Dear Twitter

I’ll admit I was skeptical of you at first. I used to call you Twatter. I thought all you were about was slebs tweeting PR friendly snippets of a carefully constructed life to their sycophantic fans.

Now I know better. I have embraced all that you have to offer. It is like having the best bits of the Internet delivered to me personally. I love following people with whom I have shared interests, and some people with whom I have nothing in common. Some people are clever, and some are just damn funny. Twitter is the first place I turn to in the morning for news and activity. I share my news and my grumbles, and rejoice in the joy visited on people who I have never met. I have found help and advice on varying topics such as Excel, parenting and baking bread. Yes, my conversion has been complete.

But Twitter, I feel our relationship may be coming to an end. Oh, it’s not because of the inane Twitter parties, or the fascist, racist and homophobic comments. I understand this is the price we pay for free speech. No, the straw that is slowly floating down to rest atop the overloaded camel is the frequent pornographic avatar photos that bombard my connections page.

On a weekly and sometimes daily basis I am faced with lewd pictures of people who are following me. These pictures are generally close ups of men’s penises. Occasionally the penis is penetrating a woman, her vulva unnaturally stripped of any hair.Other images have shown painful looking piercings, and varying degrees of flaccidity and closeness.

I’ll admit my curiosity was marginally peaked by the man who’s penis was fully tattooed in green and designed to resemble a dragon. You’ve got to admit that sort of dedication to the cause.

Today’s monstrosity was a woman who’s bucks had been stretched apart and clamped, exposing the intricacies of her reproductive organ. I’m not sure if I am supposed to feel aroused or threatened by this image. Either way, I can’t understand why these people think I am their target market.

I’m am unsure what the point is behind these images and the accounts they are linked to. I dare not investigate them in too much detail. But I am telling you here and now Twitter – I DO NOT WANT TO SEE THEM. Obviously I don’t even want them to exist, but there is little I can personally do about that. We live in a patriarchal culture where misogyny abounds, and certain men brandish their penis as a weapon, caring little, and perhaps even relishing in the damage it causes.

I am not a prude, and I refuse to engage with anyone who even thinks that puritanism has anything to do with this. This is about these sickening images being thrust upon my personal account without my consent. These images, once seen, cannot be unseen, and though I block and report them, for a time they remain on my connections page, strangers’ cocks just winking at me malevolently.

Twitter, this is your patch, your application, what are you going to do about it? I am a 31 year old women, and while these images sicken me, I’m mature enough that my disgust comes mainly from what these images represent than what they are. But what if it was a teenager or young adult seeing these images? What messages are they going to take from the freely distributed pictures of parts of the body that should remain private between intimates? What is the impact of the normalisation of images of women’s shorn pubic areas, being violated by various objects?

I don’t know how it can be stopped, but then I don’t own a massively successful social networking application. I’m assuming that within the technologically skilled Twitter HQ there are people who could come up with some sort of filtering a mechanism to screen out pornographic images. Twitter, please do something about it, even if it not from fear of losing one lowly user, but out of a sense of social and moral responsibility.

18 thoughts on “Dear Twitter

  1. Dilly!

    Firstly, thank you for the laughs, I cannot take penises seriously, and the men who do are rather inviting ridicule. My launch into images of dicks was brought about by asking my Dad to buy me a how-to book on life drawing as a teenager, in readiness for art school,. He unwittingly ordered the wrong one from the shop, which turned out to be pencil sketched close ups of all the men the author had slept with (lots!) I ended up burning the bloody thing! I can laugh about it now. (Just about)

    Secondly, dump all those porn riddled followers and go to your Twitter account settings, untick the box saying “Display media that may contain sensitive content” (they don’t mean baby booties). You can also choose to tick ‘Protect my tweets’ so that ” only those you approve will receive your Tweets. Your future Tweets will not be available publicly. Tweets posted previously may still be publicly visible in some places.” and you can make your twitter account searchable by email. I’ve never seen porn on Twitter, that’s how I’ve set my account. hth.

  2. Dilly!

    Firstly, thank you for the laughs, I cannot take penises seriously, and the men who do are rather inviting ridicule. My launch into images of dicks was brought about by asking my Dad to buy me a how-to book on life drawing as a teenager, in readiness for art school,. He unwittingly ordered the wrong one from the shop, which turned out to be pencil sketched close ups of all the men the author had slept with (lots!) I ended up burning the bloody thing! I can laugh about it now. (Just about)
    Secondly, dump all those porn riddled followers and go to your Twitter account settings, untick the box saying “Display media that may contain sensitive content” (they don’t mean baby booties). You can also choose to tick ‘Protect my tweets’ so that ” only those you approve will receive your Tweets. Your future Tweets will not be available publicly. Tweets posted previously may still be publicly visible in some places.” and you can make your twitter account searchable by email. I’ve never seen porn on Twitter, that’s how I’ve set my account. hth.

  3. “strangers cocks just winking at me malevolently”

    This really made me laugh! Thanks for the giggles but on a serious note, I agree, the images should be more censored

  4. Thank you for mentioning this. I was wondering why I hadn’t come across this before (not that
    I especially want to you understand!) It seems I have been good with my settings, although I think that’s more luck than judgement

  5. Oh Dilly, I nearly wrote a similar post a couple of weeks ago just on the homophobic stuff I’d seen on there (I work in sport) I reported it to twitter and they emailed me saying that ‘some people are more sensitive than others’ I emailed them back saying that I am not at all effing sensitive thank you it’s just offensive but it made no difference. I’ve had a few people follow me with their boobs out (mainly after I mentioned boobs) but nothing to the scale you mention which, quite frankly, would horrify me. I’m not a prude, I just find that kind of thing a bit vile and I certainly don’t want to see it over my cocopops. Do post if you find out how to fix it, it’s such a shame how some (misogynistic, scumbag, thicko) people have to spoil stuff for everyone else.

  6. I do wonder why some people get bombarded with this and others don’t. It’s the same with spammers… My husband is always moaning about twitter spammers but I hardly get any. Likewise I don’t get any pornographic avatars. I wonder what it is that makes some users more likely to be victims of this kind of thing that others?

  7. Blimey, I’ve been on twitter 3 and a half years and I’ve never had a follower with explicit avatar, the closest is your knitted breasts and someone in a bikini. I don’t check my followers all that closely so they may have appeared and been blocked before I realised. Like Emma I don’t get much spam apart from when my name was on a list being passed round beliebers😦 (block’n’report is was my friend then)

    [this is also my first comment on a blog on the actual web ever]

  8. I’ve had a bunch recently. They’re mostly spam users and/or follow based on the contents of your tweets – if you use an explicit word it’s likely to attract their attention.

    Technologically it’s virtually impossible for twitter to manually monitor every single avatar added. If you think about how many millions of users there are potentially updating their avatar at any one second, how many new users per day adding their avatars and so forth it quickly becomes clear that the cost to police this becomes ridiculously prohibitive. Not to mention issues with free speech, etc (one of the things I love about twitter v. facebook is that I don’t have to censor myself.)

    That said, as they clearly bother you, you can block the account as and when they appear and you will not see them again (in your timeline, connections, etc). On their profile page near the follow button, click the little silhouette icon, click Block. Alternatively, if they are spam, click the Report for spam button and the user will be reported and block automatically.

    Happy tweeting🙂

    1. I don’t expect Twitter to manually monitor them. I expect them to employ a filter of some kind.

      I do block and report them but that doesn’t stop me seeing the images in the first place & it is difficult to bleach your brain afterwards. Plus, even after blocking they remain in my connections page for a while.

  9. “The same porn filters used by ISPs, sites like google etc.”

    Ignoring the fact that ISPs and Google make ridiculous amounts of money and therefore have more tech at their disposal, you’re comparing apples and oranges. When you turn safesearch on at Google, it filters results based on known bad sites that it has indexed containing explicit content – i.e. words.

    Unless people are uploading their avatars called “my-green-dragon-penis.jpg” there’s not exactly anything to filter on.

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