The Web They Want: How a twitter wordsearch justifies internet censorship

Kit Knightly

Earlier this year the Guardian launched their new campaign – “The Web We Want”. It’s an agenda driven campaign to suppress free speech and protect the ancien media regime from the alt-news revolution, in the name of protecting ethnic minorities, female writers and the LGBT community from the all the hate that pours out of the privileged fingertips of all the white men on the internet.

We have written extensively on what the Guardian really means by “the web they want”. We know their statistics are a farce and can see through their editorial double talk.

Their place in a planned roll out of an idea is obvious, coinciding with political climbers from all parties making speeches attacking free speech in the name of freedom. Banning liberty because…won’t somebody please think of the children!

When the Guardian talks about “taking action” against internet abuse, we know what they mean. They mean censorship. There’s nothing more need be said. But this latest story cries out for a response.

Apparently by tracking the number of tweets that use the word “slut” or “whore” you can track the “huge scale” of social media misogyny. Yes, seriously:

The study monitored the use of the words “slut” and “whore” by UK Twitter users over three weeks from the end of April. It found that 6,500 individuals were targeted by 10,000 aggressive and misogynistic tweets in that period.

The study, conveniently published the day before Yvette Cooper launches here “Reclaim the Internet” movement, is rather vague on the details. We don’t know how they collected their data, or what their criteria for inclusion/exclusion were. Bearing that in mind we’re going to have to make some educated guesses: Since rough estimates put the number of twitter users in Britain at between 12 and 20 million people, 6,500 is roughly 1/2000th.

You have, apparently, a 1/2000 chance of being “targeted” by a tweet using the word slut or whore. Personally, that is a risk I am willing to take.

The study is not clear on how they select “aggressive” tweets, so we’ll have to assume they just collate all the tweets containing the word “slut” and/or “whore”. We don’t know how many of these uses are truly abusive – many may have been jokes – but it does not really matter.

Another interesting caveat:

…more than half of the offenders were women.

Yes. It seems women are the biggest misogynists of all. An interesting fact, buried in the article, made even more interesting with some context.

Firstly, women make up considerably less than half of the twitter users in the UK.

Less than half of the users, more than half the misogyny.

Secondly, over 1/3 twitter users in Britain are between 15-24.

With this context you can paint a rather more accurate picture – that the bulk of this “online misogyny” is made up of young women, aged 15-24, calling each other names (possibly in jest).

That this qualifies as a “study” at all is ludicrous, that the Guardian can try to peddle it as “shocking” is, frankly, laughable. The figures are meaningless.

Of course, this is the Guardian, so a poorly done, lazily explained statistical study must be followed by an editorial from whichever member of the Guardian’s insipid, pre-programmed writing staff happens to pull the day shift. Today it’s Polly Toynbee’s turn.

“Why we need a feminist internet”, the headline declares, “feminist” in this instance meaning “controlled”.

She paints a picture of a dank, dark internet. A squalid, David Fincher-directed world, full of unwashed slug-like life-forms crawling over each other in an effort to spread slime and shit to every corner of the civilised world. She has nothing new to say.

She repeats tired memes about free speech bullying “victims” into silence, about “trauma” and “safe spaces” and the “need to act.” She explains that women abusing each other on twitter is actually the fault of the Patriarchy, because female anger is all based on being unable to match the ideal woman presented in the media.

Like all Guardian editorials, you can discard the majority. It is designed to seed an idea, and can be reduced down to one key paragraph that pushes its agenda:

The internet has turned all discourse rougher, pushing politics and all views towards extremes. It can make individuals feel inadequate and vulnerable and let them lash out to express their own insecurities. As the Guardian’s the web we want project explores, it is in our hands to shape a civilising internet that serves us well, not one that tears civilisation apart.

There are important questions posed here: What does Toynbee mean by “our hands”? Who will this “reshaped” internet be “serving well”? What does “serves us well” mean? Does she really believe that teenaged name calling on twitter could “tear civilisation apart”? What does she really mean by “civilisation?”

To whom, or what, does a free internet REALLY pose a threat?

You’d be forgiven for reading “rougher” as slang for “more honest”, for reading “extreme” as “less controlled”. You might say the “individuals” it makes feel “inadequate”, are the workaday hacks who so consistently have their inaccurate agitprop ridiculed and corrected below the line.

With this paragraph, you get the feeling of an organism protecting itself, like watching a pillbug curl in upon itself. The above is a plea for compliance. They want permission to enact a policy that leaves the definitions of “rough discourse” (see: honesty) and “civilisation” (see: establishment) open for interpretation.

The repeated patterns and tired prose of the “web we want” sections have an increasing air of desperation. Again and again they wheel out the same faces to sell the same snake oil.

Rather like the pillbug, it seems the Guardian’s last line of defense is to stick its head up its ass.


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