They say Democrats do better with young people, but one congresswoman is bucking the trend. Katherine Clark recently outraged teenage Twitter users by using her political heft to shut down Stolen, a Twitter app that had attracted a large and devoted teenage following.
Stolen was a whimsical online game that mixed the dynamics of baseball trading cards with Twitter. Players used a virtual currency to “collect” online collectable cards of popular Twitter accounts. The more popular or desirable the account, the greater the cost. Once purchased, cards could be traded with other players.
You can see the appeal for teenagers. Collect Justin Bieber! Trade him for Taylor Swift! It’s exactly the sort of app that would cause schoolteachers across the country to start confiscating phones. But other than distracting teenagers from schoolwork, it’s hard to see what harm the game could really do.
Katherine Clark, who has fuelled the online “harassment” panic over the past year, thought otherwise. Along with a host of social justice warriors, including disgraced video games journalist Leigh Alexander, Clark argued that the app “encouraged harassment” by allowing users to share pictures of other peoples’ profiles without their consent. Apparently unaware of the screenshot button, Clark sent sternly-worded letters to Twitter and the Apple Store, urging them to block the app.
My letter 2 Twitter & Apple abt my concerns w/ "Stolen!" – an app that enables online abusers 2 “own” ppl’s profiles pic.twitter.com/c4ujmIq4e5
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) January 14, 2016
Instead of reminding the Congresswoman that taking screenshots of peoples’ Twitter profile pictures would always be possible, the team behind Stolen decided to cave in, pulling their app offline before it was banned. In a post on their Twitter feed, they announced that they were shutting down.
We've decided to shut down the Stolen! app and service until further notice. Thank you for everyone's support.
— Stolen! (@getstolen) January 14, 2016
Unless they’re seriously geeky, teenagers tend to be politically apathetic. I would expect the ones who download apps like Stolen are even more likely to eschew politics. But Katherine Clark may just have switched on the political lightbulbs of a wave of young people, who may well remember the nanny-statist who took their games away when they reach voting age.
In the space of 24 hours, Clark has become a pariah to devotees of the app on Twitter, who have been bombarding her feed with angry complaints. I wonder how many will be eligible to vote in her district in a few years?
— Dear Morons (@mydearmorons) January 15, 2016
— Silver Oahks | Josh (@Oahks) January 15, 2016
— Karenn Møra (@Cliquegirl21) January 15, 2016
— TOTY COUNT: 0 (@Fifa4dayzBruh) January 15, 2016
@RepKClark are you kidding me why would you do this its not that fucking deep how did you even get elected 🙄
— Megan (@Wonder_Bubbles) January 15, 2016
Independent game designer Jennifer Dawe succinctly summed up Clark’s problem:
Taking away an app that teenage girls loved. OH BOY YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU JUST DID.
— Jennifer D'aww (@GMShivers) January 15, 2016
It’s not entirely surprising that Clark would be the one to cause Stolen to shut down. She has spent the past year aligning herself with the feminist culture warriors of tech and gaming, who constantly spread alarm about online harassment and so-called “cyberviolence,” which usually boils down to little more than mean words on the internet. At their behest, Clark has urged the FBI to do something about GamerGate, the consumer movement that is now one of the most reliable sources of resistance to censorious pearl-clutchers who push for greater control over online speech and creative expression.
The FBI, of course, ignored her request. Perhaps the creators of Stolen could learn something from that response.