Actor Rose McGowan, who has always been a major badass on film and in real life, has gained a huge following on Twitter in recent days for her fearless advocacy of survivors of sexual assault. McGowan has made her own accusations of harrassment against producer Harvey Weinstein and has also called out the culture of silence and tacit acceptance that surrounds abusers in Hollywood.
She has specifically targeted the board of the Weinstein Company, Matt Damon and Ben and Casey Affleck for protecting Weinstein. She came after Ben Affleck hard, in part due to the fact that he is facing claims of harrassment from other women as well as his hypocritical statement that he is "saddened and angry" by Weinstein's behaviour when, according to McGowan, he knew about it for years. Among other things, she tweeted, "Ben Affleck fuck off." In the early hours of Friday morning, her Twitter account was suspended for 12 hours because it "violated the Twitter Rules." Coincidence? She doesn't think so.
The Twitter Safety account posted an update this morning: "We have been in touch with Ms. McGowan's team. We want to explain that her account was temporarily locked because one of her Tweets included a private phone number, which violates our Terms of Service." While we do not condone revealing private information, Twitter's policies and enforcement are at best inconsistent and at worst discriminatory.
The suspension of McGowan's account as she continued to assertively speak truth to power is frustrating because the platform is a hotbed of online harrassment and bullying against women and other marginalized groups. Twitter also has a well-known "Nazi problem," and often does not suspend other accounts that have been reported as abusive. "No one deserves to be the target of abuse on Twitter," said CEO Jack Dorsey, as reported by The Verge. "We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we need to do better." Last year, Twitter introduced a more extensive muting function and a "hateful conduct" reporting tool that will allow any user to flag a tweet and bring it to the attention of the support team. What the support team does next is the problem.
Misogyny in the technology sphere is an ongoing concern, as women have historically been excluded from participation and decision making within the industry. "Why is Silicon Valley so awful to women?" asked an article in the Atlantic earlier this year. This manifests both in real life at the male-dominated companies, (see Uber's sexual assault scandal or Google's 'anti-diversity' memo) and in the way apps like Twitter function. In general, straight white men are considered the default users of technology, meaning that it does not cater to women's needs or safety concerns. While Donald J. Trump can say whatever he wants on Twitter (for example calling the mayor of San Juan "nasty" for doing her job), women and people of color are repeatedly silenced and policed for their speech. Suspending the accounts of women who are calling out abuse is the opposite of what Twitter should be trying to do, and reinforces the very real existence of misogyny in real life and online.
Header image from Planet Terror
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Molly McLaughlin is a travel and culture writer currently based in Mexico City. Her work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet, Refinery29 and Ms. Magazine. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @mollysgmcl.