Why a “Predator Alert Tool” for Twitter?

Despite many “anti-bullying” campaigns, online harassment and cyberbullying are prevalent behaviors. Most anti-abuse efforts fail because they tend to focus on appeals to authority. The now-ubiquitous “Report Abuse” buttons on social networking websites like Twitter are one such example, yet their ubiquity have not curbed the behaviors or harm they purport to address or mitigate.

We believe these efforts have failed because cyberbullying and online harassment are cultural, not technological, problems inherited from a society where coercion and abusive behavior offline are normalized. Abusive behavior is no more successfully mitigated in the physical world through appeals to authority than it is likely to be mitigated in the online world through the same sorts of appeals. This is doubly true in an environment where the biggest “bullies” are the authorities themselves:

People who are being abused have no recourse, because the systems that are supposedly set up to help them actually harm them further. Victims of domestic violence who call the police are often jailed themselves, because the police are required to arrest somebody and choose to arrest the ‘hysterical’ victim over the seemingly ‘calm and rational’ abuser. When I was in grade school, this happened on a regular basis: Kids threw rocks at me, and then I got sent to the principals office, because I punched one of them. It didn’t matter that I punched them because they were THROWING ROCKS AT ME. It happens at all scales, including and especially on the Internet.

@maymaymx, Predator Alert Tool for Twitter developer

To put it less diplomatically, the Internet has been doing “report abuse” wrong because its admins are corrupt. The “Report Abuse” button should go to the rest of the user community, not just the site admins.

Predator Alert Tool for Twitter is the Twitter part of an Internet-wide anti-abuse effort to change the way people think about bullying, violence, and abuse. Rather than creating an opaque appeal to authority that silences people (such as current “Report Abuse” forms), it sends a radically transparent and contextualized signal boost to friends and supporters of the person who bullies and abusers target. Using Predator Alert Tool for Twitter, the targeted user can ask for help and support at the same time as they are alerting the rest of the Twitter user community about behavior they have experienced as abusive.

I began writing some further concept documentation for Predator Alert Tool for Twitter, because I don’t sound enough like a broken record for most people to even begin to understand what the hell I’m doing, yet. It’s really lonely being so (intentionally) misunderstood.