Twitter is taking new steps to ensure banned users stay banned.
Twitter is one of my favorite social media platforms. It’s actually the only mainstream social media platform I use regularly. Twitter has a problem though, and that problem is trolling, or cyber-bullying as the current catchphrase.
Twitter’s platform is just made for it. Short comments and responses with the ability to have an essentially anonymous account. Certainly, since our US election Twitter has been flooded with an inordinate amount of egg profiles spewing nothing but hatred.
Twitter previously promised to address this and now we see how it is happening. First, Twitter will attempt to keep banned users banned. Utilizing phone numbers, IP addresses and algorithms, as well as human beings, to determine if banned users are signing up under other accounts. Twitter is also adding a “safe search” function which will mute tweets that contain offensive material, as well as hiding “low quality” responses.
I’ve got to admit, this concerns me. First of all, I’m all for stopping the trolling on Twitter. I hate it. In the past few months it has gotten completely out of hand, and makes reading my timeline unbearable at times. Unfortunately, I do not trust Twitter’s actual motivation.
There have been numerous reports of “shadow banning” where certain people or certain topics are held back from their audience. I’m not sure if I believe these reports or not. If I was to take these reports at their word, I would assume that much of what I see on Twitter, I wouldn’t see. At the same time, there is an inordinate amount of “this tweet no longer available” messages, that once I go to that user, I can see the tweet. Is this proof? Not enough to say it’s happening.
But I can speak of something of which I know to be true. Reporting of tweets is not handled equally on both sides of the argument. I watch Twitter now for a lot of my political news. Really now, who doesn’t. The vast majority of those tweets are followed by hundreds if not thousands of replies. Most are abusive, and they come from both sides of the political spectrum. For the most part, I don’t care about these replies. I will save funny memes, and scroll through most of them, looking for any nugget of wisdom, which in all honesty are few and far between. There is something that I will stop for though.
When I see a violent threat, or a racist comment, I report that tweet. I don’t care who it’s coming from, which side it’s coming from, or which side it’s directed at. There is simply no place for that type of activity in this day and age. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that these reports, although submitted to Twitter without regard to side, don’t seem to be taken care of with the same lack of bias. And that’s a problem. I invite you to try it yourself, it probably won’t take you long to find comments of the sort coming from both sides of American politics. Then report them and wait.
And that is my fear. I am all for an end to the trolling and bullying on Twitter, and I applaud the company for finally attempting to reign it in. At the same time, I am fearful, based upon the actions I’ve witnessed myself, that this stance on trolling may just be an excuse to censor those that are of differing opinions from those that are in power at Twitter.