Why I’m Blocking Twitter Ads For Women’s Rights

Oh look, Twitter have been making changes. As is usual with Twitter (and, let’s face it, many tech companies) the changes have, for some at least, made the site more annoying and clunky. But it isn’t the improvements that bother me, or indeed many people. We are troubled by the changes that never happened. I don’t mind adverts, for example. I accept that Twitter is a site that I use for free, and that it has to be paid for somehow, and that advertising is a way to do this. But that hasn’t stopped me blocking every single one.

I should take a moment to explain some things to people who don’t use Twitter. You can advertise on Twitter by ‘promoting’ your tweets, which means you can pay to have your tweets appear in the feeds of people who don’t follow you. I assume there is a sliding scale of payments and some sort of algorithm involved but it could all be settled at the whim of a half cut donkey for all I know. The other thing you need to know is that, as I discovered recently, you can ‘block’ promoted tweets, which means nothing from this account will appear in your feed.

As I said, I had no issue with adverts on Twitter to pay for the provision of a decent service. But then it occurred to me that Twitter wasn’t providing a decent service. Like the time actor Leslie Jones was hounded off the site by abuse from people furious with her for being a black woman in the Ghostbusters film. Or the time MP Jess Phillips received rape threats after she wrote a Huffington Post blog about sexist bullying on Twitter. Or the time a man told singer Lilly Allen her miscarriage had been the result of the baby deciding not to be born, knowing what a terrible mother Lilly would be. I enjoy Twitter and get a lot out of it. I think more people could too, if only its users steered it in the right direction. The closest I can get to not paying for Twitter is refusing to be a recipient for the ads that pay for Twitter. So that’s what I do.

There are problems with this approach though. It occurred to me that none of the companies I was blocking would notice that I had blocked them. So I screen grabbed messages and tweeted the companies concerned, copying in the screengrab, to let them know that I would unblock them when Twitter became a safe space for female users.

Then I remembered that if you block someone they can’t see any of your tweets. I could be like Piers Morgan, of course, and set up a separate account to tell people I had blocked them. But that would mean being like Piers Morgan. I could use the ‘mute’ function of course which would mean I can’t see them but they can see me. But then I wouldn’t be able to engage with them about the subject and anyway it wouldn’t resolve the main problem. The main problem is of course: me. More exactly, it’s me and nobody else.

This whole thing won’t work if it’s just me. It might not work anyway, of course, but it will stand a better chance. Which is why I am writing this blog. What I need you to do, please, is join in. Start blocking people. Or muting them. Reply to this blog, or tweet me. Get other people involved, start using a hashtag. Maybe, if we try, we can be part of the process of pushing Twitter to do better.

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