An Open Letter to the Twittersphere

Hello World!

JD started off his letter with the hope you are well stuff. I hope the same, but I’ll will jump right into things…

You know how you say words that you get from a movie, a comedy show, or things that happen in life that have meaning to your friend group or a subset of people who have seen a specific movie or comedy show? Maybe one you have seen together, and you have memorized end-to-end?

Well, I have learned the hard way that sometimes those inside jokes or jokes only a subset of people understand can fall completely flat or end up making someone think you want to kill another person. Before you get all excited or feel the need to report this to the authorities, I do not want to kill anyone, I never wanted to kill anyone, and that is not going to change in the future. I do my best to be a good person, and that means no violence toward others.

Cyberbullying, inflicting violence on others, inciting violence, or encouraging others to act in a violent manner have no place in our society…online and in real life.

As many of you know, I am an avid supporter of digital skilling the world, and this means having the necessary competencies to be safe and secure online, which includes there being no place for cyberbullying. That said, our AI and natural language processing solutions are still in their infancy. They lack the ability to truly understand sentiment, context, and the very nature that makes us human. We are not in a place where AI can truly determine the difference between a joke or a series threat.

One of my biggest achievement in life resulted from my PhD research on the digital inclusion of underserved and underrepresented communities, which includes ensuring people of all ages have the necessary building blocks to identify, handle, and appropriately react (or not react) to cyberbullying with emotional intelligence. This standard can be found here, and comes from a Singapore-based nonprofit called the DQ Institute. You will see the important role that being safe and secure online plays in this framework. I was part of identifying this as a standard for online learning and behavior.

As you will see in this framework, I have been and still am a strong advocate for safety and security online, as well as protecting people of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientation from being impacted by cyberbullying.

Earlier in the week, I responded to a Tweet directed at a good friend of mine that had others in copy that involved making a joke from a comedy skit where a puppet says “I keel you. Dismissed.” I wrote I kill you. Dismissed by accident. I did not mean to suggest I would kill or threaten to kill anyone. How many autocorrects have led you down a path. Well, duck, they sure have led me down a bad path.

Here is that clip from John Dunham where the puppet uses the words “silence” “I keel you” “dismissed”. While my friends and I understood that I was not planning to kill my buddy Steven, as we talk regularly and work closely together. To be clear, I have never killed anyone. I have never intended to kill anyone. Most importantly, the words I used were not meant I was on a path of killing action. It was meant to be a silly joke in the voice of John Dunham, the ventriloquist, talking on behalf of Achmed, a puppet from one of his comedy skits.

Some may have believed it was something more by taking it out of context, not understanding the sentiment behind it, and I can see how that could have happened. If I did not have the full context, I may have thought the same thing. Alternatively, it could have been the demonstration of natural language processing, sentiment analysis, contextual analysis, human behavior, personality, and jokes not being truly incorporated into the artificial intelligence technology in use today. The world is still discovering how to incorporate these things into today’s algorithms, and they are not perfect. Here is a perfect example where sentiment and context may not even be easy to the eye, especially if you have not spent an evening laughing with John Dunham and his puppets.

As a result of this bad joke that absolutely fell flat on some and sparked thoughts other than what was intended by me, my Twitter account has been suspended without any insight into what is happening now.

I have submitted my appeal, reached out again with further information and documentation, and have asked my friends for support who might be connected to people who can hopefully help resolve the matter.

In short, I recognize that language matters, context matters, and I must be careful of not giving off the wrong impression to others, especially when someone might perceive a threat is imminent.

I apologize to those who were offended by my crappy joke. I can assure you that I will not be quoting Achmed in Twitter from this day forward unless it’s very clear that it is a movie quote that has reference to the origin and its meaning. I can assure you, it can land you in Twitter jail, which is nowhere fun to be.

Thanks for hearing me out and helping me to get back into my account. I miss y’all!

Your Twitter Buddy,

Melissa Sassi

@mentorafrika

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