For those of us who live in Washington, D.C. and rely on public transportation, Unsuck DC Metro has been a dose of sanity in a world gone mad. The beloved Twitter account has long spotlighted train delays, broken escalators (of which there are many), false promises, and other problems.
For daring to bring a measure of accountability to an embarrassingly dysfunctional transit system, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro, Unsuck DC Metro has now been doxed by a local media reporter for DCist.
The account's owner was not happy. He had always valued his privacy.
"The whole anonymity thing started way back when this project started to get some traction," Unsuck DC Metro told Reason in an interview. "I've always been generous with the press. If my anonymity bothers people, they don't have to follow me."
The formerly anonymous proprietor of the account mostly retweets other users' pictures and comments about Metro malfeasance. Unsuck DC Metro has also called out specific Metro employees for bad behavior; two weeks ago, it posted a picture of an employee, a black woman, eating lunch on the train, which is a violation of Metro rules designed to keep the trains as clean as possible. The photo was taken by a World Bank employee, Natasha Tynes, who was subsequently accused of cruelly shaming a black person. The Twitter backlash against Tynes was so significant that the publisher of her upcoming book, They Called Me Wyatt, pulled out of the deal.
"Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies," wrote Rare Birds Books in a statement. "We think this is unacceptable and have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it's acceptable to jeopardize a person's safety and employment in this way."
Tynes eventually apologized, to no avail.
Unsuck DC Metro also came in for criticism, but remained defiant. Then, on Monday, DCist's Rachel Kurzius published a long profile of Unsuck, titled "From Watchdog to Attack Dog: The Story of Unsuck DC Metro." According to Kurzius, over the last 10 years, "the tenor of the Unsuck D.C. Metro account changed sharply. Service updates are mixed in with hostility and public shaming. The targets of his attacks—often low-level Metro employees or the riders themselves—don't have access to the same large social media platform."
Kurzius unilaterally decided that Unsuck's anonymity was now forfeit, and identified him by name in the post. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Unsuck told Reason that anonymity was important to him because he has previously received intimidating messages from people who didn't like his coverage.
"I didn't get outright threats, but they were meant to intimidate," he said.
I object to social media mobs in general, and thus I don't agree with the decision to call out individual Metro employees—at least if the callouts include identifying details (like pictures of their faces). But it also seems vindictive to cancel Tynes' book, and out Unsuck against his wishes.
For anyone who undervalues the Twitter feed, Unsuck has also filed an important lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority for failing to fulfill a public records request.
"Back in February, Metro came out with the results of their customer satisfaction survey, which is a phone survey, and I thought the results were kind of weird, so I asked for the questions to the survey," said Unsuck. "They denied me, I appealed, then they sent me 29 pages, 28 of which were completely blacked out."
Metro representatives also informed Unsuck that they wouldn't respond to any more of his requests until he paid a $300 processing fee. The conservative legal group Judicial Watch is representing him in the suit.
As for the doxing and online hate, it isn't going to make Unsuck do anything differently.
"When you bow to these woke scolds, they accept it as weakness," he said. "Such miserable people."