Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter could hurt sports messaging

HLon Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter, announced last week, has raised the concerns of many marginalized groups who are often harassed online. Musk called himself “freedom of expression freedom of expression Who wants people on Twitter to have “the reality and perception that they are able to speak freely within the limits of the law.” Female journalists who cover sports for a living for a particularly cruel brand are often subjected to online abuse. Across the sports media, these women are concerned. Julie DeCaro, Senior Writer and Editor at Deadspin, books On Twitter April 25, referring to Musk’s toxic behavior on Twitter: In 2018, during an online altercation, Musk described a man recruiting divers to rescue dozens of children trapped in a Thai cave as a “Pedo guy.” Musk deleted the tweet and escaped a defamation lawsuit against him. Decaro wrote that Musk “is about to unleash all the monsters again.”

Decaro knows these online torturers all too well. In a 2016 juicy clip that was viewed nearly 5 million times on YouTube, DiCaro — then a writer for The Cauldron and an announcer at 670 The Score, a Chicago sports radio station — and ESPN reporter Sarah Spain Participate in anti-bullying public service announcements: men on the other side of Decaro and Spain sat in front of the camera, reading “mean tweets” about them to journalists. Some of the messages are misogynistic and so violent that men can barely read the words on their screens.

“There are men that I am basically their hobby,” Decaro tells TIME. “They spend their whole day talking about me, trying to figure out what’s going on in my life. They hit me wherever they can, they make fun of me, and they share it with everyone so they can all laugh at it.”

Columnist in USA Today Nancy Armour She says that whenever she writes about Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick or Kobe Bryant, her Twitter post turns into a “garbage fire”. Reactions range from those who hope that Armor loses her job, to those who say they hope she becomes terribly ill. After she criticized former NASCAR driver Tony Stewart in an article, Armor said someone “told me she wanted to find me and hit my head in a concrete ledge until I died.”

Since female journalists began working in men’s locker rooms in the 1970s – after a successful lawsuit filed earlier Sports Illustrated Journalist Melissa Ludtke – The presence of women in the sports media has always provoked vicious forms of resentment. In 1986, for example, Auckland A’s Dave Kingman felt a living rat for reporter Susan Fornoff, who said Kingman told her he thought women didn’t belong in the club. In 1990, Lisa Olson from Boston Announces She revealed that several New England Patriots players exposed themselves to her and sexually harassed her; She said she received death threats after making the allegations, which her NFL investigation found to be true. These days, sports fans are spewing poison towards female journalists via anonymous handles on Twitter.

Women sports journalists, Armor says, are “a threat to unquoted citation, natural order, or the way things have always been. For generations, sports have been a male domain. Men played sports, men wrote about them and consumed them. It was boys’ game. That is no longer the case.” The case. And there are some people who don’t deal well with that.”

Accountability required

Armor gives Twitter credit for responding to reports of abuse. “If you say something physical, and if you’re threatening me or anyone else, report it to Twitter,” Armor says. “And I feel like those responses have gotten faster. It used to be that I would get a message after three weeks. I wouldn’t even remember what it was. Now, it seems to be turning around in a day or so.”

Decaro, who says online abuse brought her back to treatment last year, hasn’t seen the same volume of vile messaging as she did a few years ago. However, she credits this improvement to female sports journalists such as ignoring their critics, and using Twitter’s blocking and muting mechanisms to their advantage. “We’ve seen a bit of a pullback in it, but that’s because we made a choice to use those things that Twitter made possible,” Decaro says. “It’s not because Twitter did a great job editing this or because they kind of had a Jesus moment and decided they would treat people better. I think it’s often women who make the decision to prioritize their mental health.”

Some sports journalists worry that Musk is confusing free speech guaranteed by governments with reasonable rules created by private organizations. While it’s legal, for example, to walk into a store and hurl insults at fellow customers, the manager has every right to fire you. “We need some civic education about what free speech actually means,” Armor says. “I hope that if the deal goes through, Musk talks to people on Twitter, finds out their reasoning as to why they put safeguards in place, and gets a sense of what’s at stake.”

“Regarding Elon Musk saying he wants to encourage more freedom of speech, my point is, is that freedom of speech going to come with continued accountability?” Says Valencia Kinga sports journalist based in Dallas.

Some journalists are skeptical, given Musk’s past history. The 2018 Daily Beast story, for example, detailed examples of the harsh treatment correspondents receive from male Musk supporters when they criticize him online; In response, Musk criticized the author of the article, who is a woman, on Twitter. He tweeted Childish sexual jokes. Female employees of Tesla, Musk’s $54 billion auto and clean energy company, are suing the company for sexual harassment.

“I can’t imagine how things would get better,” Decaro says. “It feels like things are going to get worse.”

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write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com.

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