March 02, 2015

Curt Schilling Declares War on Twitter Trolls Abusing His Daughter: After Curt Schilling announced that his daughter had been accepted to play softball in college, both he and his daughter were subjected to vicious sexual remarks by Twitter trolls. Schilling did some online sleuthing and found as many as he could. "She didn't do anything, she never said anything, yet she's now receiving personal messages with guys saying things to her, well let's just say I can't repeat and I'm getting beyond angry thinking about it," he writes.

posted by rcade to baseball at 05:23 PM - 17 comments

There's more details on the hunt for these trolls that Schilling unleashed.

I have mixed feelings about this. These trolls were engaging in a hostile, destructive act. Schilling is counting on the same impulses by asking the online mob to go after them. Is that act likely to do anything but feed the Twitter monster?

posted by rcade at 05:30 PM on March 02

Twitter trolls versus Twitter mobs... I have no idea who to root for.

posted by tron7 at 06:34 PM on March 02

Whoever wins, we all lose.

It would be nice to solve the problem of trolling and harassment technologically, rather than just encouraging more people in the muck as Schilling is doing.

This is to me the peril of the Internet: we have the same simian tribalism akin to the opening scene of "2001", but with a global reach and lack of social boundaries that turns people into turf warring gangs of unbounded hate that see no problem with escalating feuds to real-life levels.

posted by hincandenza at 06:56 PM on March 02

I have mixed feelings about this. These trolls were engaging in a hostile, destructive act. Schilling is counting on the same impulses by asking the online mob to go after them. Is that act likely to do anything but feed the Twitter monster?

Maybe I'm a little old school, but a couple of misogynist pigs spending a couple of weeks knowing what it's like to deal with guys like themselves is not the worst thing in the world. Women deal with fear, intimidation, and the threat of sexual violence which have real-world consequences for them every day. This is just desserts.

posted by dfleming at 08:54 PM on March 02

I don't think Schilling's point is to get a Twitter mob after them as much as it is to put a permanent record of their asshattery on the Internet that will stick to them thanks to the magic of Google. That's more harmful than dealing with a Twitter mob, and I'm all for it.

posted by TheQatarian at 08:56 PM on March 02

Pride goeth before a fool.

Seeing how much venomous backlash people got in the pre-internet era for their "My kid is an honor student at St. Presumption Academy", etc. bumper stickers, I don't know why anyone thinks it's a good idea to do something similar on twitter.

Especially if they're well known and controversial.

Why don't people like Schilling do what the Crawley family would do? Hire someone else to do your tweeting for you. From an address of their own, not yours.

"Big ups 2 Schillings - sending 'nother strong arm into battle at the next level..."

posted by beaverboard at 09:40 PM on March 02

Maybe I'm a little old school, but a couple of misogynist pigs spending a couple of weeks knowing what it's like to deal with guys like themselves is not the worst thing in the world.

Yes, his abusers will be shamed. One already has been suspended from college and another may have lost his job.

But if Schilling thinks repulsive Twitter behavior is a bad thing, how is it countering that to encourage repulsive Twitter behavior? He's not making the problem better, as much as he laments the trend in his blog post.

When he named his daughter's abusers and ended by identifying the Twitter accounts of two he could not name, he knew what would happen next -- those abusers would be found, doxxed and attacked as badly as his daughter was.

posted by rcade at 10:11 PM on March 02

The jerks who decided to spew the garbage on Schilling's daughter very likely presumed that their anonymity would protect them. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that Mr. Schilling is tech savvy enough that he was able to expose them for what they are. The nearest thing I can come up with is to have a couple of high school yoyos talking stink about your daughter while you are waiting around the corner of the hall for a teacher's conference. I'm fully in favor of Schilling's actions on this.

Perhaps the standard on the internet ought to be "would you dare to say these things to someone's face?" If by doing so you would be taking a serious risk of having your facial features permanently rearranged, it might be a good idea not to say what you are thinking.

Schilling included a bunch of links in his blog. I did not follow any of them, but the urls all led to stories about suicides that were due in some part to harassment on the internet. Having your daughter ripped on twitter, but being strong enough to survive is one thing. Having your teen age son or daughter take his or her own life because of the harassment is quite another. I really don't think Schilling was strong enough in his reaction.

posted by Howard_T at 11:12 PM on March 02

Oh I agree on the pursuing harassers legally, but it's the public "Let's shame people/get them fired" that bothers me. If their harassment rises to a criminal/civil level, the potential results- which might include loss of job in extreme cases due to legal sanctions that prevents them from working- can quietly be applied through our justice system, without public stockades and global shaming.

Actually, this article by Jon Ronson in the NYT recently says it better than I, by profiling a couple of high-profile cases of people being shamed, fired, and having their lives turned upside down in a supposed case of "Internet Justice". Yet the punishment doesn't remotely fit the crime of essentially "Saying something other people disagree with" or simply "A private joke that you didn't understand and was not meant to be public".

All this technology seems to just allowing people to delve into very childish forms of bullying and mob mentality- like a Mean Girls "Burn book" on a global scale, pissing away any concept of free speech or being able to live our own lives. Schilling already took advantage of Twitter handling the harassment complaint; why make it public, too, or name names?

posted by hincandenza at 01:23 AM on March 03

The jerks who decided to spew the garbage on Schilling's daughter very likely presumed that their anonymity would protect them.

The ones he caught first were not anonymous, so that's unlikely. Something else was at play in their reprehensible actions.

The default on Twitter of showing @ responses from everyone is part of the reason this kind of abuse is rampant. It is as if everything ever said about Curt Schilling anywhere could be heard by him. There should be ways to limit what you receive in your notifications.

It's no surprise that a female -- Schilling's daughter -- was the target of abuse. Women are being attacked on Twitter by trolls all day long. I enjoy Twitter, but it's getting a well-deserved rep for being a magnet for misogyny and threats of violence against women.

posted by rcade at 09:30 AM on March 03

But if Schilling thinks repulsive Twitter behavior is a bad thing, how is it countering that to encourage repulsive Twitter behavior? He's not making the problem better, as much as he laments the trend in his blog post.

What's his alternative option at this point? Ignoring trolls doesn't help, as much as people wax poetic about that option. A friend of mine who vocally speaks about feminism gets steady streams of hate mail. She never responds, but it doesn't stop coming in because she ignores it.

Further - her friends, who aren't even involved, get rape threats because they know her. Her mom gets letters with cut out magazine letters threatening her. It's affected her capacity to build real-life friendships and the people around her.

I don't think Curt Schilling has the capacity to change the norms of a social media platform of over 300 million people. So in the short term, he's doing what he can to ensure people stop talking about raping his daughter. Do you have a better option?

It's great to imagine a scenario where technology lets fathers ignore this stuff in the future, but this is today and he doesn't make decisions on Twitter's policies, can't develop technology that might limit what he/his daughter sees, or anything like that. Turning trolls on themselves seems like the only real way to make it stop in 2015.

posted by dfleming at 10:08 AM on March 03

What's his alternative option at this point?

He could have ignored them.

If he had to have justice, he could have pursued his abusers directly by complaining to their employers or colleges or perhaps even filing suit. He didn't have to call out a mob that he surely knows will display the same anonymity-fueled vile tendencies of his daughter's abusers.

A friend of mine who vocally speaks about feminism gets steady streams of hate mail. She never responds, but it doesn't stop coming in because she ignores it.

Your friend is smart. I've faced a few over-the-top abusive crazies, including one that went after me personally in some unbelievable ways because of a post on SportsFilter I (initially) refused to delete. There is nothing you can do in public that makes it better. You just feed the beast. They crave the negative response.

The best you can do is give them complete radio silence and hope they will move on to a target who is more fun to abuse. I teach my kids this. It isn't satisfying -- you want to rain hell down on them in public the way Schilling is doing -- but any normal person is never going to win a battle with a truly deranged Internet troll. They have all the time in the world and no reputation to worry about damaging.

Schilling and his family will likely be targeted forever by other trolls because of how he responded to this.

Turning trolls on themselves seems like the only real way to make it stop in 2015.

But do you honestly think Schilling's actions will make anything stop? At best a few of his trolls will vanish from social media. Maybe a few others will realize that posting sexual insults at a famous person's daughter isn't harmless fun. At worst somebody who just lost their job or college career, or somebody angry that happened, will escalate the situation.

As I said originally I have mixed feelings. Schilling did what a lot of people would want to do in that situation. But I don't think it helps.

posted by rcade at 10:47 AM on March 03

Twitter trolls versus Twitter mobs... I have no idea who to root for.

Agreed.

An ignorant social media posting requires no response. The damage to the poster's reputation is immediate and permanent by the post itself.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:50 PM on March 03

Schilling and his family will likely be targeted forever by other trolls because of how he responded to this.

I dis agree with the idea that the responsibility for further trolling is on him. He was already the target of rape threats, personally sent to him, because he showed a photo of his daughter and some pride in her accomplishments.

He's a famous pitcher who did a totally benign thing that resulted in some heinous shit coming his way. He's already in "targeted forever" territory.

But do you honestly think Schilling's actions will make anything stop? At best a few of his trolls will vanish from social media. Maybe a few others will realize that posting sexual insults at a famous person's daughter isn't harmless fun.

A few trolls stopping and realizing this is a best case scenario in 2015. The more we see trolls receiving consequences to their actions, the more likely it is that an argument outside of the sheer ethics of their behaviors stops them. It's like stealing - there's a mix of ethical and consequence-related reasons why people don't do it. Both are needed.

I for a long time was in the "stay silent" camp - but watching friends and their families get doxxed and threatened for things they said years ago shows that cowering to trolls doesn't stop them. You don't get to check in/check out anymore - once you're out there, you're there for life.

So it might be a blip in the aggregate to take a couple down, but I'm not thoroughly convinced there's an argument to be made that anything else is more impactful at this stage towards the goal of being a public figure and feeling safe. You can let them win and still spend your life in fear.

All the page views that came with this story are a chance to remind people that trolling has consequences to the end user, but also to the person doing it. That's worth something.

posted by dfleming at 12:55 PM on March 03

A few trolls stopping and realizing this is a best case scenario in 2015.

I don't think that's true. The level of abuse heaped on people is a function of Twitter's design decision to show all @ replies to everyone. It doesn't happen on Facebook, where the default is to only allow responses from friends unless you explicitly allow everyone to respond.

Most of the abuse we're talking about occurs on Twitter.

He's already in "targeted forever" territory.

There's a difference between being targeted briefly and being subjected to a relentless campaign like the one the female targets of GamerGate are experiencing.

posted by rcade at 01:51 PM on March 03

The level of abuse heaped on people is a function of Twitter's design decision to show all @ replies to everyone. It doesn't happen on Facebook, where the default is to only allow responses from friends unless you explicitly allow everyone to respond.

I agree this is on Twitter's design, but none of us control that and it doesn't help an acute situation. We can control whether or not we use that platform, but it's not like the end user in 2015 can do anything except silently take it or respond.

Also - there is lots of abuse happening on Facebook in groups, via Reddit/4chan, and elsewhere. They're on anonymous newspaper and YouTube comment sections. There are specific racist hellholes, MRA hellholes, anti-semite hellholes, and all kinds of forums for specific types of hate.

Twitter's one source but a single function on one platform isn't going to stop groups from festering on those other platforms. They're everywhere.

I totally understand the desire to just walk away. It's the same thing we tell our kids on how to deal with bullies at school. The latter is effective, in part because there were structures (principals, parents, disciplinary procedures, etc) in place that make it successful.

With internet harassment, there are none - local PDs are totally inadequate when it comes to responding to it, and even if they were better, there's just too much of it to police. The builders of these tools refuse to fundamentally deal with the problems they cause even for people who don't use them.

And silence has been proven repeatedly not to be enough for internet trolls, who often don't stop even after you're dead (I lived in the town where Rehtaeh Parsons occurred and met her father at an event - his stories of what he gets from anonymous sources even six months ago is incredible.) So I guess I've given up on the idea that there's value to a higher ground in this day and age, because it's certainly not making it any easier to be a public figure, particularly a female one.

posted by dfleming at 02:28 PM on March 03

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