Health

Twitter Under Pressure To Ban Blogger Who Posted Alleged UVA Rape Victim’s Name

CREDIT: AP Photo

Twitter users are calling on the social media company to jumpstart its new anti-harassment policies after a conservative blogger claims to have published the full name of the University of Virginia (UVA) student whose alleged gang rape has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

Charles Johnson, a reporter for GotNews, posted the full name of Jackie, whose account of her violent gang rape was featured in Rolling Stone, via Twitter and vowed to release more details if she didn’t confess to falsely reporting her rape. Johnson tweeted in response to a controversial Washington Post article that raised discrepancies in the victim’s story. Rolling Stone initially wrote in their apology that their trust in Jackie had been “misplaced,” but later changed the language to say the mistake was on the magazine, not Jackie.

Johnson’s comments were met with an immediate backlash and calls for Twitter to block or permanently ban Johnson’s account for being abusive.

But action isn’t coming soon enough for many Twitter users. As of publication, Johnson’s Twitter account was still active and Twitter has remained quiet on the issue.

A Twitter spokesman told ThinkProgress the company doesn’t “comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.”

Johnson has also falsely reported that police shooting victim Michael Brown had a criminal record and was also a source for a Daily Caller story claiming Robert Menendez (D-NJ) frequented Dominican prostitutes. The story later turned out to be a hoax.

Twitter suspended the blogger’s account after Johnson published the names and addresses of nurses in Dallas who contracted Ebola. And according to Twitter, posting the UVA victim’s name or other private details could warrant suspension.

“Accounts that post another person’s private and confidential information will be suspended temporarily or permanently,” the spokesman said. Twitter’s current policy does forbid releasing someone’s private information, but suspending or banning a reported account is not always guaranteed.

According to Twitter’s frequently asked questions:

“When we receive a complete and valid report that private information has been posted on Twitter, we’ll investigate the account and Tweets reported. We will review where, if anywhere, the information has been made publicly available before taking action on the account or Tweets. If the information reported was previously posted elsewhere on the Internet, it is not a violation of our policy and we will not take action.”

Twitter promised to revamp its online harassment policies after mounting criticism that it didn’t take online threats seriously.

But Twitter’s promised changes haven’t yet been put in effect. “I don’t think [Twitter has] rolled out the changes yet,” said Jaclyn Friedman, executive director for Women, Action, and the Media (WAM), which is partnering with the site to improve its online harassment policies. “They changed the form. But they haven’t changed what counts as harassment.”

Any changes, Friedman said, would be incremental and expected to come out in the coming weeks and beyond.

So far, WAM is working on a comprehensive harassment report for Twitter to illustrate the pervasiveness of online harassment. For example, like Jackie, transgender women have been targeted by users who publish their legal or former legal names, Friedman said.

“I hope this will inspire Twitter to respond to their users,” Friedman said. “Outing someone’s real name when they have taken great pains to keep it private should be against the rules.”