Twitter still in trouble

Twitter is in trouble again, with another major round of layoffs after a number of potential buyers backed away.

There’s a lot of evidence of simple bad management, too many people with jobs that added too little value. But it’s also being said that Twitter’s ongoing failure to tackle trolls, bullying and harassment on their network was a significant negative factor for some would-be buyers.

It’s been an ongoing problem for a long time, and Twitter’s response has always been a case of too little too late. Banning a handful of medium profile right-wing figures “pour encourager les autres” is not a practical solution, and probably only serves to make matters worse.

What Twitter really needs is a clear and unambiguous Terms of Service, which is then enforced consistently and transparently. Such a thing would force everyone from GamerGaters to social justice witch-hunters to play by the same rules, which would surely be a good thing.

Cynically there’s the suspicion that Jack Dorsey is too close to some social justice witch hunters to be willing to implement anything that might cramp their style. So the harassment is allowed to continue, and their current TOS continues to be enforced in a selective and partisan way that benefits no-one. Much of the worst behaviour goes unpunished unless their target is a prominent member of a group Twitter’s management wants to curry favour with.

Have the technical solutions that have been proposed, many of them quite straightforward to implement, been squelched for the same reason? Or can we simply blame cluelessness?

Twitter at its best is a great conversation space and a great way of making new social and professional connections. But its weakness has always the way trolls can disrupt meaningful conversation. Twitter have been dragging their heels on this for far too long.

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2 Responses to Twitter still in trouble

  1. Colum Paget says:

    Twitters mistakes have been so numerous that it’s tough to point to any one problem, for instance their decision to discourage third party clients and apps led to the platform being increasingly left behind in the age of open-source and cloud. But I totally agree with the points you make here. One of twitter’s biggest problems is that it allows ideological harrassment to pass provided that it’s coming from the ‘right side’. This is true of a lot of online spaces. Few of these spaces will survive the next five years in any significant form.

    In attempting to allow open season on white men, SJW ideology declares open season on everyone. SJW outrage is a form of performance art, and requires a target. Once all the cishet white men have blocked/muted you, or are otherwise no longer providing you good targets, you have to find other victims. Thus we eventually see gay men becoming a target and Steven Fry getting chased off, or Peter Thiel declared to ‘not be gay’.

    Ultimately then spaces that try to cleave to an ideological line will always become troll infested and all the normal people will be targeted in turn and most will be driven away. They will hit some upper limit and not be able to grow beyond that. I predict the same will happen to gab.ai.

    The future is probably many walled gardens each catering to a different audience. These will likely be created within something like facebook by giving people the tools to create their own closed subgroups. This isn’t going to happen with twitter though, twitter has had its day.

    Colum

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Important to remember that political ideologues (of any stripe) are the minority, but they’re the ones who make all the noise, and as the old saying goes, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Some communities have a “Leave your politics at the door” rule for a good reason.

    Twitter’s problem is there are many, many overlapping communities sharing the same space, and some of them aren’t willing to co-exist with others. So it needs a means of keeping them apart.

    Twitter’s other problem, of course, is they’ve built something that’s hard to monetise without alienating their users. And that’s a whole ‘nother issue…