James Woods Is Correct That Twitter Shouldn't Have Blocked His Account, But Still Hypocritical On Free Speech

from the you're-no-free-speech-martyr-jimbo dept

I think we've made our general feelings about James Woods perfectly clear. After all, he's the guy who sued an anonymous Twitter user for a somewhat mild comeback that referenced cocaine usage (leaving aside that Woods himself had tweeted very similar hyperbolic tweets suggesting people he was arguing with were on crack). In the middle of that lawsuit, the (still) anonymous tweeter died, leading Woods to gloat about "winning" the case and about the guy's death. Suffice it to say, Woods is -- in our opinion -- a terrible human being. Suing someone for being mildly critical of you is bad. Gloating over their death takes you up a few notches to being a horrible human being.

That said, when Woods' own free speech is attacked via a similarly bogus defamation lawsuit over his own tweets, we didn't support the plaintiff just because it was against Woods. We noted, instead, that we hoped he won the case -- and he did.

Now Woods is in another situation, where -- somewhat incredibly -- he's trying to make himself out as a free speech warrior. It seems that Twitter suspended his access to his account because of a meme he had tweeted. It was what appeared to be a fairly obvious satirical fake meme urging men to stay home on election day to let women's vote have more weight. Woods admitted that it was "not likely" to be real, but still noted "that there is a distinct possibility this could be real." First of all, there was no such distinct possibility. Second of all... none of it makes any sense. The meme is completely nonsensical no matter what your views on these issues are.

But, for this tweet, Twitter has suspended Woods, arguing that the meme violates its terms of service because it: "has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election." It is, of course, fairly obvious how we got here. During the 2016 election, there were a bunch of memes -- some of which appear to have been placed deliberately by state actors seeking to influence our election -- that were actual attempts to suppress the vote. The various social media players, including Twitter, have been under great pressure (including from Congress) to try to avoid a repeat of such things in 2018. And thus, they created a rule against images that have "the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election." Then, that rule is handed off to one of the hundreds or thousands of content moderators working for Twitter, and they have basically a few seconds to review the tweet and say "does this break the rule?" If you look at the rule and the tweet... and nothing else... it's not hard to see why you'd choose the option that says "yup, he violated the rule."

Of course, this is entirely lacking in context -- and even as Woods is too silly to recognize that there's zero chance that this is real. And there is similarly zero chance that anyone reading Woods' feed would look at this meme and say "oh, right, sure, I'm not going to vote now." But, as professor Kate Klonick discussed in our recent podcast, you can't write "understand the context" into the rules. It's literally not possible. So you can only expect these low wage content moderators to follow the rules as written, no matter how silly the potential results. And, applied literally, that tweet violates that rule -- even if that leads to a totally ridiculous outcome.

This is why we keep trying to point out that moderating content at scale on these platforms is a case where it's impossible to do it well. There will be lots of "mistakes" like these, because there's no other way.

That's not to say that someone at Twitter shouldn't fix it. But, it's still tricky. If Twitter changes the ruling on this, then people will claim that it's not following its own rules... and (yup) a bunch of people will get angry again.

In the meantime, Woods is ridiculously trying to turn himself into a free speech martyr over this.

“Free speech is free speech — it’s not Jack Dorsey’s version of free speech,” Woods said, referring to Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey.

Dude. You sued an anonymous troll for a mild bit of criticism on Twitter. You don't get to whine about a lack of "free speech" on Twitter without basically all of us calling you a total fucking hypocrite.

Woods, not surprisingly, also seems to have no clue how content moderation on internet platforms works:

He noted that his original tweet was reposted by his girlfriend on Friday and had been retweeted thousands of times by Sunday. His girlfriend’s account wasn’t locked, which he said was proof that he’d been singled out because of his large Twitter following.

No, dude. It just means that someone reported your tweet, but no one reported your girlfriend's. Twitter isn't proactively scanning every single tweet. It's just if someone reports it, then it goes through the process. In this case, since tons of people hate follow Woods to see what crazy statement he's going to make next, it shouldn't be that surprising that someone "reported" that tweet -- and then the process described above happened.

But Woods just keeps going on a tear about his free speech apparently being suppressed... and something about knives and pillows.

“The irony is, Twitter accused me of affecting the political process, when in fact, their banning of me is the truly egregious interference,” Woods said. “Because now, having your voice smothered is much more disturbing than having your vocal chords slit. If you want to kill my free speech, man up and slit my throat with a knife, don’t smother me with a pillow.”

Woods said if he deletes the tweet, it would force him to watch his step with everything he says in the future, chilling free speech.

Let's just stop for a moment and recall that Woods sued another Twitter user for a mild criticism in the midst of one of Woods' many Twitter fights and then gloated when that guy died, initially making it appear that he had "won" the lawsuit, rather than having it closed due to the death of the defendant, and then later happily saying he hoped that the dead defendant died screaming Woods' name in agony. And now he wants to whine about the "chilling" effects of Twitter saying he can't tweet? Come on.

Anyway, yes, it's silly that Twitter suspended Woods' account, and the company should probably reverse that decision, even if it's totally understandable how it came about. But none of that changes Woods being a total free speech hypocrite and a really awful human being.


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  • icon
    hij (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 7:49am

    The most surprising thing...

    Mr. Woods' inconsistency on free speech is not nearly as surprising as is the idea that he has a romantic partner. That whole "lid for every pot" thing is an amazing truism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 9:03am

    Silly But

    But this is what happens when they are put under pressure to "Do Something" about fake news.
    "Something" was done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 9:51am

    I'd be happy to read of Woods' demise, either by knife or pillow. The method doesn't matter to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 9:57am

    Woods [goes] on a tear about his free speech apparently being suppressed

    …in an on-the-record interview with news media that can be read and shared by anyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 28 Sep 2018 @ 10:09am

    If they were smothering James Woods with a pillow, would anyone even notice?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    AndD (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 10:19am

    Really??

    I'll be glad when you go back to doing articles on copyright crap and patents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      B Zom, 28 Sep 2018 @ 11:13am

      Re: Really?? -- HEY, "AndD"! Back for 2nd comment after 4 years!

      ODD.

      I haven't stopped noticing the zombies (like "bobwyzguy" with 61 month gap), but this "account" is even ODDER.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gwiz (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re: Really?? -- HEY, "AndD"! Back for 2nd comment after 4 years!

        Lol, Blue.

        If this guy is a zombie**, then he is from YOUR team since he is being overly critical of Techdirt's editorial choices...just like you!

        ** For the record, I don't think anyone who comments infrequently is a zombie, nor is there any grand conspiracy going on here. I was just talking down at a level you might understand, Blue.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          I.T. Guy, 28 Sep 2018 @ 11:46am

          Re: Re: Re: Really?? -- HEY, "AndD"! Back for 2nd comment after 4 years!

          LOL. It's like one or two comments. Not exactly breaking any records here.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:22pm

      Re: Really??

      If you ever find yourself wondering, "Should I post a comment to make sure everybody knows how much I don't care about the thing this article is about?" the answer is "No." It's always "No."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:28pm

        Re: Re: Really??

        You pretty much did the same thing he did.

        So next time you are wondering "Should I post a comment to make sure everybody knows how much I don't care about the post this person just made?" the answer is "No." It's Always "No."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    steell (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 10:19am

    What happened to the first part of the second paragraph?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 10:30am

    Twitter does scan tweets, Mike. When determining when to give suspensions, they're often handed out the very moment the person tweets the offending tweet. Of course it's not the only signal - it's very likely for James Woods' case that this was a matter of a hate follower reporting the tweet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 10:55am

      Re:

      And sometimes not...
      I called myself a faggot over a year before I was timed out for it, b/c some group of assholes mass reported me to get me timed out... b/c they thought I was someone else they dislike.

      And I remained suspended b/c trust and safety didn't look at anything other than the word faggot & assume I was threatening or demeaning others.

      I have every right to say the word faggot, so does everyone else. (I often correct them that it's Mr. Faggot to you)
      When someone sends a message of they are going to kill my faggot ass... well that clearly is over the line. If you hate the word you can filter out ever having to see it, but instead people run to teacher crying.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 10:51am

    Missing paragraph is missing... see Para 2.

    I have a problem with this, only in that Woods is an opportunistic liar. He claims it was for the meme, but I've never seen a screenshot of the twitter time out letter.

    Shocking his GF was able to post the same thing, I thought those under 13 weren't allowed to have accounts. (Creepy man hit on 16 yr olds, don't look at me like that.)

    I grow weary og the insanity of the right screaming 'mah free speech!!!' invoking the 1st amendment like it some how applies to businesses.

    Twitter's system is perfectly tuned to be abused & they seem to not give a shit about fixing it b/c it would be hard to take back 'wins' from people who demanded the final say in who can talk.

    If Woods was locked out for this meme, that is stupid & twitter needs to remove that employee.
    (Shades of multiple stupid employees unable to process the word faggot directed at oneself just flipping out about the word.)

    If you don't like Mr. Woods, fucking block him.

    Getting him a timeout does nothing but add fuel to the fire, and this bullshit tit for tat crap is getting annoying.
    Gang reporting should get those doing it a time out, especially if they didn't actually follow Mr. Woods just answered the call to whine.

    We really need to stop being children demanding the teacher put someone else in timeout, grow the fsck up & accept he can tweet what he wants even if it offends you... if you don't who is going to listen when you get timed out for offending someone else?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    O. Barry Minot, on the lone prairie, 28 Sep 2018 @ 11:08am

    If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

    You're not even being consistent, you're just signaling your own virtue. -- On a safe small portion of the ongoing corporate censorship.

    But though for sake of consistency you stick up for James Woods, where's your support for Alex Jones? Infowars with tens of millions followers was "de-platformed" by the dozen most major, recently shunned by Paypal too. NO FREE SPEECH FOR JONES, EH?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 28 Sep 2018 @ 11:25am

      Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

      Alex Jones is a crisis actor pretending he got banned. He's really hiding in a pizza parlor basement with some martian kids.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      JEDIDIAH, 28 Sep 2018 @ 11:37am

      Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

      The generally fascist nature of the responses here and elsewhere is why I've pretty much written off the Democrat party for the time being. I don't even want to call them liberals anymore. They really aren't.

      On any given day they happily wipe their asses with the Bill of Rights.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

        lol

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Baron von Robber, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

        Hmm fascist are far right.
        Liberals are on the left.

        Who likes a big heaping scoop of cognitive dissonance?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

          that is not correct both the fart left and right extremes have facist attributes.

          Liberals are only left of center. I am a "Classic Liberal" I don't agree with universal health care and I don't think government should have any say in anyone's marriage at any time, the government should only be involved enough to determine if the people getting married are all at the age of majority and sound mind. I also don't think government has any right to say what you can or cannot put into your body either, but I am also agree with government putting people who intentionally murder others on death row.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Baron von Robber, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

            Aye I know liberal is simply left. I left out 'far' for that reason.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

        democrats does not equal liberal does not equal leftist.
        but people are often seeking to conflate them all.

        But it has been my experience that everyone wants to wipe their ass with the Bill of Rights when their politics are involved, except the libertarians... they tend to be more consistent with their support.

        The Left/Democrats/Liberals of today are more than happy to assume guilt upon accusation depending on who is being accused and who is doing the accusing.

        Kinda like the whole Bill Clinton/Brett Kavanaugh thing. There is some clear hypocrisy going on from both sides of the isle here.

        The confirmation comity has no requirement that Ford show proof she was assaulted, they can refuse to confirm Brett just because he looks too white or black if they like.
        Neither does the comity have any requirements to investigate the claims.

        I am betting that if the Prez was Hillary and her candidate was up for a SCOTUS seat and someone accused them of the same there would be pretty much an entirely backwards song and dance compared to what we are seeing now.

        No matter what, the Party comes before country, before constitution, before decency for the vast majority of all folks.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:28pm

        Re: Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

        What type of tennis shoe is everyone wearing for your up coming Comet Get Away?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:43pm

      Re: If happened to anyone you didn't hate, you wouldn't hedge.

      James Woods was suspended for something stupid yet relatively innocent. Alex Jones was banned for something both stupid and dangerous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    wshuff (profile), 28 Sep 2018 @ 2:19pm

    Maybe we could get Alex Jones to slit James Woods' throat with a knife while James Woods smothers Alex Jones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 28 Sep 2018 @ 2:26pm

    To anyone who relies on social media to decide how to vote or even whether to vote at all, please... do stay home and don't vote. Thank you.
    [PSA]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2018 @ 1:42am

    Friends at techdirt, though I of course use that term loosely.. I want to ask, "if everyone is right, there will be no one left." Isn't that a true statement.

    And this thing about James Woods.. its a shame. I've seen all his movies and I liked them all. Can't we all just get along? I PLAN to stay home and not vote just to say thanks to James for hours of prime entertainment he has given us all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    carl l smith, 17 Oct 2018 @ 5:57pm

    Apples and oranges

    Feel how you want about James Woods, Twitter is censoring conservatives only. Democrat celebrities have threatened death to the President and nothing was done to them. It's a serious double standard and it's obvious. I love James Woods and his tweets. I find him to be spot on when it comes to the Clintons, Obama, Media bias,etc. He is a brave man in a hypothetical world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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