Twitter announced yesterday that it would begin removing verification badges for famous tweeters that it does not
approve of. Not for what is tweeted, but for offline behaviour Twitter does not like.
The key phrase in Twitter's policy update is this one: Reasons for removal may reflect behaviors on and off Twitter. Before yesterday, the rules explicitly applied only to behavior on Twitter. From now on, holders of verified badges will be held
accountable for their behavior in the real world as well. Twitter has promised further information about the new censorship policy in due course.
Many questions remain unanswered. What will the company's review consist of? How will it examine users' offline behavior? Will it simply respond to reports, or will it actively look for violations? Will it handle the work with its existing team,
or will it expand its trust and safety team?
Twitter has immediately rescinded blue tick verification from accounts belonging to far-right activists, including Jason Kessler, a US white supremacist, and Tommy Robinson, founder of the English Defence League.
The Runnymede Trust is a campaign group seeking racial equality in the UK. It describes
its approach as:
In order to effectively overcome racial inequality in our society, we believe that our democratic dialogue, policy, and practice, should all be based on reliable evidence from rigorous research and thorough analysis.
The group has just issued a report on a range of issues that it gathers together under the title of Islamophobia. It notes that the term has a wide range of meanings but proposes a new and more tightly defined pair of definitions:
Short definition: Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism.
Longer definition: Islamophobia is any distinction, exclusion, or restriction towards, or preference against, Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or
exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
It is interesting to consider the concept of massively changing the meaning of a word to suit the purposes of a political campaign group. The meaning of words belong to the people that use them, not to the dictates of a political campaign group.
Political correctness tries to impose a lot of 'correct' terms for people, or groups of people. But language has a lot of defences against unnatural imposition. Words can be intonated to add 'quotes' to imply ironic usage. Also out of place words
prompt the listener to ask 'why was that unexpected formal word being used'? What are they getting at?. Perhaps it could mean a telling off for previous wrong speak in the conversation, or perhaps it is a warning that PC sensitive issues
would be best avoided.
And of course if a formally imposed polite word eventually becomes the norm it loses the politeness of formality, and can then be used in a disparaging way, and so we have to start work evolving a new polite word.
So if political correctness demands that the word 'Islamophobia' is used as an accusation of racism, then surely the word will forever be used in quotes to show that people consider this an accusation too far. And of course it is not beyond
the wit of man to dream up a few new words to replace it, maybe even a more positive term meaning reasonable criticism of Islam.
Bosses of Knox College in Illinois have banned a student play in the name of political correctness. A few easily offended students had whinged about a performance of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, saying that it was too
white and racially insensitive.
Peter Bailley, a Knox College spokesman said that campus leaders are proud of the open dialog between our students and faculty.
The play, which is about a Chinese sex worker who seeks to do good deeds, drew complaints that it stereotypes Asian women and that it engages in whitewashing because whites would be cast in nonwhite roles.
The Knox Student newspaper editorial board calling the play racist and the department very white ... like many departments at Knox. The editorial continued:
The theatre department ... needs to acknowledge that they are coming from a place of privilege and prejudice. They need to listen to their students when they voice their concerns about not only the plays the department produces, but interactions
with insensitive faculty and problematic syllabi,
[I can now see where the US counter campaign is coming from with its posters proclaiming simply: It's OK to be white].
A Swedish daycare centre's trip to the local library in Borås took an unexpected turn recently and ended in a police report being filled over racial agitation.
According to GT, Expressen, the daycare children were listening to a CD of various Pippi Longstocking stories when another library user became 'offended' by the description of Pippi's father as a 'Negro king' and ludicrously filed a formal
complaint with police. It was noted that there were children of various ethnic backgrounds among the daycare group.
The head of the daycare institute, Marie Gerdin, described the incident as "sad" and said she had assumed that the library materials were appropriate for children.
After the police report was referred to the chancellor of justice, it was sensibly determined that there would be no further action.
The first four Pippi books were published between 1945 and 1948 and in addition to the description of Pippi's father as a "Negro king", the titular character is also at times referred to as a "Negro princess". The title was
earned in the originals when Pippi's father proved a hit amongst natives during an adventure in the South Seas. English translations have 'translated' the father's title to the 'fat white chief' and refer to Pippi as the 'fat white chief's
The former Labour deputy leader, Harriet Harman, recounted a joke on live TV as she complained she had been branded humourless for
objecting to offensive and hurtful material.
Now a Jewish advocacy group is demanding an apology for repeating the joke about the Holocaust an Andrew Neil's political chat show, This Week.
But Harman insisted that she recounted the joke in order to show that anti-Semitic humour was no laughing matter. During a debate on the limits of acceptable humour, Harman said:
I've long been accused of being a humourless feminist and I'll give you two examples that I protested about because they were offensive and hurtful. Two jokes. One was 'How do you get 100 Jews into a Mini? One in the driver's seat and 99 in the
ashtray'. That's not funny.
Cutting her short, Neil responded:
We'll stop with that one example.
As he turned to speak to another guest, the former Labour deputy leader attempted to interrupt in order to justify her decision to repeat the joke, only for Neil to tell her: Be quiet.
The broadcaster later explained his handling of the incident on Twitter, saying he was appalled and even a little bit upset by what she said.
And the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Simon Johnson, demanded an apology from Harman for what he termed a staggering error of judgment. I cannot recall being so disappointed in a politician, said Johnson.
Update: Complaints to Ofcom
6th November 2017
Ofcom announced that it received 26 complaints about violence in Gunpowder and inevitably these have been officially consigned to the wastepaper bin, nominally awaiting a first response from the BBC.
A new stage play in Manchester has cut lines about Myra Hindley being a true artist and a hero for fear of offending the
Derek Jarman's 1978 punk film Jubilee has been adapted for the Royal Exchange theatre.
In the film, a character named Amyl Nitrate used her opening speech to say Hindley instantly became my hero when she was 15. She also said Hindley was a true artist because she knew how to make her desires a reality, and dismissed those who
said her crimes were unimaginable because that showed the poverty of your imagination.
Director Chris Goode, who has adapted the script for its stage premiere, said the lines were in the original film to show how punks deliberately wanted to shock society and smash taboos.
He initially resisted requests to take out the reference to Hindley but was 'convinced' to do so by a member of the senior artistic leadership of the Royal Exchange on Saturday.
It seemed to me that if Derek [Jarman] could do that in 1977 that we must be able to do it 40 years on, he told BBC News. But after being 'convinced' he added:
I hadn't fully understood the way in which Myra Hindley as an icon and an idea has sort of become hotter over the intervening 40 years. That surprised me a little bit.
It's possible we could make a different decision about this if we were doing this run in London. And there will be a run in London, and I expect we'll have the conversation again. But for now in Manchester it feels like there's a
Students have taken aim at King's College London after it was revealed that the university was employing 'safe space marshals' to patrol events that could cause controversy.
A job advert on the university's student union website is offering £11.89 an hour for someone to patrol and monitor events which have been risk assessed as having potential for a Safe Space breech.
Jack Emsley, editor of The 1828, the Conservative Association Journal spoke about a political talk on Facebook:
Massive thanks to KCLSU for providing a fantastic safe space yesterday!
I know that without the five Safe Space Marshals working tirelessly, I definitely couldn't have listened to Jacob Rees-Mogg without having my feelings seriously hurt. Definitely not a waste of paper, manpower or our money!
A King's College London spokesman told the MailOnline:
Universities have a unique challenge to create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance can take place without fear of intimidation and within
the framework of the law.
The scheme, which enables monitors to eject attendees and even speakers, was launched in 2015, but has only just come to light now.
Toxicity marshals form an orderly queue for the job
If Blizzard wants Overwatch to be an inclusive shooter, it needs to deal with the game's toxic players.
Just two months after Overwatch's massive launch, Blizzard acknowledged that its game had a toxicity problem. Since Competitive has been live, we've been doing some under the hood tuning and tweaking on [the report function] to be more aggressive
about handling toxic behavior, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan said at the time. But [toxicity] is not just in Competitive Play. I think as the game ages a little bit, people's dark sides tend to come out a little bit more. 15 months later,
the company's attempts to address the situation have proved painfully slow and ultimately ineffectual.
Blizzard's most recent acknowledgement is a developer update video entitled Play Nice, Play Fair, which celebrated the release of player reporting on consoles, a feature that should have been present from the start. In the 15 months it took to
implement, more than 480,000 PC players were hit with disciplinary actions by Blizzard -- 340,000 of those the direct result of player reporting -- more than a thousand per day.
Toxicity is a nebulous term, but today it's a container for all the ways that other players can make a multiplayer game a miserable experience. It's hardly an issue unique to Overwatch, but the difference in this case is that from the start
Blizzard has consistently presented the game as the inclusive shooter. The game's diverse cast of characters, though certainly not perfect, seems to have succeeded in netting a wider audience than most FPSes -- twice as many women play it than the
genre average, for example. Yet it's these marginalized players who are most hurt by Blizzard's failure to stem the flow of bad behavior within its game.
It's important to remember that Blizzard has made more than $1 billion in profits from Overwatch alone. The company could, and should, spend money on a hiring a new set of employees for whom toxicity is a specific focus -- Riot established a team
of more than 30 scientists and social systems designers to focus on toxic League of Legends player behavior in 2012 -- or the sake of the players and other developers alike. There isn't a magic bullet for toxicity, but adding bodies to the task
does help. In any case, toxicity is a problem that shouldn't require the redirection of resources. It's a core issue of all modern competitive games that affects the entire Overwatch experience, and Blizzard should have dedicated resources to it
from the start.
Blizzard is in the position to dedicate effort and resources into experimenting with ways to make truly inclusive systems. Until the company is willing to shoulder that responsibility, its promises to welcome marginalised players are empty words.
Overwatch has long billed itself as an inclusive game. But one needs to play only a few rounds to discover that Blizzard has not succeeded in its intent to create a world where everyone is welcome.
Cultural appropriation experts on hand to give advice
The calendar indicates that Halloween is approaching, but thanks to social justice warriors, we have been made readily aware that the offensive holiday is near.
Northern Arizona University's Housing and Residence Life recently released the We're a Culture, Not a Costume poster campaign directed at students being inclusive and respecting all identities.
Indiana University is being proactive to shut down free speech by hosting a practice Halloween. Students attending Culture Not Costumes were provided four handouts explaining culture appropriation. According to one handout, cultural
appropriation is the taking of intellectual property, knowledge, and cultural expressions from someone else's culture without permission.
For those who did not attend the workshop, the University of Texas-Austin can provide assistance. In 2016, the university's Sorority and Fraternity Life, part of the Office of the Dean of Students, released an extensive checklist to determine if a
costume is culturally appropriate. Not surprisingly, the determination boils down to race, class, and gender. Students were encouraged to check with experts, not just about their costume for Halloween, but in regards to year-round potential
cultural appropriation. For UT, inappropriate costumes include cowboys, Indians, Hawaiian, tropical, gypsies, urban, trophy wives, rednecks, and Around the World, to name a few.
We have investigated 67 licensees in total who failed to respond to our information request by the required deadline, or who provided an incomplete response and we have published our findings on them in this bulletin.
Ofcom considers the breaches we have found to be serious and we will be engaging with these licensees on this matter. We will request diversity and equal opportunities information annually and if the breaches continue, we will consider the
imposition of statutory sanctions.
We have examined in detail the arrangements each licensee has in place to promote equal employment opportunities and training, in line with their licence conditions, and we will be contacting licensees we assess to have inadequate arrangements in
Monitoring of the radio industry
Ofcom has already started engaging with the radio industry to discuss equal opportunities and diversity and we will begin our monitoring of radio broadcasters shortly. Each licensee will be sent an information request, detailing exactly what
information we are collecting, when it is required and what action each licensee needs to take to comply with the request.
Further monitoring of the television and radio industry
We've committed to monitoring the broadcasting industry on an annual basis and publishing the results. Therefore, in 2018 we will be requesting, as a minimum, information on the same protected characteristics of gender, racial group, disability,
sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment. We are also very keen to understand the make-up of the industry in terms of additional characteristics such as social, geographic and educational
background, and we welcome feedback on how this can be measured and improved.
The Muslim Council of Britain has claimed that a Channel 4 documentary, in which a white woman is given the appearance of a Pakistani Muslim in order to experience public attitudes and Islamophobia, has caused deep offence. A spokesperson for the
The use of brownface and blackface has a long racist history and it is not surprising that it has caused deep offence amongst some communities. Had we been consulted, we would not have advised this approach.
We do, however, laud the apparent goals of the documentary -- to better understand the reality of Islamophobia, which has become socially accepted across broader society.
In a press release announcing the documentary, Channel 4 said it was an immersive programme that will explore what it's like to be a Muslim in Britain today and challenge some of the assumptions and prejudices that different communities in the UK
have about each other.
Fozia Khan, the documentary's executive producer, said the idea for the film came after the EU referendum and the rise in Islamophobia that followed. We saw divided communities, people living side by side but not mixing. We wanted to do something
bold, a kind of social experiment: to take someone with no exposure to the Muslim community and give her a really authentic experience.
My Week As a Muslim airs on Monday 23 October at 9pm on Channel 4.