How to Get Blocked (and Not Blocked) by a CFI Twitter Account

January 17, 2013

As there is a lot of heated back-and-forth going on within the skepto-atheosphere, Twitter has become perhaps the prime arena for arguments and debates. Not all of it is constructive, of course, and some of it is downright abusive, and it can be hard to know what crosses the line from criticism (well-meaning or otherwise) to raw hectoring or simply being hurtful.

As communications director for CFI, I am usually the person running the official CFI Twitter account (@center4inquiry), and other CFI related accounts are helmed by relevant staff. Lately, in the midst of the aforementioned heated back-and-forth, I've deemed a handful of Twitter users to have crossed the line from disagreement to abuse. And in a small number of cases, I've blocked them from interacting with the CFI account.

This has caused a little bit of consternation, as I have not been explicit as to what criteria I've been using to do so, and it's totally fair for folks to wonder what that is. Until recently, the criteria has been simply what I personally deem unacceptable. Discussing it with management, however, we've decided that we need to be more specific, and set out an official policy concerning conflict on Twitter. So that's what we did. And we even used Twitter-the-company's own rules as a starting point.

I want to be clear about something first. Blocking someone on Twitter is not a kind of censorship. No one is prevented from saying anything on Twitter if they're blocked. They are simply barred from direct interaction with the person who's blocked them, an opting-out of further contact. But it is a way of ending a discussion or argument, so it's a legitimate question as to what will get you blocked by CFI Twitter accounts.

Okay, so, we have the entire policy posted here, and it applies to all CFI Twitter accounts, be they of local branches, programs, campaigns, or what have you.

I'll give you TL;DR version of the policy here:

1) If you violate Twitter's own rules of conduct, by doing things like impersonating accounts, make threats, reveal someone's private information, or do other spammy things that Twitter itself would flag, you will be blocked. 

2) Additionally, if you make derogatory slurs about someone's race or sexual orientation or something like that, or if you persistently badger us, you will be blocked. 

Indeed, "block and ignore" is Twitter's own advice about handling this kind of thing.

But of course, we are the Center for Inquiry, and we want to use Twitter in a spirit that errs on the side of the free exchange of ideas, even if we, or I, don't like those ideas.

In this way, our policy is actually more lenient than what I had been doing on my own. For example, if a Twitter user had been bad-mouthing a CFI staff member just to get a rise out of us, I'd block them. Not to "censor" anyone, but to get the ugliness out of the Twitter feed that I see for so much of my day, to opt out of being a part of whatever exchange these tweets are attempting to generate. But that won't fly anymore under this new policy, and I'm just going to have to suck it up. I may still ignore those kinds of tweets, but they won't result in being blocked.

I don't think I was wrong to block those who I felt warranted it, but I'm also glad to have a firmer policy in place so I no longer have to wonder about it. 

Of course, there will be choices to be made as to what constitutes a violation of the policy, and everyone will have a different perspective, but it's certainly a much clearer way of going about the use of Twitter in this tumultuous environment.   

And it probably doesn't need to be said, but just in case, problematic Twitter exchanges are by far the exception. The vast, vast majority of the interactions I have on Twitter running the CFI account are positive and informative, and I'm very glad we're so heavily engaged in this platform.

That's all. Go back to your tweets. 

Comments:

#51 A Hermit on Friday January 18, 2013 at 2:56pm

“... I said nothing about the “deal” Ophelia supposedly had with Wally…”

Yes you do have a tendency to leave out important details, like those pesky facts and stuff…LMAO…

#52 Matti Sironen (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 2:56pm

They are beneath contempt. This is TRULY not the skepticism/inquiry you were looking for!

#53 Pitchguest (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 2:58pm

Google “Melody Hensley Mykeru”, it’s the first result.

She made it with her account that says this, “CFI-DC ED” although only recently added the annotation “tweets not endorsed by CFI”.

Still, it doesn’t say the policy applies to only official CFI twitter accounts but to all of them and this was an implicit threat, if any. She and Greg Laden should therefore, under the policy outlined by Paul Fidalgo, be blocked from the official CFI twitter account. It’s only fair. I’ve seen Paul’s twitter feed, I know he’s seen the comments. Time will tell if the communications director for CFI is a man or a mouse.

#54 A Hermit on Friday January 18, 2013 at 3:01pm

Matti, free speech does not include the right to anyone’s attention; that’s the point here. If I don’t want to share my thoughts with you, or be pestered by your comments I have every right to block you on Twitter. Blocking someone on Twitter in no way violates their free speech.

On the other hand it could be reasonably argued that demanding that someone be forced to listen to you does violate their right to freedom of association…

#55 Pitchguest (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 3:09pm

A Hermit: Indeed. Well, you can’t fault a man for trying to offer you information. It’s not my fault you rejected it outright.

Anyway, my objection has been solely to her outing someone - not of the supposed pact they had. Did she not hold Wally’s information as a bargaining chip? Pretty low. If the principle of Benson is to never drop someone’s docs, like the indignation she had with Justin Vacula allegedly dropping Surly’s docs, it doesn’t follow that she thinks she’s “allowed” to do so only because her supervisor approved it. I couldn’t give a rats ass. You don’t drop someone’s docs. You don’t drop them on a whim. You don’t keep someone’s docs on standby in case they should say something. Seriously. What the fuck. And before you respond, don’t ask why I’m not saying this on her blog, A Hermit. My face just can’t take it. (I guess you can say I’m “saving face” - ha, ha, ha . . . no, but seriously, don’t do it.)

#56 Pitchguest (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 3:09pm

That should be “only because WALLY’s supervisor approved it.”

#57 Pitchguest (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 3:30pm

A Hermit: *crickets* Anytime now, sonny boy.

#58 Jafafa Hots (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 4:23pm

Bizarre.
Does Pitchguest really think they are helping their cause, and not just providing ample evidence of the justification for CFI’s policy?

#59 oolon on Friday January 18, 2013 at 4:29pm

Yup, he really is this delusional.

#60 stakkalee on Friday January 18, 2013 at 4:35pm

Pitchguest, Googling that link I see that Melody admits to knowing Mykeru’s name and location, but I see no threat to contact any employer, implicit or otherwise; can you point to something specific?  Also, a Google cache of Melody’s Twitter page shows that the disclaimer existed as of January 10th, but the conversations with Mykeru occurred on January 5th.  Can you offer any proof that the disclaimer was added between the 5th and the 10th?  But beyond that, the CFI policy specifically excludes personal accounts as per the last paragraph of the linked policy.  The only caveat is that the personal account follow the main Twitter Code of Conduct, which again, only covers direct, specific threats of violence.

#61 Pitchguest (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 5:06pm

Stakkalint:

You’re joking, right?

“It’s not the government. You know something about the government, don’t you? I don’t want to get them involved. Just stop.”

Mykeru works for the government. With that tweet, you can tell Melody *knows* he works for the government. She knows his name and where he works and she is making an implicit threat that he fall in line or face the consequences. She started the altercation, she played the victim when he responded. It’s all there. “You know something about the government, don’t you?” Hint, hint. Don’t play dumb.

As for the recent annotation on her twitter account, I don’t have it on hand but there’s documentation when she changed it. Let me find it. It was recent in any event, a month or two ago tops.

Melody Hensley is ED for CFI-DC and therefore should be held to higher scrutiny than others, in which case her indirect threat to contact someone’s employers if they didn’t do as she said (that is, to “stop”) shouldn’t be ignored. I sure as hell wouldn’t want her as a representative in my district.

Turd: Says the person who claim I’m delusional for believing “sacha” on the Slymepit’s last name is Ivanoff, but eager to take the word of PZ Myers and company that it is not and that franc hoggle’s real name is, in fact, Victor Ivanoff.

Why don’t you ask the conference organisers where Rebecca Watson spoke about her real name - since they know her, and let her in despite Watson’s attempt to prevent her entry?

Furthermore, isn’t it amusing that Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers, et al. keep on calling him Victor Ivanoff when they don’t even know themselves? Funny, isn’t it? And that you, apparently, have taken that bait hook, line and sinker, turd, without even a smidgeon of scepticism? Your problem, Chester, is that you believe things in a heartbeat. But then you didn’t sound like you had a spine on the podcast.

#62 oolon on Friday January 18, 2013 at 5:21pm

Who feels sorry for Mykeru? His whole shtick on the internet is to act tough and threaten people with violence in order to get a rise out of them. Look at his blog on the wayback machine, he has been doing it for years and not learnt a new trick yet. The information Melody has is presumably what I found out - he has threatened his way into a lot of peoples bad books. I don’t know why they haven’t contacted his employer, seems reasonable to know that your employee threatens ppl on the internet that he will hunt them down and ice pick them in the head.

PitchGuest the difference is I follow the evidence until shown otherwise. Franc being Ivanoff is most likely true from multiple sources of evidence including Franc’s own words, you believe him with no evidence. Sacha has a business registered in her name for years, that name is not Ivanoff. Its for her to tell you what it is given your Google-fu is lacking. So your scepticism is a joke… Much like your obsession with Ophelia and the other FtB’ers.

#63 stakkalee on Friday January 18, 2013 at 5:27pm

Stakkalint?  Really?  So we’re at the point of the conversation where you start flailing and making fun of people’s names?  And that was the best you could do?  Disappointing.  But ok then, Boy Wonder, we’ll play it that way.  I didn’t know Mykeru works for the government.  You seem to act like it’s an open secret, as if I should have known that.  When did you learn that information?  Did Mykeru reveal it to you?  Before or after the conversation with Melody?  Did he do so on a publicly accessible website?  How many other people has he revealed this information to?

#64 oolon on Friday January 18, 2013 at 6:16pm

FYI Mykerus balls about Melody ‘threatening’ him…

https://twitter.com/Mykeru/status/287676556132892672

Given his whole aim is to get ‘threatened’ by being a macho git himself I’m not impressed. Also the tweet mentioning “The Government” from Melody was clearly referring to a valid threat to report him for his behaviour online. She has that right.

#65 Pitchguest (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 6:32pm

Look here, stakkalakkingcommonsense:

The name changing is just idle banter and doesn’t really mean anything. If you’re upset with it, I’ll change it back, no prob. Anyway, once again I have to ask if you are are joking. Are you joking?

The stab from Melody about Mykeru knowing something about the government is obviously because she knows he works for the government. Yes, he told us he works for the government after she tweeted that only to let us know that, yes, Melody is being quite the sneaky little rascal and clearly isn’t afraid to imply implicitly she might or might not contact his employers should he act out of turn.

I mean, really. “I don’t want to get them involved.” What is that supposed to mean? What does she mean by that?

The timeline of events was he revealed it to us *after*, not before. I don’t know if he has it posted somewhere else. Still, I’m not sure I like the implication of whether he would or not, tucked away somewhere, considering the backlash of Surly Amy’s address being briefly posted on the ‘pit became a rallying cry to denounce Justin Vacula and to assert it was posted there as an act of aggression. So it would be fucking stupid to make a case for when it’s fine for Melody to do so, and/or Ophelia Benson as with Wally Smith, when the issue is doc-dropping in general.

Turd: I’m sorry, but what on earth does it matter if I feel sorry for Mykeru or not, you unethical minstrel? The subject was to the issue on doc-dropping, no? In which case, because I don’t feel sorry for you, slimy, should I then make plans to out you should I require the documentation to do so? The answer is no. Dick. Because I don’t drop people’s docs. And if you say, “what about Brownian?” then you’re just being dishonest. Brownian was goading people, calling them stupid, and practically inviting them to find out his name. Which in the end wasn’t hard, since he’d plastered it all over Facebook, Twitter and AtheistNexus among others (and other places, too, I’m sure). If he sticks to the story about the Slymepit “doxxing” him, he’s an idiot.

And oolon, you incomprehensible nitwit. I don’t care about Sacha. If her name is Ivanoff, fine. If her name isn’t Ivanoff, I don’t give a shit. The fact remains that there is no evidence for franc’s real identity and that you stick to your guns about PZ Myers being *right* about it—and apparently both franc and sacha being wrong (as if they would lie about being doxxed)—is just plain idiocy on your part. The evidence for the name? Zilch. The evidence for the picture being franc? Zilch. They and you cling to it like fucking ideologues. I don’t get it. It’s this, “rape culture” and “the patriarchy.” Jesus Christ, turd. Get a grip.

#66 Pitchguest (Guest) on Friday January 18, 2013 at 6:39pm

Oolon, stop squirming. I know you have no spine, but even I think it’s beyond you.

Also the tweet mentioning “The Government” from Melody was clearly referring to a valid threat to report him for his behaviour online.

So you’re a mindreader now, are you? And what behaviour would that be? Responding to threats about contacting his employers? (His employers being the government.) Piss off.

#67 stakkalee on Friday January 18, 2013 at 7:22pm

Oh, well if it’s just idle banter then go right ahead.  The important thing is that you’re amusing yourself.  The thing is Speedy, Melody’s tweet A) wasn’t direct, B) wasn’t specific, and C)wasn’t violent.  And given that Mykeru then revealed the information regarding his employment to you and the rest of the Titans we can reasonably conclude that D)it wasn’t confidential information either.  So you can stamp your little foot all you want and make your demands that Paul PAY ATTENTION TO YOU DAMMIT, but you already know the tweet didn’t violate CFI’s policy.  So why keep bringing it up?

#68 A Hermit on Friday January 18, 2013 at 8:01pm

<blockquote>A Hermit: *crickets* Anytime now, sonny boy. </blockquote\>

You’ll have to excuse me Pitchguest, we grownups do this thing called “work” which means we can’t always jump to pay attention to every whine and whimper emanating from your self important corner of Mom’s basement.

You’re ignoring a whole mountain of facts and context to gin up some phony outrage here…

Answer my question; How should Benson have dealt with Wally the internet stalker?

#69 SimonSays on Saturday January 19, 2013 at 8:34am

Note to mod:

Previous comment #69 was actually by me and not my wife. Computer was left with her logged in accidentally and I just noticed this now. Apologies for the confusion. Here is the comment again, but made under my account/name:

—————-

Pitchguest #53:

Still, it doesn’t say the policy applies to only official CFI twitter accounts

Wrong. Read the policy: http://centerforinquiry.net/pages/twitter_policy

Note that this policy applies to official CFI accounts. Some staff have personal Twitter accounts, which they are free to utilize in any manner that is lawful and consistent with Twitter’s policies and CFI’s personnel policies.

#70 A Hermit on Saturday January 19, 2013 at 8:59am

<blockquote>Brownian was goading people, calling them stupid, and practically inviting them to find out his name. Which in the end wasn’t hard, since he’d plastered it all over Facebook, Twitter and AtheistNexus among others (and other places, too, I’m sure). If he sticks to the story about the Slymepit “doxxing” him, he’s an idiot.<blockquote>

In other words it’s OK when it’s doe to someone you don;t like, but not OK to do it to a serial harasser, online stalker and sock puppet artist who has been warned by his employer to stop doing what he;s doing, agrees to stop and violates that agreement to continue his harassment.

Double standards much?

And I hope you’re not saying it’s OK if someone happens to leave their real name out there somewhere, perhaps inadvertently. It’s easy to do…

#71 Franc Hoggle on Sunday January 20, 2013 at 4:01am

No hint of an answer to the original question. Why are people that point out the practice of scapegoating - specifically that of Russell Blackford by Ron Lindsay - being blocked? Several accounts were blocked specifically for tweeting a blogpost outlining this practice of scapegoating. Lindsay’s actions sought to create an illusion that CFI is doing something about the “secular shunning” that he wrote of - when it completely ignores genuine instances of it consistently. Why was Blackford singled out for derision when so many other blatant examples exist? And why are people that point this out being blocked? The OP is just waffle that means nothing - just another distraction. How are people supposed to have confidence in CFI?
http://wp.me/p1hBgT-27A

#72 Kalim (Guest) on Monday January 21, 2013 at 7:33pm

Isn’t CFI involved in and promoting something called “Campaign for Free Expression”?  How does blocking some one fit in with this, at least nobel sounding, concept? Or is there some orthodoxy which CFI now wants everyone to follow? Sadly, I must say that the so-called leaders of the “free"thought movement have proved to be a great disappointment and not worthy of our support, either moral or financial any longer.

#73 A Hermit on Monday January 21, 2013 at 9:06pm

Isn’t CFI involved in and promoting something called “Campaign for Free Expression”?  How does blocking some one fit in with this, at least nobel sounding, concept?

Well if you had been following the conversation you might have come across the argument that freedom of expression does NOT obligate anyone to pay attention to your expression.

Blocking someone on Twitter (which is what we’re talking about here) is like hanging up on a telemarketer; they have the right to call you, they don’t have a right to compel you to listen or to talk to them.

It takes an enormous sense of entitlement to think that someone not being interested in having a conversation with you is somehow violating your rights…

#74 Kalim (Guest) on Monday January 21, 2013 at 9:57pm

Did I mention anything about rights? Or entitlement?

Also, Twitter is not like a telephone line, but more like an electronic public square. You can of course shut out the hecklers around your soapbox, but the public square still remains just that.

The larger question, though, still remains. If CFI supports any expression, however odious to large segments of the human population, then how does it jive with this blocking of some PITAs?

#75 A Hermit on Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 9:51am

Did I mention anything about rights? Or entitlement?

Free expression is a right. Entitlement is what your claiming when you demand that people pay attention to everything you might feel like blurting out on Twitter…

Also, Twitter is not like a telephone line, but more like an electronic public square. You can of course shut out the hecklers around your soapbox, but the public square still remains just that.

Twitter is a communications tool for staying in touch with friends and like minded people. You don’t have some unrestricted right to view or comment on other people’s communications.

The larger question, though, still remains. If CFI supports any expression, however odious to large segments of the human population, then how does it jive with this blocking of some PITAs?

CFI isn’t taking away anyone’s right or ability to be a pain in the ass. They are still free to have twitter accounts and blogs and comment elsewhere. CFI isn’t obligated to assist them in their PITA behaviour. Why should they?

#76 Oliver (Guest) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 8:13pm

Disagreement is not harassment. If I say, as a skeptic who has looked at the evidence; I don’t believe that Western women are living under the yolk of patriarchal oppression and that the West is in the grips of a rape culture! I am accused of misogyny, enabling rape and if I dare to defend myself against such scurrilous accusations I am then blocked or banned for harassment.

That is the behavior of creationists, fundamentalists and cult members not free thinkers and skeptics. Please open your mind to dissent from feminist ideology.

#77 A Hermit on Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 8:24pm

Oh stop whining Oliver; you turn up in a post about gang rape and try to make it all about how talking about rape hurts your feelings.

You’re a relentless, derailing, disrespectful troll; that’s why you get kicked out…not for “disagreeing…”

#78 Kalim (Guest) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 8:28pm

#76 Oliver: The message from CFI is very clear. It does not matter what the evidence is, as long as a select group calls you misogynist and rape apologist. Once you have been thus blessed, then they are not “interested in having a conversation with you”. It takes an enormous sense of entitlement for you think someone is violating your rights.

One must admit that this is a good argument. This argument is okay if we use it, but not if creationists, fundamentalists and cult members.

#79 A Hermit on Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 9:09pm

Yes Kalim, CFI’s message is quite clear; here it is again, since you apparently didn’t bother to actually read the post:

1) If you violate Twitter’s own rules of conduct, by doing things like impersonating accounts, make threats, reveal someone’s private information, or do other spammy things that Twitter itself would flag, you will be blocked.

2) Additionally, if you make derogatory slurs about someone’s race or sexual orientation or something like that, or if you persistently badger us, you will be blocked. 

Actually sounds pretty reasonable…

#80 Oliver (Guest) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 12:25am

You got the wrong Oliver Hermit. I haven’t been involved any any threads about gang rape, typical radfem tactic. Ad hominen attack, accuse someone who disagrees with you of an offence committed elsewhere and write their point off as the ramblings of a nutter. Play the ball not the man.

#81 Oliver (Guest) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 12:36am

Indeed, that seems to be the logic Kalim.

#82 oolon on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 1:38am

Oliver, why should anyone accept you popping up to opine that the social sciences are all wrong and only you know the truth? You liken feminists to a “cult” and “creationists”, well I could liken you to a science denialist. How about you read up on the science conducted in this field and produce a cogent argument rather than “rape culture, nuh-uh”...

Not here BTW. Here is a link to get you started on rape culture.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7373511
While you are at it why not look up stereotype threat.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103198913737

I suspect your wilful ignorance and insistence on your point of view being the truth is probably what got you those accusations.

#83 Oliver (Guest) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 2:17am

Well you have straight away proven yourself to be ignorant. Feminism isn’t scientific; right or wrong it is a political ideology. I happen to think it is wrong, you think it is right but there is a debate to be had. Instead of having that debate you guys run screaming from the room calling us rape supporters and misogynists. Feminist theory is to science what Communism is to science. No wonder you guys act like zealots when people disagree. Thanks for the explanation.

#84 Oliver (Guest) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 3:47am

oolon I have never been a member of either of those forums or posted on those threads. There is more than one Oliver on the planet.

#85 Oliver (Guest) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 3:50am

Congo has a rape culture, the UK, the US and Western Europe do not. To pretend that “rape culture” is some kind of scientifically accepted fact is extreme ignorance.

#86 oolon on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 4:06am

Hehe nice one Oliver, did you actually read even the summary of the link I sent? The definition of rape culture is a society where rape is common (3% to 12% across many studies in the US) ... The next requirement is the spreading of stereotypes and myths that excuse rape and act to discourage reporting. That paper covers that and shows clearly it exists in western society. Steubenville shows it exists in the US.

You make a massive error in admitting rape culture exists, say it is not scientifically accepted, then point to the worst example of it. Just because there is a place that fits the extremes of a concept doesn’t mean only that example fits it. It certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, you just undermined your own argument. You also provide not even a shred of evidence for your assertion that although it exists somewhere it doesn’t exist in our culture. So that is probably why you are called a misogynist and rape apologist, you do a pretty good impression of one with your wilful ignorance on the subject.

#87 A Hermit on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 7:01am

You got the wrong Oliver Hermit. I haven’t been involved any any threads about gang rape

Yes you have Crangle; I recognize the pompous writing style. http://freethoughtblogs.com/taslima/2013/01/05/men-are-the-same-everywhere/#comment-52348

A post about the gang rape in Steubeville, making the point that it doesn’t just happen in places like India and Oliver’s big concern is that talking about this might make men look bad…

Play the ball not the man.

Take your own advice; just as you did in that rape thread you come in here and start accusing CFI of stifling dissent and threatening to block people simply for disagreeing when of course they haven’t said, or done, anything of the kind…

#88 oolon on Wednesday January 23, 2013 at 7:17am

Ugh, OliverCrangle… Why did I bother replying.

#89 Oliver (Guest) on Thursday January 24, 2013 at 8:19pm

You don’t recognise anything.

My name is not and never has been OliverCrangle but two can play this game.

Oolon you are the same Oolon who is well known for apologising for the slave trade on KKK forums. I can tell by your malignant pomposity and this means everything you say can be dismissed as the ranting of a sadistic racist bully. 

A Hermit you are the same A Hermit who writes holocaust denial screeds on Stormfront I can tell by your hateful tone, this means anything you say can be dismissed as the ramblings of a Neo Nazi blowhard.

Don’t either of you try to deny it, your writing styles are too similar to that which can be found on these racist websites and anyway everyone knows that on the internet; once you have been accused it’s done and dusted.

No one should take such disgusting bigots seriously.

You pretend to be nice and liberal but your posting elsewhere on the web is ample evidence that you are both terrible people.

This means I am right and you are wrong.

#90 kaboobie (Guest) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 at 10:03am

Would the twitter account @SecularWomyn, which uses the CFI logo, be considered in violation of CFI’s Twitter policy?

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