after I complained to her publicly about a troll posting a picture of an apartment I used to live at, and anti-semitic tweets directed me by many others. At first, she blandly responded, "@ronbryn To report a TOS violation, you'd need to file a ticket via http://bit.ly/gottaproblem. I'm not the person who'll review it."

Then, after I asked why she left my stalker out of her response, and quipped, "Do you hate Jews?", Delbius tweeted, "@ronbryn Feel free to message @safety in the future with any other issues or questions," and blocked me. But Safety has never responded to a single Tweet I have ever sent it, and Twitter refused to ban the troll or even get him to delete that tweet.

In late October of 2012, Twitter suspended former Rhode Island State Rep. Dan Gordon after he tweeted (while still in office!), "do we have all of the patient's relevant d0xed information?" and "I shall proceed w/an immediate steel-toed scrotum kick to sedate." But he broke TOS rules by immediately opening a new account, and Twitter refused to take down the menacing account he obviously made called "Suicide Watch @brynsuicdewatch", because I wouldn't send them a copy of my driver's license to "prove" I was me. Journalist Lorraine Murphy @Raincoaster, who I reported about in Part 1, thought Gordon's violent threats to me were "entertaining", and, again, tweeted a link to her blog article, which included a link to the dox on me.

Twitter had already refused to ban @YourAnonNews, as I reported in Part 1, even though it "doxed" me under an operation called #OpKillTroll. Since @Delbius seems to be a longtime supporter of cyberstalking harassment and appears to approve of doxing by Anonymous, as I explain below, I certainly didn't want to send her department any more personal information.

When I complained to former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo about Harvey, who was then only director before she was promoted to VP, he responded, "@ronbryn drivel. best way to get me to ignore you is to besmirch @delbius & her rich history of devotion to child safety & law enforcement". Twitter investor Chris Sacca - whose "fund had purchased $400 million in Twitter shares, giving him a 9% stake" in 2011; and "secretly secured commitments for up to $1 billion in 30 days from J.P. Morgan and municipal endowments...buying out former employees and other investors right up until the cap table closed in May 2013, before the IPO" - retweeted it. But doxing personal information is illegal in many states, Del Harvey has a long history of supporting it, and Twitter often defies requests by law enforcement officials for information on people who tweet death threats.

On December 10, 2015, Newsweek's Seung Lee reported, "Earlier this year, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sent an internal memo to employees admitting that he and his company 'suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years.' A month later, Twitter announced a 'quality filter' which allows users to remove threats, offensive language and duplicate content from their time lines—but this had mixed results as cyberbullies reportedly circumvented Twitter’s blockades."

In that same article, Newsweek's Lee reported that billionaire Mark Cuban tweeted, "So how come Apple hasn't removed twitter from their app store for violating the UGC & Personal Attack terms? pic.twitter.com/dXClFu0cmC", and that "Sacca sarcastically ask[ed] Cuban if he 'shorted Twitter stock'—selling Twitter stock with the assumption that he will repurchase the stock at a lower price in the future", but there's "no evidence that Cuban has held Twitter stock." Sacca's arguably defamatory and abusive tweet is still viewable on Twitter, while Cuban's tweet "doesn't exist" anymore.

Dan Gordon had been menacing me because I was reporting on Twitter that Anonymous was supporting him, even though he was trying to encourage Operation Wall Street protesters to attack police officers, and had a long criminal history: reportedly at least 18 arrests for assaults, drugs and attempted murder for allegedly trying to choke a girlfriend to death. In a Rhode Island NBC affiliate's TV news story, it was reported that Gordon wrote, "Eat shit and die faggot" on a young teenager's Facebook page. Even though the Associated Press and top papers in Boston and Rhode Island have reported about Gordon's violent past, and extensive criminal record, he often pretends only blogs like Huffington Post did, and they are full of lies.

Yesterday, I unblocked FormerRepDan after I noticed that he claimed in tweets that he had been contacted by the Donald Trump campaign and was invited to the Greenville, South Carolina office. "They may just want a campaign volunteer," Gordon speculated.

I wanted @RealDonaldTrump and others to see Gordon's alleged invitation, side-by-side with a screenshot of his threats to me and links to articles about his extensive, violent criminal history, including stretches in jail. Plus, an Associated Press article about how he reportedly committed "stolen valor" - which is supposed to be a crime - by falsely claiming he received a Purple Heart and fought in the Gulf War.

In response, Gordon - who was banned once for threatening me - retweeted me and called me a "crazy weirdo" and, in another tweet, a "dopey loon". Then he blocked me so that people couldn't see his tweets on my timeline, and as I note below, this is one way how cyberbullies abuse the Twitter system.

After I tweeted, "UPDATE: Twitter won't take down account urging me to commit suicide, which was obviously created by #Trump supporter http://ronbryn.blogspot.com/2016/02/why-twitter-should-ban-donald-trump_11.html," another vile Donald Trump supporter called "TrustedTrevor" responded, "Bitch, you know how many times SJWs have told me and others to 'kill ourselves'? Suck it up, buttercup." It was then immediately retweeted and "liked" by @ItsIchijouTime, @BasedCachanilla @Thombombadillo and @draginol Brad Wardell, the "founder/CEO of Stardock" ("a cutting-edge innovator specializing in desktop utility software and PC entertainment"), who are all supporters of #Gamergate.

(Editor's note: After I added the above paragraph and promoted it on Twitter with a #Trump hashmark, @Thombombadillo complained, "Personally, I'm a Sanders supporter, but I don't shame others for politics." Another #Gamergate supporter @DwayneWillis6 tweeted, "@ronbryn If #GamerGate are a bunch of abusive trolls then clearly, Anti-#GamerGate are the internets KKK," and included a screenshot of this completely racist tweet by @b0ltwolf: "Women that support the video games and gamers are no different than House Niggers during slavery #gamergate #Girlthing #MadeInAmerica." I was wrong and misinformed to condemn trolling and racism only by one side, initially.)

According to the user-generated Wikipedia, "Gamergate refers to the controversy around a harassment campaign orchestrated primarily through the use of the Twitter hashtag #Gamergate, concerning issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture." On October 10, 2014, Gawker's Jay Hathaway reported, "#Gamergate actually began in August as a pernicious attack on one female game developer, Zoe Quinn, and her sex life," and that she "has been the victim of death threats and harassment since she began trying to publish Depression Quest, a text-based game partially based on her own experience with depression, in 2013."

Many critics of the often racist, homophobic, and misogynistic tweets by #Gamergate defenders - who are raging against Twitter's new campaign to allegedly curb cyber-bullying because they believe it's against "free expression" - have been stalked, harassed and menaced for a year-and-a-half. Since nearly all the #Gamergate supporters regularly violate Twitter terms of service, it's hard to understand why the Social Network hasn't banned the anti-social advocates and let many of them get away with breaking cyber-stalking laws, that US federal law enforcement agencies hardly enforce.


Before I get to 2016 candidate Donald Trump, who former Florida Governor Jeb Bush famously accused of trying to "insult [his] way to the presidency" during a televised Republican debate in 2015, I needed to provide some background about a few of the things that have been done to to me for the last four and a half years, which I wrote about in "Why Twitter Should Ban Donald Trump: Part 1 #OpKillTroll".

But if you just want to read about Twitter's new campaign to stop bullying, and how I believe it should be used to ban a name-calling, abusive billionaire - who is shockingly, a top presidential contender leading many GOP polls - for helping to make it an anti-social network, you'll have to wait a day or two. However, I think it's best if you read the whole thing since it shows an example of victimization and Twitter's neglect in enforcing its own rules, perhaps because it hired the wrong person to help lead its Trust and Safety department.

For years, Twitter has done little to stop abusive trolling by bigots, sociopaths and alleged "satirists", even though they clearly break "terms of service" (also know as TOS). Now, since their stock is plummeting and they are losing money, Twitter claims to be taking it seriously, and will put a stop to online harassment.

But it's not just anonymous, cowardly, racist trolls who deserve to be banned. Some members of the hacktivist group Anonymous have used Twitter to dox critics and "enemies" for years. Doxing is a term that is often misused to refer to the outing of people who hide their identities, but it's actually more about posting addresses, phone numbers and private information such as social security numbers. The largest Anonymous Twitter account, @YourAnonNews, has been allowed to dox critics, police officers, and, even, some journalists for years.

This article isn't an attempt to demonize all of Anonymous, since I often report on imprisoned US journalist Barrett Brown, who was "embedded" within the group, wrongly raided by the feds in March of 2012, and arrested months later in September, partly because of his anger that an FBI agent was threatening to arrest his mother. Barrett Brown even recently won a National Magazine Award for The Intercept, while in solitary confinement. This keeps happening after he gives press interviews, and the media doesn't give him enough coverage, as he finishes a five-year sentence, even though he never hacked anyone.

"Prison officials informed him that he was being 'segregated' for 'information-gathering purposes,'" the Free Barrett website notes. "For the first three days in the SHU, Barrett was deprived of his daily antidepressant medication."

As a whole, Anonymous has done - and probably will continue to do - some great things, but doxing is a controversial issue that many members are against.

Some members of Anonymous dox families of their victims - who are sometimes horrible people who commit horrible deeds, as well - and there's a journalist named Lorraine Murphy aka "Raincoaster", who approves of this practice. In January of 2013, I got Murphy's editors at The Daily Dot to remove a link to a dox which included family members of girls who tortured a cat in an online video from her article. "Update: Out of respect for the relatives unintentionally affected, the Daily Dot has removed the link to the Pastebin document Anonymous released," was added in a note added to the bottom of Murphy's story. She even linked to my dox at her tumblr account, and often tweets it, when I notify her about mistakes or offensive sections in her articles, that are sometimes based on hoaxes spread by trolls or celebrate trolling as a modern artform.

I also don't want to demonize all trolls. Some trolls are just out to have fun, mock conventions, or make political statements. Others cross the line and are hateful bigots that get off on tormenting people.

Perverted Twitter Justice

Twitter's Vice President of Safety and Trust, @Delbius, uses the name Del Harvey, when her actual name appears to be Alison Shea.

According to her Twitter profile, "Del Harvey is best known for her contribution to the investigations on NBC Dateline’s popular 'To Catch a Predator' series. As a member of the online watchdog group 'Perverted Justice,' Del has helped bring countless sexual predators and pedophiles to justice. In the series, Del is often seen utilizing her small frame to act as a decoy (an adult pretending to be a young boy or girl)."

However, there doesn't seem to be verifiable evidence that Harvey "helped bring countless sexual predators and pedophiles to justice" (just the number of arrests are mentioned in countless media articles, but countless cases might have been thrown out of court) and, in fact, she and her former "Perverted Justice" colleagues have been accused of making false accusations and derailing the prosecution of suspects who may be guilty of such horrible crimes. She also made an obscene fortune doing this "work", and since Anonymous often targets alleged sexual predators and pedophiles in a vigilante manner, that might be why Twitter doesn't ban Anon accounts when they break T.O.S. with doxes of suspects and their families.

Notorious "Iron Troll" Neal Rauhauser often games Twitter into banning critics of his cyber-bullying, while his account, his countless socks and fellow trolls are hardly ever even suspended. Some of Rauhauser's critics are bullies, too, but none come close to him, since he routinely uses trolls to post social security numbers and make death threats, because he delusionally calls himself the "Principal Investigator at The Internet".

A critique of the "Perverted Justice" forum written by a Yale graduate student in 2008 sounds very similar to what Del Harvey allows accounts like @YourAnonNews to do on Twitter. Michael Seringhaus said that he, "was dismayed to find sandbox rhetoric and perhaps the most petulant FAQ section online today. Click the question 'How is this a crime? There was no actual minor!' and you are treated to a meandering hypothetical response, which begins: 'Such a stupid statement. If you’re reading this and you’ve uttered this at any point of your life, feel free to smack yourself for ignorance right now.' They also caution that they’re very powerful and well connected, and that 'threatening us is a very, very bad idea.'"

And "Perverted Justice" volunteers practice a dangerous form of doxing, as Seringhaus observed, "Interestingly, Dateline busts are just a fraction of the group’s activities. Their main trade appears to be independent baiting expeditions in chat rooms followed by extensive online information gathering and 'outing' of targets on the Web. This might include posting the street address, telephone number and other details about a mark in an online forum. Such information could then be used to humiliate and harass the individual and their family."

"One might argue that pedophiles and 'predators' deserve such punishment, but even so it is hardly the place of pseudonym-sporting civilians to dole it out," Seringhaus wrote. And I'll add, that it's shouldn't be the "place of psudonym-sporting" kids in a group known for wearing masks based on a terrorist from a popular movie "to dole it out" either.

A comment that Harvey made during a October, 2015 Wired.com roundtable, sounds like she is in line with Anonymous and is more concerned with privacy issues and what foreign governments might do to activists, instead of the "safety" that she's supposed to be in charge of: "Yes. Twitter recently introduced a couple of different identification paths for accounts. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t unduly putting people at risk. For example, we made sure that if you couldn’t provide a phone number, there were other options. Because outside the US, if the telecom is directly connected with the government, a phone number can lead the authorities to someone who’s an activist or a dissident or a whistle-blower."

On April 7, 2011, Gawker published a story by John Cook called "How the Weirdos Behind 'To Catch a Predator' Blew $1.2 Million". "Remember 'To Catch a Predator,' the awful festival of horror and shame from Dateline NBC that briefly captured America's heart in the mid-aughts?," Cook wrote. "We thought we'd check in with the creepy internet vigilantes behind it, and guess what? They're broke."

Cook noted "that one of the caught predators shot himself in the head while NBC News cameras waited outside his home, and people started to wonder whether reveling in the sickness and criminality of damaged people whose crimes were hypothetical and who wouldn't have even been there if NBC hadn't lured them there was really such a good idea," so, "[t]he network pulled the plug in 2008."

The fact that Harvey's show led to a suicide is probably why she was an awful choice to head Twitter's "Safety" team. Some think the Texan prosecutor might have been innocent, while others believe even if he was guilty, NBC and "Perverted Justice" helped act as his judge, jury and executioner. As ABC News correspondent Marcus Baram noted on June 4, 2007, "To this day, none of the 23 arrested in the sting operation have been successfully prosecuted due to insufficient evidence, according to the Collin County assistant district attorney's office." On June 24, 2008, Vic Walter and Maddy Sauer reported for ABC NEWS, "NBC has settled a lawsuit that blamed the network for the suicide of a Texas prosecutor who was targeted in an undercover sting against alleged pedophiles as part of the Dateline: To Catch a Predator show."

"The attorney for Conradt's sister, Bruce Baron, told ABCNews.com that 'the matter has been amicably resolved to the satisfaction of both parties,'" Walter and Sauer wrote. "Patricia Conradt had initially sued for $109 million. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed."

On September 29, 2004, the Associated Press reported, "It's a website created to expose suspected Internet predators. But the site could be targeting innocent people, as a Milwaukee bank teller found out. Molly Brady got a threatening call from a man who said her phone number was posted on the website as a sexual predator. So, Brady typed her phone number into an Internet search engine and found it was linked to a site called 'perverted justice.'"

"The FBI in Milwaukee says it's familiar with the citizen websites, which can do more harm than good, since some of the predators could be violent individuals," the AP article added.

The New York Times - in a December 13, 2006 article by Allen Salkin - reported that, "the group is also criticized by some legal and law enforcement experts, who accuse it of entrapment, making mistakes that ruin innocent lives and, paradoxically, disseminating its own brand of child pornography."

"One concern about Perverted Justice's nonprofessional force of vigilantes, raised by Lieutenant Joseph Donohue, head of the New York State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, is that decoys impersonating teenagers may be too aggressive, not understanding the need to let the other party initiate the sexual chat, and therefore not gathering chat-log evidence that will stand up in court," the Times article added.

In his 2011 Gawker article, Cook reported "Perverted Justice" secretary Allison Shea was paid $120,000 a year, after the NBC deal, and its "Foundation" that set its goals on "'promot[ing] internet safety' and helping cops 'apprehend internet based sexual predators'" ended up "spen[ding] more than $1,202,739 from 2006 to 2009 in pursuit of its tax-exempt goals. Of that, an astonishing 82% — $984,233 — went to salaries. Almost all of it — $783,000 — went to [founder Phillip John Eide aka 'Xavier] Von Erck,' [treasurer Dennis] Kerr, and Shea."

"Rather than use the money to build a long-lasting institution that might help people — or at least spark more pedophile suicides - ['Von Erck'] blew through it, and now he's got about ten grand left," Cook added.

In a July 2, 2014, Forbes article on Shea, Kashmir Hill reported that she "was the 25th employee at Twitter", and wrote, "Not listening to Harvey tends to be a bad idea. Last December Twitter decided to eliminate users’ ability to 'block' people they didn’t like from following and retweeting their accounts, replacing it with a mute option so they simply wouldn’t see the trolls in their feed. Harvey warned it was a terrible idea and would make cyberbullying easier. The blocking feature was pulled anyway, and the ensuing outcry was such that Twitter reversed the decision within 12 hours. It later tacked on the mute button as an option."

However, neither the block or the mute button do anything to make cyberbullying "tougher". They are just features to allow cyberbullies to maintain their accounts, and the 'block' feature is often used against victims, so that they can't show their Twitter followers the cyberbullying committed against them. Just because you can't see the cyberbullying on your timeline doesn't make it magically vanish from the Internet, and tweets show up prominently high in Google searches, which could affect the decisions of prospective landlords or employers.

"Harvey has an unusual background for someone with so much power over public speech," Hill wrote. "She isn’t a lawyer and won’t say if she graduated from college." Hill noted that at "Perverted Justice", Shea "eventually became the site’s law enforcement liaison, bundling up evidence for local police, and later, thanks to being small of frame, reprised her young-girl (and boy) decoy role on the NBC show To Catch a Predator."

Hill adds, "She advised Twitter to scrub location data from uploaded photos to prevent stalkers from using them to locate people."

However, this feature also prevents victims from using location data to find their stalkers, which Hill doesn't note.

During Harvey's reign, "Twitter [didn’t] allow threats but relies on its community to flag them for removal and report them to the police. While Twitter has automated systems to weed out spam, tweets about direct violence and suicide require manual review." In other words, for years, Harvey essentially relied on vigilante justice instead of doing anything about it herself.

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