Startup founder Xyla Foxlin takes direct action against Twitter troll.
It’s no secret that women in tech can face almost insurmountable obstacles. As a whole, society has been working on changing the mindset that the technology sector should be a “good old boys” club, starting with a renewed emphasis on encouraging STEM education for girls. Grassroots efforts have exploded, like Girls Who Code, which started in one city and now boasts 40,000 members. Despite the recent backlash against such employment initiatives, tech giants are even working to improve the hiring practices and workplace environment for women in their industry.
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t change the deeply rooted anger that too many women in tech fields have to tolerate as part of the job. All GamerGate references aside, one more recent example is so bizarre in its outcome that it speaks to the status quo of harassment and hate.
Parihug founder Xyla Foxlin exploded into tech as a robotics-turned-business genius. At just 20 years old, she’s already managed a successful Kickstarter campaign to back her IoT robot plush toys, formed her own company, and caught the eye of Microsoft. All that fame proved too much for someone who decided to take her down a peg on Twitter.
Foxlin’s Twitter harasser began with the usual favorites, namely hypersexual remarks about the engineering student which soon turned to threats of rape. Others gleefully joined in, people who’d never met Foxlin but knew they couldn’t tolerate a successful woman in a “man’s field.” When the harasser turned to doxxing Foxlin, posting her home address and inviting other tormentors to go rape her, the startup founder took serious action.
No help from Twitter
Twitter, as is too often the case, was of no help in shutting down the account, at least not at first. Despite being warned that her attempts to discover the user’s identity would be fruitless, Foxlin requested that law enforcement get a subpoena for the email address on the stalker’s account. When she finally succeeded in that avenue, even the victim wasn’t prepared for the truth.
Not only was her harasser someone Foxlin knew, it was a woman.
T&Cs do little to protect
It’s too easy to say, “See? It’s not just men! Women do it too!” as some have tried to claim in this case. The reality, though, is far uglier than the surface level facts: the jealous rival used a widely accepted format – namely, rape and death threats combined with online mob mentality -to try to take down an opponent. Why? Because it works, it’s accepted, and companies like Twitter won’t do much to stop it, even in the face of insurmountable proof that a harasser’s account violates the company’s own terms and conditions.