“Twitter is the free speech wing of the free speech party,”
August 11, 2016 3:50 PM   Subscribe

According to 10 high-level former employees, the social network’s long history with abuse has been fraught with inaction and organizational disarray. Taken together, these interviews tell the story of a company that’s been ill-equipped to handle harassment since its beginnings. Fenced in by an abiding commitment to free speech above all else and a unique product that makes moderation difficult and trolling almost effortless, Twitter has, over a chaotic first decade marked by shifting business priorities and institutional confusion, allowed abuse and harassment to continue to grow as a chronic problem and perpetual secondary internal priority. On Twitter, abuse is not just a bug, but — to use the Silicon Valley term of art — a fundamental feature.
posted by the man of twists and turns (69 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Was just thinking about this because Jon Hendren has a new website which hopefully one day will replace twitter.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:57 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


"A Honeypot for Assholes" is the best damn description of Twitter I've ever read.
posted by the marble index at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2016 [16 favorites]




One of these days, sometime soon, Twitter's abject negligence around abuse and harassment is going to get them where it hurts. What advertiser would pay money to have their message run alongside people's vitriolic abuse?

I wrote some more about this about two weeks ago, when Milo got canned.
posted by SansPoint at 4:10 PM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Isn't running ads alongside vitriolic abuse the whole engine that cranks the trump <> media feedback loop?
posted by poe at 4:15 PM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


poe: Is Wall Street going to be pleased by the results when the only ads Twitter gets are for survivalist gear and anime body pillows?
posted by SansPoint at 4:20 PM on August 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


they should have tried to be a message layer, not a product.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:26 PM on August 11, 2016


Finally, my bitter holdout rejection of Twitter as a useless fad will be vindicated.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:28 PM on August 11, 2016 [23 favorites]




Twitter's official response is parroting the same line they've been parroting since before GamerGate.

Less talk, more fix.
posted by SansPoint at 4:35 PM on August 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


when you open any famous person tweet, the first reply you see should be somebody the tweeter follows, not just a rando

Isn't the fact that "famous people" and "randos" are presented on the same level part of the appeal of Twitter though? But I think its true that - as seems to be suggested in the article - nobody has ever really had a clear idea what Twitter was supposed to be and its ended up trying to be a few things that may not actually be compatible with each other. I also think the general opaqueness of the interface and difficulty of following conversations amplifies the sense of overwhelming hostility. I have seen people I like and respect lose their damn minds on Twitter.
posted by atoxyl at 4:38 PM on August 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


140 characters is not much for communicating anything worthwhile. But it's enough room for a lot of racial slurs, misogynistic terms, and the like.

The medium is the message here.

Switch the channel. Don't add to the traffic.
posted by ocschwar at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


At this point I'm less interested in seeing another article about Twitter being broken than ideas about how to fix it though. It seems like you want more restrictions on/available filtering of brand-new accounts - but not enough to turn off new users. Greater ability to hide tweets made through known proxies/Tor - optionally because there are people who really need proxies and people who want to see those people's tweets. More extensive control of what you, personally see. A user rating system? A user rating system that weights your followees' ratings higher or something like that?
posted by atoxyl at 5:01 PM on August 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I used to be a frequent user of Twitter.

I stopped for two reasons.

1. The continued focus on useless features like changing the star button to a heart instead of taking care of the harassment issue.
While twitter has a lot of interesting people who use the service, for a person of color it's not really worth the trouble dealing with trolls when discussing certain topics.

2. There is nothing interesting for me to tweet about anymore.
I spent a lot of time talking about hockey on twitter. There used to be a interesting group of people who I was able to be friends with. Now only the loudest assholes dominate the conversation. That's been that way for a while, but I'm tired of wasting my time on a platform where short term validation is the norm.

Come to think about it, I feel the same about other social media sites. Unfortunately on twitter, the abuse towards anyone who isn't a white male has gotten worse.

I just lurk.
posted by 81818181818181818181 at 5:04 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


atoxyl: Just actually banning users who violate the existing rules would be a decent start. We can't even get that.
posted by SansPoint at 5:05 PM on August 11, 2016 [15 favorites]


Blocking people but still having their @s to your past tweets visible to people is like stepping in dog shit and plugging your nose so you can't smell it, but being prohibited from scraping it off your shoe. The only way to get it off your shoe is to throw away your shoe (delete the tweet) and get a new shoe (tweet the same thing again.)

On Facebook you at least have the moderation ability to delete replies to your posts, and to control the level of publicity a post gets. If a tire fire starts in the replies to my comment on someone else's post, I can delete my post and their replies will disappear.
posted by larrybob at 5:22 PM on August 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


The problem is Milo and his idiot children will say Twitter died because it wouldn't address the SJW Menace.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:24 PM on August 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


> 140 characters is not much for communicating anything worthwhile.

So untrue. I'm not the only person who followed twitter (and used it, obviously) during events like the Ferguson protests and the Mumbai bombings and so on. It can be an incredibly useful platform.
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on August 11, 2016 [26 favorites]


David Auerbach had some good suggestions for Twitter improvements in an article back in January. He quit Twitter in the midst of a dispute with Wikipedia for a couple weeks in July, but is back.
posted by larrybob at 5:36 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


140 characters is not much for communicating anything worthwhile.

I'm in full agreement. The best content on Twitter is often in multi-part tweets later put onto Storify. But it's the perfect medium for (yes, I'm going there) Donald Trump. In fact, in an election thread here earlier today, I stated
"Twitter's abuse problem" is an important part of Twitter's Business Plan. Without it, they'd shrink in usage, lose lots of ad dollars and shrivel up and die.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:37 PM on August 11, 2016


Old but germane Anil Dash post: If your website is full of assholes, it's your fault.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:37 PM on August 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


But it's the perfect medium for (yes, I'm going there) Donald Trump.

They should ban him, just like Milo. All the assholes would quit in protest and it would become a utopia, until their ad income collapse and they fell into the abyss.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:04 PM on August 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Basically, for me, anyone who disregards/mocks/disdains Twitter tends to be someone who has privilege, someone who has a platform, someone who can "rise above" ugh that gross mess that is Twitter.

As a female Twitter user who has been on the good side and bad side of Twitter? I don't care that you think like that.

Because without Twitter, I would never ever hear or learn about the perspectives of feminists of colour, of feminists period, or of people of colour. They freakin' stick around and do the dirty work you will never have to, they endure abuse you can't imagine, and I can never ever thank them enough for that.

So it's awesome and rad you get to nope da fuck out of that, but that platform, for as shitty as it is and shitty it can be, has done more to elevate social consciousness than you care to think about.

It is the worst thing that it has gotten so terrible, but it's free, it's a voice, and until some Silicon Valley investor wants to do something similar that is equally free and has a moderation plan in mind, I'm still glad it's here.
posted by Kitteh at 6:08 PM on August 11, 2016 [61 favorites]


Blocking people but still having their @s to your past tweets visible to people is like stepping in dog shit and plugging your nose so you can't smell it, but being prohibited from scraping it off your shoe. The only way to get it off your shoe is to throw away your shoe (delete the tweet) and get a new shoe (tweet the same thing again.)

The design of Twitter results in an odd conflation of talking about someone and talking to them. In response to this my suggestions were based on the principle that you should have extensive and proactive control over what you see but not what other people see. There is certainly also a case for moderators who do have the ability to control what everybody sees. You could also argue for a platform where users do have power over comments that refer to them explicitly - there are probably good sides of that but it's not something I personally find attractive.
posted by atoxyl at 6:14 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


140 characters is not much for communicating anything worthwhile.

I have to absolutely disagree with this. I've found Twitter to be a unique and valuable tool in tracking emerging issues in my field - I mainly follow data and tech people, and tech focused journalists.

Twitter's value lies in the ability to curate your sources. If you see no value in the voices you hear, maybe you're listening to the wrong people.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:18 PM on August 11, 2016 [19 favorites]


I'm not listening, I'm not listening. I love Twitter. Sadly, just about everything I love on the web eventually degrades. (I'm looking at you Google. )
posted by madamjujujive at 6:34 PM on August 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Twitter has been invaluable to me. If they would just make the straightforward fixes to curb abuse that have been repeatedly suggested, it will continue to be a place I like to hang out.

I love that it's ephemeral. I have Metafilter for heavy discussions, Facebook for family/socializing. Twitter is just "hey what are ya'll talking about today?" Lots of jokes. Good links to stuff I'd never see normally. It's nimble, it's fast, it's easy to read on your phone.

If the trolls get bad enough, people will leave and find another place that does a better job of keeping them out. My personal experience hasn't been that bad yet, but I'm a low-profile person. All it would take is one asshole with a grudge to change that.

Twitter is easier to leave than a place like Facebook because it doesn't require building a whole profile in the same way, and doesn't really follow your real-life relationships necessarily. You follow people, you tweet, others follow you, that's it pretty much it. Someone you follow retweets someone else cool, you follow that new person. And so on.
posted by emjaybee at 6:52 PM on August 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Twitter's official response

It is both damning and embarrassing that they put this statement on a blog with comments disabled instead of the main @Twitter account or literally anywhere else on their platform.
posted by almostmanda at 7:14 PM on August 11, 2016 [24 favorites]


Was just thinking about this because Jon Hendren has a new website which hopefully one day will replace twitter.

You say that, and yet that link you provided has no information about a new service. Unless it's the website itself on which that link was displayed—piss.io? Which, no; it's indistinguishable from pretty much any other blog service to me on my first exposure. You don't advertise a billboard by putting a car advertisement on a billboard, and you don't advertise Twitter's replacement by using it to just whine about Twitter.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 7:53 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I thought it was pretty well established that celebrities got special filtering teams assigned to them so, for instance, Beyonce wouldn't be inundated with a firehose of racist garbage.
posted by benzenedream at 8:41 PM on August 11, 2016


I thought it was pretty well established that celebrities got special filtering teams

It's not a "team" it's an option. "Only show me tweets to/about me from verified accounts." Verified accounts literally don't see any of the random bullshit that goes on.

If twitter really does make a real verification process for "real" people who submit their real identities to them it could really do loads and loads of good because us non-horrible people could just click the button and say no to all the anonymous assholes.

Although FB supposedly uses real names and the majority of assholes are still over there so...I don't have high hopes.
posted by M Edward at 8:54 PM on August 11, 2016


I'm not an expert or anything, but it seems reasonable to create, as a first step, an account-level option that would stop anyone whom you don't follow from @-replying you or quoting any of your tweets.
posted by Automocar at 9:37 PM on August 11, 2016


Also, it seems to me that part of the problem with Twitter is the medium--no one can say exactly what they mean because of the character limit, and so everyone who tweets and everyone who reads a tweet is engaging in a form of translation, which is rife with possible misunderstandings. Over time it seems that this has combined with sexist and racist assholes to create a pretty horrible culture.
posted by Automocar at 9:40 PM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd be super interested to hear from people who tweet in different languages, and can therefore express more or less than your average English-language tweeter can in a single tweet, on whether they think the character limit has any bearing on the level of abuse.
posted by Panthalassa at 10:06 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because without Twitter, I would never ever hear or learn about the perspectives of feminists of colour, of feminists period, or of people of colour. They freakin' stick around and do the dirty work you will never have to, they endure abuse you can't imagine, and I can never ever thank them enough for that.

I don't use Twitter, I can't do 140 characters and feel like I'm saying what I mean, so I ask out of genuine curiosity, what it is specifically about Twitter that makes it so necessary for communicating for groups like you mention even though there is such a huge amount of abuse? Is it just Twitter was there first and where everyone formed relationships or is there something built in to their system of 140 character messages that hasn't been duplicated elsewhere or is it scale related?

I just trying to understand why more people haven't moved to other sites and instead stay and put up with the abuse if it is as bad as it seems from the outside.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:30 PM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you see no value in the voices you hear, maybe you're listening to the wrong people.

This.
posted by mazola at 11:33 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you see no value in the voices you hear, maybe you're listening to the wrong people.

Completely this.
I just went through the sign up flow (which probably changes every two weeks) and it asks for my interests with a search field or suggests some topics for me:

- Olympics
- Football
- News
- Entertainment (what does this even mean)
- Humour (same)
- Music (same)
- Lifestyle and culture (same)
- TV
- Gaming
- Esports (what?)
- Sports

As a woman of a minority background this list of topics reads white and male to me.

So none of these sound appealing and I can't think of what to put in the search field (seriously what do I put in there? PokemonGo? Fashion? Cats?) and just skip forward. It gives me a list of accounts to follow "based on your location" with nothing but their account name and their bio (no way to preview what kind of tweets they send out). A snippet of suggestions:

- Time Out London (yawn)
- TFL (ok maybe helpful but not really setting my feed on fire)
- TFL Traffic news (somehow they think I should follow this one and TFL?)
- TFL Traffic alerts (ok come on now)
- London Overground (stop)
- TfL bus alerts (sigh)
- Time Out Food & drink (As opposed to Time Out London?)
- A handful of newspapers and magazines
- If I scroll wayyyyyy down I start getting: Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and... Donald Trump (following these people is probably going to give you the worst Twitter experience ever. There is no reason to follow them. If they ever say anything worthwhile you'll see it through Twitter Moments.)

I don't understand what the hell they are trying to tell their new users Twitter is and I don't see how this is helping anyone get an experience they like or value. I've curated my follow list over the past 3 years. I very regularly unfollow people. Twitter's first response to a poor feed is "FOLLOW MOAR PEOPLE" but it needs to actually be "Follow people for a little bit and if it's not working for you, unfollow them".

The IPO was probably the worst thing to happen to Twitter and I agree with the article that chasing after revenue has made the product (and ultimately the users) suffer.

(Am I the only person who likes Twitter Moments? I like Twitter Moments.)
posted by like_neon at 2:58 AM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think it's a little funny that Twitter says they couldn't respond because they were only asked last night, like Jack & Dick aren't keeping tabs on work at night.
posted by rhizome at 3:30 AM on August 12, 2016


And just thinking about the big "features" Twitter has rolled out, it's clear they are chasing revenue/growth targets and not experience improvements:

- Reordering your feed so you see more: No user has ever asked for this and it's never made a lick of sense to me. They observed something about how people aren't reading their whole feed and their answer is to reorder the tweets so that Twitter gets to decide what's important to you? This makes no sense. If you look at it through the revenue/growth lens though, it makes perfect sense. Twitter gets to decide what's important to them for you to see. See also: Instagram.

- Changing the star to a heart: What user problem is this trying to solve? None. Because again, this isn't about the user experience. When you apply the revenue/growth lens this is actually about that sexy social platform metric: engagement. I think the heart usage must vastly outnumber the star usage. But again, what user problem was this solving? None. But I guarantee it makes the numbers Twitter reports to the board look great!

- Twitter Moments: Like I said I like Twitter Moments and although there's lots of hate for it, it addresses a user problem for me. Twitter Moments means I don't have to follow high profile accounts or generic news accounts. My feed is a lot more personal. If I want to know "what people are talking about" I check out Moments. In fact, it's probably daily habit of mine as I find it a very good way to check up on world events/gossip. But I don't think this is the problem that Twitter was trying to solve when they came up with Moments. Because what have I regularly seen in Moments ever since it started? Sponsored stories right at the top of the Moments feed. Revenue/growth targets plainly in view. My own personal benefit was merely a nice to have, I don't believe it was ever the main goal of the project.

How many man hours have been dedicated to these three features? How many designers, product managers, and developers resourced to roll these out?

And how much investment has been allocated to addressing abuse?

Trolls power a lot of Twitter's success metrics. Their numbers won't be differentiating a reply from a troll vs a sane person, and based on my observations it's the assholes who do most of the replying on Twitter. Twitter only does something when a high profile account leaves or if there's a huge story about someone being abused on Twitter. The only reason Twitter will seriously address the problem with trolls is if there starts to be evidence that it's stagnating their growth numbers - ie scores of people not joining/leaving Twitter because of them. But honestly it'll be too late by then.
posted by like_neon at 3:37 AM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


"A Honeypot for Assholes"

That's a great title, but I hope he finishes Winds of Winter first.
posted by rokusan at 5:00 AM on August 12, 2016 [20 favorites]


twitter is good if you have a crap 'smartphone' (like me) which can't load webpages. at one point, you could tweet and read twitter from a regular mobile. the reason for the 140 characters is that is based on a mobile text message.

as for curating: I was a pretty early adopter, and I followed friends, people I knew in real life. Now I have a mix of friends, local news (like my city councillor - I learn about events two blocks away via his twitter), a few celebrities who tweet interesting things (but not many), and (of course) @birdsrightsactivist, because I have to keep up with how squirrels are evil. your curating is up to you - but I advise anyone to start small, and with people you really care about (Eg rl friends).

twitter is more immediate than facebook - and doesn't show you things out of order (like facebook). At one point, you always saw 100% of your feed, but it's short enough to skim. that's what makes it invaluable for breaking news - you can tweet as it is happening and people get that tweet immediately and can retweet. News can fly much faster. There's a reason we heard about Ferguson via twitter. I almost always hear breaking news on twitter before any other medium.

It doesn't have the length of facebook, or the ability to share photo albums or create events. it's not really a "social media" platform as short news platform. for conversations, I find facebook comment threads easier. But for news, I look to twitter.
posted by jb at 6:16 AM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


When I was in college, we had Zephyr, which was our instant messaging platform. You could send personal messages, or for group communications you could subscribe to instances; for example, if I sent "zephyr -i chessclub 'my message'," my message would go out to everyone who'd opted into chessclub messages and only those people.

Naturally, half the campus set subscriptions to a wildcard so they could view every wayward thought that people blasted out into the ether.

Twitter is its spiritual descendant. It is to IMs as Facebook walls are to pre-endless-September Usenet; Facebook blather is a man taking you aside and painstakingly explaining to you for fifteen minutes how the Lizard People have taken over the American government, while Twitter is a random person running up and shouting OBAMA IS A RED LECTROID PASS IT ON in your ear.
posted by delfin at 6:42 AM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Twitter isn't only a free speech platform, it's also a tool for curbing free speech.

The thing about Twitter is that it is an absolutely wonderful platform for disseminating information, and brilliant for connecting you with likeminded people, and for keeping tabs on current information, and organizing people for causes that quickly get lots of attention. Almost everything that gets said and shared on Twitter is good, or at worst trivial. However, it also allows people to intimidate others into silence through abusive language, threats of violence, and the non-consensual sharing of personal information.

At its best it's a tool for connecting people to push for justice, at its worst it's a crowdsourced Stasi.
posted by Kattullus at 7:04 AM on August 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'd agree that Twitter handles news better than everything else. There is a sizable portion of the intelligentsia who use twitter publicly enough to keep it interesting. Yes, they fight among themselves too, but that's why you lurk and do not post unless you know the subject.

Afaik anything else currently available would be either (a) those same people's own long winded blogs, (b) non-experts writing long winded stuff for the masses, like journalists or wikipedia, or (c) hyper-moderated purpose driven sites, like stackexchange or metafitler. Or (d) your real life friends and family who lack even the expertise of a journalists or wikipedia editor.

We need more experiments in form restrictions that either mesh well with a particular style of moderation, ala stackexchange, or do not require moderation, ala 140 characters, or somewhere in between. We need more experiments in quasi-private spaces too, but they must be enforced by cryptography, not just bullshit like SnapChat.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:09 AM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I'm not an expert or anything, but it seems reasonable to create, as a first step, an account-level option that would stop anyone whom you don't follow from @-replying you or quoting any of your tweets."

Let me get this straight: you have a company with a revenue problem, and an optional feature that would solve the primary criticism of the service. How are these dots not being connected?
posted by kevinbelt at 7:57 AM on August 12, 2016


kevinbelt: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

(Or, in the case of Twitter, when his ideology depends on his not understanding it.)
posted by SansPoint at 8:52 AM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


What I hate about Twitter is the way "garbage things said by randos" is reported as news. Which is more of a new problem than a Twitter problem but still? Why are finger craps taken by sweaty taints on Twitter viewed as newsworthy?

I don't read Twitter AT ALL so you would think I could avoid Twitter spew like garbage people with garbage brains criticizing Olympic athletes for being fat (!!!) or not putting their hands on their hearts during national anthems (!!) but I can't because "stories" on things like this show up in all kinds of other social media and news sources.

I really hate Twitter for taking those useless ranters out of newspaper comments sections and putting them into a worldwide venue that gives every their passing useless opinion seeming legitimacy.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:54 AM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I'm not an expert or anything, but it seems reasonable to create, as a first step, an account-level option that would stop anyone whom you don't follow from @-replying you or quoting any of your tweets."

They have this option - or they did, at least. I have a friend who was in this "private" mode for several years, as she didn't want her personal twitter to be public. Her account was marked with a little lock - and she had to approve you as a follower. You could not view her tweets unless she approved you, and you could never retweet her tweets.

This works perfectly well for a private individual connecting with personal friends. But it doesn't work for someone who wishes their tweets to be public but also also being harassed. .
posted by jb at 11:07 AM on August 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I really hate Twitter for taking those useless ranters out of newspaper comments sections and putting them into a worldwide venue that gives every their passing useless opinion seeming legitimacy.

Isn't that why they like it?
posted by atoxyl at 11:11 AM on August 12, 2016


They have this option - or they did, at least. I have a friend who was in this "private" mode for several years, as she didn't want her personal twitter to be public. Her account was marked with a little lock - and she had to approve you as a follower. You could not view her tweets unless she approved you, and you could never retweet her tweets.

This works perfectly well for a private individual connecting with personal friends. But it doesn't work for someone who wishes their tweets to be public but also also being harassed. .


Right, what I suggested is a bit different from the private account option that's already available. My solution would allow for your tweets to be public, but for no one to be able to @-reply you or quote your tweet unless you follow them. This would seem to be a good solution for celebrities (or anyone, really) who get harassed but still want to use Twitter as a publicity vehicle.
posted by Automocar at 11:31 AM on August 12, 2016


Facebook has asymmetrical relationships, Twitter doesn't. On Facebook you can follow someone and see what they're saying (ostensibly) without being able to interact with them, post to their wall, etc. On Twitter it's all or nothing, every follower is a friend. So, this means the community has to come up with stuff like GGAB to manage their own experience. Locked accounts are the nuclear option, and it's the only real one they've implemented.

As someone who found out yesterday that he's blocked by Kumail Nanjiani, one of my favorite people in the world these days, which as far as I can tell, (almost) can't be because of anything I've said, I suspect it's something like GGAB what did it, which signals a failure on Twitter's part that has given me the sads on a personal level.
posted by rhizome at 11:45 AM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I will say that I have enjoyed being an asshole on Twitter, but on a different level than the people spewing racial and sexual slurs and death threats et al. One of the best uses for Twitter as it stands is public mockery.

Now, this can be via a parody account, such as @nihilist_arbys or Sitnexto Kim Davis. It can be a source of information and snark like @SwiftOnSecurity. It can be a hashtag piling on dopey things people say or do, like #DonLemonReporting or #CSPANchat or #RomneyDeathRally. It can be a well-meaning hashtag that gets hilariously abused, like when a local news station used #6abcSnow for "send us your snowstorm reports" and ended up having to block half the county. Or it can be dogpiling on groups that publicly display ignorance and horrible opinions (cough cough #PSU or your favorite political hashtag here).

Have I been publicly uncouth therein? Well, yes. That's something of one of my joys in life, as people who've followed my comments here have noticed. Being able to do so with a global, but opt-in audience is somewhat of a selling point for Twitter in and of itself. The tricky part for Twitter is to find ways to separate snark from personal harassment and stamp out the latter.
posted by delfin at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I remember the Good Game AutoBlocker that was developed to fight GamerGate. It automatically blocked people who followed certain known harassers and could be set up to block accounts less than x days old.

It looks like Randi Harper has developed some other anti-harassment tools. How well do they work? (I'm not blaming anyone for not using them, but if she can do this off of a Patreon income, surely Twitter can do something.)
posted by Hactar at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2016


Twitter -- and all social media -- is opt in. Yes, yes I know: all your friends and family are there, and oh my god FOMO.

But no one is making ANYONE participate in any of these sites. They are optional.

And now that we have ample data and examples of just what kinds of content one can be exposed to on these sites, it then becomes much easier to decide whether or not you are someone who wants to participate in that world. If not, then don't.

There are times when I tweet things I'm passionate about, and I know I'll get responses that will make me uncomfortable, or embarrassed -- so I just wait a few days before I check that tab. I give myself time to settle down and get distance from it.

Most importantly, I remind myself that it's not about me. People are living their own lives, with their own things going on. And some people are just batshit insane. Vive la difference. That's why there is the block/mute options. That's why I can turn my account private and decide who I let in.

I have more fun and get more rewarding interactions out of subsets of Twitter, so I stay. I take responsibility for that decision each day.
posted by gsh at 2:18 PM on August 12, 2016


"Maybe if they continue using it, they're kinda asking for it" is a really fucking horrible thing to say about targets of harassment.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:21 PM on August 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


All the people who are too good to use Twitter and knew it was a 'fad,' (10 years is a long time to be a 'fad' but I digress) this stunning insight seems to come with an odd compulsion to restate it in every thread about Twitter.

"That thing is bad. I knew it was bad. No, I have never used it. Would you like me to go on?"

No. Not at all.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:47 PM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is not to discount the problems the platform faces, but if you don't use it and don't care then please do so elsewhere, maybe?
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:48 PM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


"And now that we have ample data and examples of just what kinds of content one can be exposed to on these sites, it then becomes much easier to decide whether or not you are someone who wants to participate in that world. If not, then don't. "

Why does it have to be all or nothing? Do you think email was better back when you got 90 emails a day about mortgage refinancing and hot Russian babes who want to chat?
posted by kevinbelt at 4:29 PM on August 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Do you think email was better back when you got 90 emails a day about mortgage refinancing and hot Russian babes who want to chat?

Sigh. I wonder what sv3tlana is up to these days.
posted by rokusan at 12:33 AM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]




In other so-called news: Twitter denies #SaveTwitter rumors of shutting down in 2017

"But it must be true - I saw it on Twitter!"
#DontSaveTwitter
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:38 PM on August 13, 2016


Death threats are actual crimes. That the dudebros at Twitter say "Oh noes! FREE SPEECH!" and do nothing about them when average users flag them speaks volumes. As does this:

"Twitter is deleting users posting Olympic clips within minutes. They have tools to deal with harassment, but they'll only protect brands."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:44 AM on August 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Uh, it's really easy to flag illegal uploads and delete them. Back in TFA, one of the big points was that blocking harassing content requires intelligent evaluation of context and accepting that keyword searches aren't enough. These are different problems, and the fact that end users perceive them as the same is an unfortunate wrinkle.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:23 AM on August 14, 2016


I don't think they perceive them as the same, but overall computers are good at matching and the facts that spam detection has come as far as it has and Twitter is one of the "we hire the best of the best" companies means there is a lot of fertile ground yet to be covered. That they have prioritized other kinds of matching speaks to how they've left others fallow.
posted by rhizome at 12:41 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, I agree that they've prioritized one over the other. But I think that citing one kind of content removal and then saying that Twitter "has tools to deal with harassment" conflates two distinctly different technologies. The problem isn't that they have the tools and agent sharing them. It's that the tools haven't been developed.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:57 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sure, I understand that, but you could also say that their staff of programming talent is the tool and priorities of what they are tasked to produce are what's at issue. I know that's not what the masses are specifically referring to, but it does get at the heart of the problem.
posted by rhizome at 2:26 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree that the staff of programming talent should be the point; I just think that using the example of filtering Olympic IP is a poor one because the problem is fundamentally different from blocking harassers. It looks similar in the surface, but only in the way that, say, a deer looks like a horse. The fact that they can mass filter ISIS accounts, or could train a custom neural net for a q and a with the president, are much more apropos examples.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:49 PM on August 14, 2016


Twitter says it shut down more than 235,000 accounts promoting terrorism since February

Gee, they seem to be capable of taking some actions against some people.

So many people credit them for supporting the Arab Spring a few years ago. I wonder if things would've been different they'd implemented their 'sort out the terrorists' algorithm back then.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:19 AM on August 19, 2016


And thus we see the natural progression of the satisfaction of demands for content and experience control: first commercial brands, then government policy, then, maybe some day, the little guy.
posted by rhizome at 10:24 AM on August 20, 2016


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