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Anti-Social Networking

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What? Did Twitter just pull the account relating to one of the UK's most exciting happenings for professional women this week because some whiny guy didn't like the idea of women getting equal air time? Or even worse, has the Twitter account for TheWomensRoomUK been pulled because it got up the noses of a US organisation with a similar name?

Or is it just the same old, same old SNAFU that bites when any remotely progressive issue collides with the Masters of the Universe hereinafter known as Facebook and Twitter?

Despite the odd suspicion that it could have been "one of the lads", and the odd tweet hashtagged #sexism, there is no obvious evidence that this was male sabotage. No-one, so far, has claimed responsibility - and bitter experience with the bitter, bitter boys is that they do like you to know when you've been got. If it was a bloke with a bee in his bonnet about "wimmin", there is, no doubt, an e-mail or a tweet somewhere crowing responsibility.

So who else is in the frame? Well, there is a US organisation that goes by the name TheWomensRoom. They have been around for approximately four years, and were set up by Amanda and Jane, a couple of British women working stateside, who "met while working for the global fashion trend forecasting website, WGSN."

As their now well-established blog informs: "Both over 40 at the time, we lamented the lack of inspiring fashion and style publications available on and offline, for women our age."

Thus was born TheWomensRoom, whose daily posts "aim to inspire, inform and celebrate growing older in a positive, witty and stylish way."

So far, so positive. However, at around 8am (GMT) a series of tweets from their organisation began to appear expressing disapproval of the UK initiative.

According to A (presumably Amanda): "dear http://womensroom.org , we're right behind your excellent idea about promoting more women experts, but slightly sad you didn't... do a bit more research about our blog The Women's Room. We too are shouting about other invisible women in the media..the 40plus ones!

"Perhaps think about getting another name so we can all shout together and make more noise? #justsathought #wearethewomensroomblog.com".

A number of tweeters inquired about the confusion, with one suggesting: "they clearly didn't google the name before they picked it!"

A replies: "Indeed, or did and thought we were not important 'sputters with puffy indignation!'"

So did they complain? They say not. Categorically not. They e-mail to say: "We very definitely did not complain to Twitter, but we did mention ON Twitter how sad we were that someone was in our space". They are supportive of the "other guys" and wish them well.

The UK WomensRoom are not so sure. But with no smoking gun to hand, it would be unfair to point fingers. Maybe one of the (US) supporters complained: but again, there is no evidence of same - so, for now, let's pass on that theory.

Which leaves as most likely culprit the somewhat Byzantine and heteronormative moderation processes that seem to be increasingly the norm on social networking sites originating in the US. I've written before - many times! - about a certain sort of hegemonic cultural bias over at Facebook that sees pages on women's health, breast feeding and modern art taken down (family values, doncha know!), while soft porn featuring the usual scantily clad young women survives largely unscathed.

There's even a petition out right now asking Facebook to get over its apparently innate sexism.

The evidence against Twitter, the organisation, is largely circumstantial. They're a big US corporation and therefore one of the usual suspects when it comes to failing to support anything that does not support the established way of life, the universe and everything. On the other hand, there is no evidence one way or another. A quick line to their press office, was annoyingly face-palmed: Twitter does not, apparently, comment on individual accounts.

Besides, they have their own very particular rules about what you may or may not do on their site,as this blog, highlighting three ways you may inadvertently get suspended reveals.

Inadvertent spamming, and "aggressive promotion" are just two - though since Twitter are not exactly forthcoming when asked what you have transgressed, it is not altogether easy to divine what one has done wrong - if indeed one has done ANYTHING wrong at all.

For now, therefore, the facts are straightforward and sad. For the last eight hours, the twitter account relating to the Women's Room UK has been suspended (in fact, suspended three times in a single hour). No-one can quite say why: the site's owners are grappling with Twitter.

If nothing else, this highlights the dangers, possibly unavoidable, of an internet culture that, more and more, requires anyone with an important message to get out there to conform, in every sense of the word, to the diktats of a very limited range of social offerings.

As for Twitter: come on, get your act together!