As a response to Rose McGowan's brief suspension from Twitter yesterday for sharing the private phone number of a Hollywood executive's assistant, people have joined together to protest Twitter and the spotty enforcement of its terms of service using the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter.
Software engineer Kelly Ellis first proposed the hashtag and called for all women — plus the men who support them — to not use Twitter today, according to The Guardian's report on the boycott. As she wrote in her tweet, it's intended to be a gesture of solidarity with Rose McGowan, who, following a series of tweets regarding Harvey Weinstein's rampant sexual harassment of Hollywood stars, was suspended from Twitter for posting a screenshot of an e-mail that also happened to contain the phone number of a Hollywood executive's assistant.
At the time of the suspension, many were mystified by Twitter's decision to punish the outspoken actress, especially at a time when it was clear that she was calling out the sexism rampant amongst Hollywood stars. Later, Twitter explained that the suspension was because of the e-mail screenshot, not necessarily because of what she was posting, but by then, the damage to Twitter's reputation had been done.
Chief among the concerns voiced by critics is that Twitter has shown inconsistencies in how it chooses to enforce its terms of service. In McGowan's case, it was surprising to many that they moved so quickly to suspend her account when others have used the platform to maliciously "doxx" (i.e., share personal information like addresses, phone numbers, and the like) people with nary a glance from the Twitter safety team.
So, in response, many women are taking the day off of Twitter, in the hopes that the absence of their voices would then mean something to the company behind the platform. Plenty of other actresses have voiced their approval of the hashtag and the move, including Anna Paquin, Alyssa Milano, Kathy Griffin, Kerry Washington, and Christine Teigen.
Starts now. pic.twitter.com/wlCu3ro32C— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) October 13, 2017
Ladies. Let's do this. #WomenBoycottTwitter. Not because of hate but because I love this platform and know it can be better.— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) October 13, 2017
Joining along in protest are a few male actors, including Mark Ruffalo and John Cusack.
Tomorrow I follow the Women. #WomenBoycottTwitter— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) October 13, 2017
In in :) https://t.co/ylX1BQBwDs— John Cusack (@johncusack) October 13, 2017
Many people are pointing out that a Twitter without women on it, ironically, is exactly what many of the more misogynist trolls on the platform want. There's something backwards in suggesting that women should remain silent as a form of protest, especially on a platform full of people who are, more often than not, hostile to them.
Moreover, and perhaps most worryingly, many prominent women of color are asking where this support was when other stars of color were run off of Twitter thanks to similar doxxing and trolling. Salon points out that Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay expressed her thoughts regarding the boycott in a tweet:
Calling white women allies to recognize conflict of #WomenBoycottTwitter for women of color who haven't received support on similar issues.— Ava DuVernay (@ava) October 13, 2017
As an alternative to the boycott, many women of color are using another hashtag, #WOCAffirmation, to highlight and amplify the voices and work of other women of color, who are often drowned out in the noise that surrounds the network. That particular hashtag was started by April Reign, the activist behind the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign that called out the Academy Awards their racist practices.
Though Twitter was quick to say that they are "proud to empower and support the voices on our platform" and that they "stand with the brave women and men who use Twitter to share their stories" after repealing McGowan's suspension, Twitter has yet to show any meaningful change regarding protecting the marginalized voices who use their platform. Last week, a few Democrats in Congress even went so far as to send them a letter urging them to do something about the racism prevalent on their platform or risk facing legislation that would regulate Twitter as a federal resource. And before that, Twitter made a fairly controversial decision in deciding to not delete Trump's tweet which spurred North Korea to say that the U.S. has declared war. The social network argued that the tweet was "newsworthy," and thus, should stay up for all to see.
Though there are a variety of ways to engage with the #WomenBoycottTwitter or #WOCAffirmation demonstrations, one would hope that it's painfully obvious to Twitter that things are going very, very wrong on their platform.