Techdirt's think tank, the Copia Institute, is working with the Trust & Safety Professional Association and its sister organization, the Trust & Safety Foundation, to produce an ongoing series of case studies about content moderation decisions. These case studies are presented in a neutral fashion, not aiming to criticize or applaud any particular decision, but to highlight the many different challenges that content moderators face and the tradeoffs they result in. Find more case studies here on Techdirt and on the TSF website.

Content Moderation Case Study: Time Warner Cable Doesn't Want Anyone To See Critical Parody (2013)

from the can-we-make-things-worse? dept

Summary: In 2013, two comedians named Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, who performed as ?The Good Liars,? got some attention for mocking a particular popular target of mockery: poor service from your broadband provider. For Selvig and Stiefler, their target was Time Warner Cable. In late March of that year, they released a video on YouTube in which they pretended to be Time Warner Cable employees interviewing people on the street about how TWC could make its service even worse.

To support the initial viral attention that the video was receiving, the two also set up a series of parody Time Warner Cable ?customer support? accounts that would respond — just like the real TWC customer support Twitter account — to people complaining about their service, again asking how they could make things worse.

However, just as the video was getting more momentum, the entire YouTube channel set up by Selvig and Stiefler was taken down, as were most of the fake Twitter accounts, even though they were all clearly labeled as parody accounts, and despite policies that said that parody was allowed on these services.

Time Warner Cable, in a statement to the Daily Dot, said that it had no problem with parodies of its service in general, but was opposed to parodies that used the name of its CEO:

?We?re a big company and so we?re not at all opposed to a good parody or satire,? Bobby Amirshahi, a TWC representative, told the Daily Dot. The two crossed the line, he said, by choosing ?Glenn Britt,? the company?s CEO, as their username. The issue was ?posting as though it was from the CEO, i.e. impersonation,? Amirshahi said. ?Otherwise, no action would be taken.?

TWC also convinced GoDaddy to remove the website that Selvig and Stiefler had used as a central hub for all of its TWC mockery, twcustomerservice.com.

Decisions to be made by YouTube/Twitter/GoDaddy:

  • Where do you draw the line regarding what is acceptable parody and unacceptable impersonation?
  • Is the use of TWC?s CEO enough to make it no longer acceptable?
  • Should there be different rules when the parody is about a large company rather than an individual?

Questions and policy implications to consider:

  • Parody and satire are often important ways to speak out against the powerful. Will clamping down on parodies in this manner suppress commentary and criticism?
  • Can rules against impersonation allow powerful individuals and companies to silence criticism?

Resolution: The various takedowns remained in place, and very little is left online of the Good Liars? campaign to mock Time Warner Cable. There was just one of the Twitter accounts @TWCCareNYC that was not removed and while the account is still live, none of the tweets remain.

Time Warner Cable itself no longer exists. Charter Communications bought Time Warner Cable in 2016 and has rebranded most former Time Warner Cable services under its ?Spectrum? brand name.

Originally posted to the Trust & Safety Foundation website.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: time warner cable, twitter

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Content Moderation Case Study: Time Warner Cable Doesn't Want Anyone To See Critical Parody (2013)”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
14 Comments

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'We're huge fans of parody... unless it's parody of us.'

Nothing confirms how supportive you are of parody by squashing any parody of you.

At the same time I suppose I can see why Time Warner might have freaked out, I mean even with the parody tag with treatment like that I imagine it would still be entirely reasonable for customers to think it was the real thing and TW had just stopped pretending that they actually gave a damn about their customers.

Sharur says:

Re: 'We're huge fans of parody... unless it's parody of us.'

On the other hand; I’m at least somewhat technically and social media literate, and the above twitter post (until you start to read the text) does look like its coming from TWC.They could "break the illusion" with, for example, a parody revealing @name, and still maintain all of the satire potential, at least in my book, without potentially confusing anyone (which is the main protection trademark is supposed to grant).

TWC’s has declared their line in the sand (truthful or not), is CEO impersonation (weather or not that’s a good line, they’re reaction is way over the top for that, I think, just flag the CEO "impersonating" content).

I’m not sure I’m on board with their line in the sand, but on face value, they have one that is not entirely unreasonable; just fake it with a message from "Glen Greedy, Chief Screwing-over-customers Officer" or something.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
15:43 Content Moderation Case Study: Facebook Struggles To Correctly Moderate The Word 'Hoe' (2021) (21)
15:32 Content Moderation Case Study: Linkedin Blocks Access To Journalist Profiles In China (2021) (1)
16:12 Content Moderation Case Studies: Snapchat Disables GIPHY Integration After Racist 'Sticker' Is Discovered (2018) (11)
15:30 Content Moderation Case Study: Tumblr's Approach To Adult Content (2013) (5)
15:41 Content Moderation Case Study: Twitter's Self-Deleting Tweets Feature Creates New Moderation Problems (2)
15:47 Content Moderation Case Studies: Coca Cola Realizes Custom Bottle Labels Involve Moderation Issues (2021) (14)
15:28 Content Moderation Case Study: Bing Search Results Erases Images Of 'Tank Man' On Anniversary Of Tiananmen Square Crackdown (2021) (33)
15:32 Content Moderation Case Study: Twitter Removes 'Verified' Badge In Response To Policy Violations (2017) (8)
15:36 Content Moderation Case Study: Spam "Hacks" in Among Us (2020) (4)
15:37 Content Moderation Case Study: YouTube Deals With Disturbing Content Disguised As Videos For Kids (2017) (11)
15:48 Content Moderation Case Study: Twitter Temporarily Locks Account Of Indian Technology Minister For Copyright Violations (2021) (8)
15:45 Content Moderation Case Study: Spotify Comes Under Fire For Hosting Joe Rogan's Podcast (2020) (64)
15:48 Content Moderation Case Study: Twitter Experiences Problems Moderating Audio Tweets (2020) (6)
15:48 Content Moderation Case Study: Dealing With 'Cheap Fake' Modified Political Videos (2020) (9)
15:35 Content Moderation Case Study: Facebook Removes Image Of Two Men Kissing (2011) (13)
15:23 Content Moderation Case Study: Instagram Takes Down Instagram Account Of Book About Instagram (2020) (90)
15:49 Content Moderation Case Study: YouTube Relocates Video Accused Of Inflated Views (2014) (2)
15:34 Content Moderation Case Study: Pretty Much Every Platform Overreacts To Content Removal Stimuli (2015) (23)
16:03 Content Moderation Case Study: Roblox Tries To Deal With Adult Content On A Platform Used By Many Kids (2020) (0)
15:43 Content Moderation Case Study: Twitter Suspends Users Who Tweet The Word 'Memphis' (2021) (10)
15:35 Content Moderation Case Study: Time Warner Cable Doesn't Want Anyone To See Critical Parody (2013) (14)
15:38 Content Moderation Case Studies: Twitter Clarifies Hacked Material Policy After Hunter Biden Controversy (2020) (9)
15:42 Content Moderation Case Study: Kik Tries To Get Abuse Under Control (2017) (1)
15:31 Content Moderation Case Study: Newsletter Platform Substack Lets Users Make Most Of The Moderation Calls (2020) (8)
15:40 Content Moderation Case Study: Knitting Community Ravelry Bans All Talk Supporting President Trump (2019) (29)
15:50 Content Moderation Case Study: YouTube's New Policy On Nazi Content Results In Removal Of Historical And Education Videos (2019) (5)
15:36 Content Moderation Case Study: Google Removes Popular App That Removed Chinese Apps From Users' Phones (2020) (28)
15:42 Content Moderation Case Studies: How To Moderate World Leaders Justifying Violence (2020) (5)
15:47 Content Moderation Case Study: Apple Blocks WordPress Updates In Dispute Over Non-Existent In-app Purchase (2020) (18)
15:47 Content Moderation Case Study: Google Refuses To Honor Questionable Requests For Removal Of 'Defamatory' Content (2019) (25)
More arrow