April 29, 2013

Being Quoted Accurately is Not Harassment

Fran├žais : Some many tweets for the Communicat...
Some many tweets for the Communicating the Museum conference ! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have never used Storify, so it is entirely possible that what I am about to write is based on a misunderstanding of how it works. But I think I'm on track here and have at least a basic idea of what it does. Storify appears to be a web-based service one can use to compile bits of media from across the web to publish and share with others. I see it being used quite a bit in the online secular community to display Twitter conversations.

For reasons that escape me, some people seem to become extremely upset when someone else uses Storify to display their tweets, so much so that the person using Storify is accused of "harassment," "bullying," "stalking," or worse. I have seen many of these accusations from the Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ crowd, including some of the bloggers themselves, and I am sincerely puzzled as to what is going on here. I've seen posts in which my own tweets have been included in conversations posted via Storify, and I've never been remotely bothered by it. What am I missing?

The Elevatorgate blog regularly uses Storify and has compiled some truly fascinating reactions. If you take a look at this post, you'll see people suggesting that using Storify to display their tweets is "disgusting," might be illegal, might lead them to quit Twitter completely, constitutes "being twitter stalked," and so on. Really? How is sharing someone tweets even remotely objectionable? In this Storify post, someone complains to Storify about their tweets being used in this way (here's another one doing the same thing) and is told that they could always make their Twitter account private if they do not want anyone to see their tweets. Right, because public Twitter accounts are…well…public.

I am not writing this to defend Elevatorgate. Frankly, I think that using juvenile names like "Smellody" undermines much of what he or she does. Having said that, I cannot figure out what is so objectionable about Elevatorgate or anyone else using Storify to display someone's tweets. How is this any different than demanding that nobody ever quotes our public statements?

In this Storify post, we see Ophelia Benson herself tweeting:
If you don't want obsessive harassers storifying your tweets say in & day out, get off Twitter, we're told. False choice.
How does sharing your tweets with Storify come anywhere close to harassment? Nobody is misquoting you; what is being shared are your words! If someone retweets you, would you also characterize that as harassment? I have little doubt that harassment occurs in the secular community, but this isn't it. 

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