"I've left Twitter": Lindy West nails why the internet is so toxic for women

Getty Images

Twitter is a beautiful space where one can carefully articulate their passion for gender equality, the black lives matter movement or reproductive rights in 140 characters or less — and wait 10 seconds before a Pepe avatar fires back with "die cunt, All Lives Matter #MAGA."

The platform's harassment issue isn't new. Users have been begging Twitter for better anti-harassment tools for a while now, specifically some of its most vulnerable users: women. And one of the platform's powerful female voices has left because Twitter hasn't been able to successfully silence or eradicate its toxic trolls. 

Writer and feminist Lindy West announced on Tuesday in a Guardian essay that she deactivated her Twitter account. West, who has been a user for five years, points to neo-Nazis and misogynist trolls firing back at her work promoting body positivity and feminism.

"I have to conclude, after half a decade of troubleshooting, that it may simply be impossible to make this platform usable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators," she wrote in the Guardian.

"If my gynecologist regularly hosted neo-Nazi rallies in the exam room, I would find someone else to swab my cervix," she added. "If I found out my favorite coffee shop was even remotely complicit in the third world war, I would — bare minimum — switch coffee shops; I might give up coffee altogether."

Twitter finally released some improved anti-harassment tools in November, and CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted to followers in December asking what they'd like to see improved. But the scant progress to date is causing users to reevaluate their loyalty to the platform.

While alt-right users suspended from Twitter have been flocking to Gab, a social network that emphasizes "free speech," to air their neo-Nazi grievances, users driven off the platform by these trolls don't appear to have an alternative platform fit with the tools needed to fend off trolls. 

For users like West: As Twitter currently stands, her options are to take the flood of online abuse or leave.