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Twitter has immediately rescinded blue tick verification from accounts belonging to far-right activists, including Jason Kessler, a US white supremacist, and Tommy Robinson, founder of the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
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.
A French model named Ines Rau has become the first openly transgender person to be named a Playboy Playmate in the 64-year history of
The 26-year-old will receive the title in in the November/December 2017 issue of Playboy where she takes part in a photo-spread and opens up in an interview about her transgender identity.
I wonder if it will be considered a 'micro aggression' if regular buyers decide to give this issue a miss? Does political correctness extend to being turned on by diverse genders? And will Playboy reveal the sales figures so that we may answer
If you are offended by this, you will be mercilessly mocked by everyone
outside of your safe space
Shakespeare contains gore and violence that might upset you, Cambridge University students have been warned.
The trigger warnings - red triangles with an exclamation mark - appeared on their English lecture timetables. Lectures including Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus contain discussion of sexual violence, sexual assault, the BBC's Newsnight
programme has learned.
Among those considered upsetting is a lecture on violence - which includes a discussion of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Sarah Kane's play Blasted . Alongside the warning symbol, students are told to expect discussion of sexual
violence and sexual assault.
It is not clear whether easily offended students are allowed to skip lectures, or to be excused from reading challenging books.
Cambridge University said the English faculty does not have a policy on trigger warnings, but added: Some lecturers indicate that some sensitive material will be covered in a lecture... this is entirely at the lecturer's own discretion and is in
no way indicative of a faculty-wide policy.
When Laura Moriarty decided she wanted to write American Heart , a dystopian novel for young adults about a future America in which Muslims are forcefully corralled into detention centers, she was aware that she should tread carefully. Her
protagonist is a white teenager, but one of her main characters, Sadaf, is a Muslim American immigrant from Iran. So she arranged for the book to be checked out by various minority group readers charged with spotting potentially problematic
depictions in the book.
None of this was enough to protect American Heart from becoming the subject of the latest skirmish in the increasingly contentious battle over representation and diversity in the world of young adult literature.
American Heart won't be published until January, but it has already attracted the ire of the fierce group of online readers that journalist Kat Rosenfield has referred to as culture cops. To them, it was an irredeemable problem that
Moriarty's novel, which was inspired in part by Huckleberry Finn, centers on a white teenager who gradually, too gradually, comes to terms with the racism around her. Eg a prominent review on Goodreads, begins, fuck your white savior
narratives ; the gist of other comments is that a white writer should not have tackled this story, and neither should a white character be the center of it.
The backlash escalated last week, when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a coveted starred review, which influences purchases by bookstores and libraries. Kirkus' anonymous reviewer called the book by turns terrifying, suspenseful,
thought-provoking, and touching, and praised its frighteningly believable setting of fear and violent nativism gone awry.
The lynch mob laid into the reviewer's 'wrong' opinion, and Kirkus responded by taking the review down pending 'reassessment'. A few days later Kirkus posted a revised, more critical version of the review, and stripped the book of its star.
Health professionals in England are to be told to ask patients aged 16 or over about their sexual orientation, under new NHS
NHS England said no-one would be forced to answer the question, but it seems that they will continue nag people at each visit until they answer the question. The guidance applies to doctors and nurses, as well as local councils responsible for
adult social care.
An NHS spokeswoman said the information would help NHS bodies comply with equality legislation by consistently collecting personal details of patients such as race, sex and sexual orientation. NHS England recommends health professionals - such as
GPs and nurses - ask about a person's sexual orientation at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists.
It is expected that sexual orientation monitoring will be in place across England by April 2019. Under the guidance, health professionals are to ask patients: Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?. The options
heterosexual or straight
gay or lesbian
other sexual orientation
Of course the NHS don't mention some of the dangers of reporting sexuality to NHS staff or by having sexuality recorded in a widely used database. There is still a certain community pressure in religious circles that being outed as gay is a very
dangerous proposition indeed. And if muslim terrorists get hold of lists of gay people it could be a matter of life and death. Perhaps in the future some right wing fascist party could get into power. They could print off yellow stars for people
directly from the database.