Defend Truth


Female genitalia become the ammunition as the Twitter trolls go to war

By Pam Saxby
15 Oct 2020 4

Pam Saxby played a key support role in the National Peace Convention, Codesa and related political transition processes. Working for what recently became Minerals Council SA, Saxby ran the minerals policy negotiation process, represented the industry in Nedlac’s development chamber and reported on economic and labour policy discussions in what is now Business Unity SA. She monitors and reports on public policy for Legalbrief Today.

Twitter appears reluctant to tackle the problem of vile, verbal, sexual and other abuse in any effective way. Apparently, the First Amendment to the US Constitution limits the platform to a temporary suspension of the errant account.

Something needs to be done about explicit references on Twitter to female genitalia; what can be done to and with them and the secretions apparently associated with genital infections. Having been targeted last week by several anonymous Twitter account holders using references to infected female genitalia as ammunition, I believe it is my civic responsibility to bring this to the attention of anyone with sufficient influence or power to do something about this type of social media harassment.

For some inexplicable reason, Twitter appears reluctant to tackle the problem in any effective way. Apparently, the First Amendment to the US Constitution limits the platform to a temporary suspension of the errant account.

As most tweeps know, to persuade Twitter to investigate such an account and verify that its holder’s tweets do, indeed, constitute harassment, one is required to follow a process. 

Among other things, this entails identifying tweets in the account holder’s timeline containing suitably offensive material. That can be traumatising, to say the very least, since people with a penchant for using references to infected female genitalia as ammunition tend to tweet all kinds of obscene abuse involving male genitalia, bestiality memes and every possible permutation of all that is vile. 

Having ticked little boxes next to the “evidence”, one submits a complaint, is advised to block the account and is then expected to wait patiently for Twitter to take whatever action it deems appropriate.

A week later, I am still waiting. Apparently, Covid-19 physical distancing requirements have even affected performance in the mighty Silicon Valley.

The real tragedy of all this is that it began with me challenging misinformation about the Copyright Amendment Bill’s second passage through Parliament. The infamous “General Frogusto Pinochet” took it upon its binary self to conjure up and tweet caricatures of me, suitably splayed, screaming “autistic” and “communist”. Foolishly, I objected – prompting luminaries such as “Anton_Foooker48” and “Boer Thot” and “Raymond the Third” to begin what has become every Twitter account holder’s worst nightmare: a “mob” attack.

This attracted the attention of varieties of worm I did not know existed. They sprang in a veritable squirm from the can of stinking bilge and so unwittingly opened my attempt to correct disinformation – and they really went to town. Most worryingly, however, is that said can of worms also houses “Stop Farm Murders” “activists” with pre-1994-era pseudonyms and weird science fiction avatars.

During the ensuing “twar” (Twitter war), I had no alternative but to open a “troll” account of my own, enabling me to do some serious cloak-and-dagger spying.

What I found was deeply disturbing, but is nevertheless par for the course in those circles, apparently. So, throwing all caution to the wind, I published screenshots of some of the more worrying tweets in a blog, which seemed, at the time, to be in the best interests of this troubled country given developments in Senekal and Twitter’s reluctance to do anything about folk hell-bent on inciting violence.

The account has since been suspended (having broken a house rule on naming and shaming) and I have been warned that – if I do not back off – I shall be sued for defamation of character.

Quite whose “character” I was allegedly defaming is not clear since I was threatened by an anonymous account holder. Fortunately, one of his/her buddies (a gentleman/woman by Twitter standards) negotiated a truce and I survived to tell this sorry tale. But this is not the first time I have been attacked by the mob. In an account I eventually closed because it attracted less sexually explicit but nevertheless unpleasant tirades of abuse, I attempted to correct misinformation about the National Health Insurance Bill and the then nascent legislative process of providing for land expropriation without compensation.

My new account is just four weeks old but has been rendered unusable. If this is what South Africans understand as freedom of speech, it is a privilege that may eventually need to be tempered if its abusers are not reined in. DM


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All Comments 4

  • As a victim of that same mob of swamp dwellers I empathise. Being that I’m a man they confined their abuse to death threats and warnings they would murder my children. Now that’s class.

  • Expecting the young and just slightly less trumpian Zuckerberg, the owner of Twitter to be concerned about matters of civility on his platform (which I do not have) is asking too much. This young (and very rich) upstart who allows Trump to abuse his platform with a constant barrage of lies and slander is preposterous. Apparently all ‘commanders in chief’ are entitled to this ‘gross’ privilege without the threat of suspension of their account which mere mortals are, for repeated abuse. What we have is a disgraceful ‘collusion’ between Zuckerberg and Trump ! This same young upstart recently realised and acknowledged that holocaust denialism is an error …and wait for it…because of his ‘evolution’ of his thinking on the matter!!! Maybe it is time for him to go back to school and learn some history, and not jump straight into Trump University and the “art of the deal” !

  • Honestly, Pam, I’m shocked to learn of such disgusting, appalling behaviour, although I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. The world is suffering from more than one pandemic, and the toxic wave of mindless hatred could even be the worse of the two. I refused from the start to have anything to do with Twitter, and I think it was the right decision.

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