Petition to Apple and Google, regarding Twitter and Facebook

On the basis that Twitter and Facebook use their moderation policies to encourage and abet the abuse of women, and also use their platforms to protect sexually offensive men, further on the basis that Twitter allows their platform to be used for commercial sexual solicitation and the public sharing of extreme porn on an all-ages website, petitioners request that Apple and Google review the suitability of the Twitter and Facebook apps appearing in the Apple and Android mobile app stores. In support of their request petitioners further state the following.

Moderation: Both Twitter and Facebook routinely tell women who complain about death and rape threats, or wishes for us to die, or directives to commit suicide, or graphics suggesting violence against us, that posts of this type don’t violate their community standards. Whereas, saying that, “men are trash,” or calling a male transsexual, or a male who identifies as transgender, “he,” is a reliable way to get banned on either platform if enough people complain.

Both platforms also encourage abusive and disgruntled men to misuse the weighting they give to the number of complaints made, i.e. mass-reporting, to disproportionately punish women for arguing in public, while they frequently ignore quite serious complaints when only one or a few people are concerned. On Twitter, particularly, the company allows their algorithms to be gamed by automated blocking lists, whereas getting added to one of these lists may mean an account is blocked by thousands of people who’ve never interacted with it, but have nonetheless downvoted their acceptability on the platform by signing up for the blockers. Women can get added to such blockers or otherwise targeted for mass reporting, and perhaps banned by the platforms, for stating simple facts about reproductive biology straight out of a textbook, or sharing official government crime statistics demonstrating that men commit the vast majority of violent crime.

Recently, Twitter has begun banning tweets “deadnaming” Ian Huntley. Huntley kidnapped, raped, and murdered two little girls in the UK. In prison, he claimed to identify as a woman, and took the name, “Nicola,” which is the name of the mother of one of the little girls he murdered. Twitter has decided to side with whomever it is who’s going around reporting tweets for calling this twisted sadist by his given name, which is also the name associated with all of the news stories about his terrible crimes, which included his attempts to hide in plain sight by pretending to help with the search for the missing girls after he had abducted them.

Every time this abuse is successful, its perpetrators are encouraged to repeat it.

Sexually offensive men: The most recent such incident pertains to a Canadian man known as JY. Both Twitter and Facebook have banned people for critically mentioning his name, which he uses to do business, in public, on both platforms.

JY has filed 16 vexatious complaints against female beauticians or their employers with a Canadian human rights tribunal, for their refusal to wax his testicles. As the story broke internationally with an article in the Economist and another by a feminist blogger in the US, more stories emerged by girls known to JY in Canada. He had managed a fan page for a girl band, and sent inappropriate messages to fans of the page. He has joined at least one forum for teen girls to talk about makeup, and sent a picture of a lifelike-styled dildo to the forum while pretending to ask for cosmetics advice. He has demanded that screenshots of him messaging women for advice about how to approach 10-year-old girls to help them with, or talk to them about, tampons be taken down on the basis of copyright violation.

JY has threatened people in multiple countries, including the US, for naming him, and has publicly boasted of getting at least one woman banned from Twitter for using the term “he” to refer to him indirectly. He has also submitted vexatious claims of copyright violation against platform users for sharing screenshots of his public posts in order to report on his activities and warn others.

Both platforms have recently acted as though protecting the feelings and secrets of this man should be a paramount goal of their moderation abilities, giving him global power to silence women’s concerns about his activities and influence, and enact retribution on anyone who dares to cross him. Anyone who says his name, anywhere in the world, risks the total loss of their access to the global marketplace of ideas, and any networks of personal and professional contacts they’ve built up there, as represented by these two, US-based companies, with a commanding monopoly on public discussion.

Both companies appear to have decided, independent of being so required by law, to make it a violation of their terms of service or community standards to call a grown man — even one who’s harassing women over their refusal to touch his testicles, and has expressed a desire to see ten-year-old girls naked or perhaps help them insert a tampon — a man, or he. This, simply because he has declared himself to be a woman and added “Jessica” to his public, male, given name.

Companies this dedicated to silencing abuse victims and whistleblowers pose a public health risk, and a particular hazard to women and children. Even if this has been the action of a handful of rogue employees, and even if JY’s posted picture of himself with Twitter founder Biz Stone means nothing of significance, this scenario represents a significant failure of oversight and public safeguarding.

Commercial sexual solicitation and extreme adult content: While Facebook has declared their platform off-limits to commercial sexual solicitation, Twitter remains a heavily used venue for adults in the sex industry to solicit customers, either in their profiles or individual tweets, and also for the advertisement or sharing of graphic video and still photography of live sex acts, or explicit cartoons depicting intercourse, and live and cartoon depictions of graphic sado-masochistic sexual abuse.

As Twitter is a free, public, all-ages site, this content is available for free, to people of all ages who have internet access and can type a search string. While many screenshots exist to back this claim, readers can also just search Twitter.

The culmination of all these concerns may best be represented in the Twitter account of L. Kreut, formerly R. Kreut, who goes by SadistHailey, or Hailey Heartless, on the platform. Even before Twitter announced their policy of banning mentions of the former names of trans-identified individuals, or accurately describing their sex, Kreut led the Twitter harassment of a university and scientific journal over a study into gender dysphoria in teen girls.

Numerous women pointed out that Kreut uses his presence on the platform to harass women, to sexually proposition them or suggest that they pay to become his sexual “submissives,” or “subs,” and to solicit clients for his own brand of sexual sadism and humiliation for arousal. Many people were concerned that he was interjecting himself in this way into a conversation about the psychological health of teenage girls, when his behavior towards adult women is alarming.

Twitter responded to critiques of Kreut’s behavior by banning women who mentioned his old name, and entirely banning at least one account solely for sharing a tweet that linked to a blog post that mentioned his old name. Twitter demanded that users take down posts that showed Kreut tweeting about organizing the harassment of women on the platform and elsewhere, including his own description of organizing an advertising boycott of a Canadian feminist website, and his advice to other men on how to organize similar harassment campaigns against a mothering issues chat board in the UK.

This is another man whose public, known behavior towards women is appalling by most people’s standards, who openly solicits for commercial sex using the platform, and whose feelings and grudges have also been weaponized, with the Twitter moderation team’s willful encouragement, to control the political and public health conversation about the rights and safety of women and girls in several countries.

These incidents — among many other, similar cases that we could outline — are troubling enough on their own. What makes it worse is that the moderation policies on both Twitter and Facebook encourage this behavior and punish women who complain about male harassment, or want to have frank discussions about women’s rights and safety. This is in addition to the well-known failures of these platforms to protect women from men sending us graphic threats and other sorts of harassment, as revealed in a recent Amnesty International survey.

In our experience, these companies not only passively tolerate the abuse of women, and not only have both platforms had repeated problems with inappropriate sexual content being made available to minors, but they aid and abet a hostile climate for women’s free speech and participation in public life.

Petitioners therefore request that these services be reviewed over suitability for inclusion in the Apple and Android app stores.