Being quiet on Twitter goes against the platform’s DNA — if you’re there, you’re there to make some noise — but that’s what many women and some men are doing today. The boycott, branded #WomenBoycottTwitter, began trending yesterday in response to Rose McGowan being temporarily locked out of her account. It will last for 24 hours, coincidentally, throughout the entirety of Friday the 13th, though some women are vowing to leave Twitter for good.
Since The New York Times and The New Yorker reported multiple allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harrassment, McGowan has been perhaps the strongest voice speaking out against the Hollywood heavyweight. Twitter has primarily been her soapbox, from which she has rallied women and men to take a stand against Weinstein and anyone who has sexually assaulted, abused, and harassed people. It's also where McGowan has alleged that Weinstein raped her.
Twitter explained it temporarily locked McGowan’s account because she breached one of the Twitter Rules prohibiting sharing of personal phone numbers. However, like many other forms of hashtag activism, #WomenBoycottTwitter speaks to so much more than this one, individual incident. It’s blends the political with the social: The movement is about showing unity with sexual assault survivors and expressing anger with what many see as inconsistencies in Twitter’s decisions to silence certain accounts, but not others.
Interpretations of #WomenBoycottTwitter vary. Some — including Refinery29, along with prominent actors, and women and men in tech — are taking the movement literally and signing off of Twitter for the day, using a branded yellow banner to announce their decision.
Actress Anna Paquin changed the photos on her profile to reflect the boycott, using #IStandWithRose as her profile image. She also called on men to speak out in unity:
Some are expressing solidarity with the movement's larger purpose, but are against signing off to make their voices heard.
Others have resurfaced Mark Zuckerberg's thoughts on the rival social platform, expressed in the 2013 book Hatching Twitter: “[Twitter is] such a mess, it’s as if they drove a clown car into a gold mine and fell in.”
Twitter has not provided any statement on the boycott, beyond three Tweets from the Twitter Safety account that were posted yesterday, explaining the reasoning behind McGowan's lock-out. There have been no posts in the past week from the Twitter Women account, which describes itself as "The official page for Women @Twitter. Our goal is to share content and resources to empower women to be leaders around the world."
Jack Dorsey, Twitter's CEO, retweeted the Twitter Support messaging, and has responded to a few complaints that Twitter "selectively" applies its Rules. Dorsey admits the company needs to do better:
Many of those who are participating in today's boycott will be back online this Saturday, October 14. The size and impact of today's Twitter protest is yet to be seen, but the reverberations of today's protest against both Twitter and perpetrators of sexual assault will be felt for a long time. The platform has received yet another signal that it needs to reckon with the way it handles sensitive and social issues. But hopefully, there's at least one thing it will be more careful about moving forward: Silencing women without offering an immediately clear reason why.