Did you feel Twitter grew ever-so-slightly gentler last night? The service banned a gay troll who’s been responsible for inciting attacks and abuse for years. Alas, this isn’t as important a move as anyone seems to think — sure, one mean guy’s gone from Twitter, but that’s only because he was the most recognizable among countless other abusive accounts. One troll isn’t what matters here; what matters is that Twitter still lacks the tools for responding to abuse.
The user who was banned yesterday wrote for the right-wing blog Breitbart about his hatred of Muslims, for the government, and for treating people with respect. He picked the wrong target earlier this week when his community inundated Leslie Jones (star of the new Ghostbusters) with vicious attacks. Mobs of unpleasant tweeters have harassed plenty of women, people of color, and queers in the past; but this time their victim was famous enough that for the first time, Twitter had to care.
And so, just like that, poof, the one most noticeable member of the harassing mob was gone. How does that help all the other people who’ve been flooded with cruel tweets over the years? It doesn’t, not really. Twitter acknowledged as much in a statement and promised better moderation in the future. We won’t hold our breath.
In a twist of weird timing, at the same time that his account was getting suspended, that same Twitter troll was attending a pro-Trump party in Cleveland. Guests included Geert Wilders, a wildly anti-Muslim Dutch politician; and also Pam Geller, who runs what the SPLC has designated a hate group. They stood in front of a wall plastered with willowy shirtless men, part of a photo series that someone entitled “Twinks for Trump.” (And just in case you were wondering: Donald Trump is terrible for gays. And Mike Pence is even worse.)
Geert Wilders speaks at a “Twinks for Trump” party. Check out the art. pic.twitter.com/146EZMS7cj
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) July 20, 2016
Is this trolling IRL, and who’s trolling who? The original Twinks for Trump twitter account was a parody, and it tweeted a news article about the photos as though they were all part of the joke. But the photographer, Lucian Wintrich, seems to legitimately approve of Trump & company, and is not actually joking around. So who’s serious? Who’s not? Impossible to tell. Fortunately, almost all parties involved are deeply unimportant.