Tech reporter and Gadgette.com founder Holly Brockwell discovered a disturbing app in the Apple Store this week called Stolen, which lets users buy and sell Twitter accounts. The app didn’t actually let you assume access to the accounts, it simply allowed you to collect and trade people like digital baseball cards. Finding the whole concept of buying and selling people’s identities creepy, and immediately seeing how Stolen could be a dangerous vehicle for harassment, Brockwell reached out to the creator for an interview. Thirty-six hours later, the app was pulled from the Apple app store, and someone had sent Brockwell a photo of her Twitter avatar displayed on a tablet. The photo was covered in ejaculate.
On Wednesday, Brockwell published her interview with Stolen CEO Siqi Chen. It appears after a thoughtful but critical intro stating her problems with the app, but the Q&A is run verbatim. Still, soon after publishing the CEO’s quotes word for word, Brockwell was critiqued for being unfair to Chen and his company. As anger about the app’s potential abusive uses intensified, Massachusetts congresswoman Katherine Clark even wrote letters to Apple asking them to pull the app from the store. But before they could do that, Chen and the Stolen team had removed it themselves, and admitted they agreed with Brockwell’s complaints.
That could have been that — but, for the hordes of angry internet folks who have misread Atlas Shrugged, it was tantamount to censorship. Surely Brockwell had “crybullied” Stolen into shutting down. Predictably, her mentions filled with the C-word. And then it happened: Somebody tweeted a photo of Brockwell’s Twitter avatar displayed on his tablet, covered in semen.
“If you’re wondering what I did to ‘deserve’ this, I interviewed the creator of an app that let you buy people, who then withdrew his product,” Brockwell tweeted. “But, you know, I’m sure male tech journalists who write about bad app ideas get sperm photoshopped on their faces too.” (In reality, the photo was something even grosser.)
The photo was tweeted 19 hours ago from an account called @getslavery, created exclusively to tweet the picture. As of this writing, Twitter has yet to ban it. Good job on that whole helping-stamp-out-online-harassment thing, Twitter.
Just another day in the life of a woman on the internet.