Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under We Can't Have Nice Things

Charlie Warzel, for Buzzfeed News, outlines the continual and systematic failure of Twitter to address abuse on its platform in“A Honeypot For Assholes”:

Part of what makes Twitter so powerful is its ability to level the communication field; tweets from a non-famous, little-followed user, are, in theory, just as easy to surface as a celebrity’s. Simply, Twitter is built differently than most social networks. Two accounts don’t have to follow each other to interact, and once a tweet is out in the world, the original tweeter doesn’t have the ability to moderate responses, like they might on an Instagram or Facebook comment. This unique design is responsible for some of Twitter’s most revolutionary and serendipitous moments; it’s also perfect for abuse.

“For years, it allowed this equal footing, where a troll you didn’t follow and your best friend who you follow and interact with all the time were given equal weight, and that’s crazy,” a former senior employee said. “Seriously, if you were an alien and you came down to look at this thing, you’d say, ‘Oh, the product was basically built for maximum ease of trolling.’ Like, they must have built this for trolls.

Warzel talked to ten former high-level employees to try to make sense of Twitter’s inability to keep its platform troll-free. He notes that while executives keep saying they want to combat abuse on their platform, Twitter has a philosophical commitment to free speech that’s just fundamentally incompatible with tapping certain users on the shoulder and saying “hey, knock that off.”

Part of this internal conflict stems from the fact that most of the people involved in these values judgments at Twitter aren’t subject to the kind of sustained harassment that makes their platform unusable for so many people. That’s not necessarily fatal unless you also ignore your users when they say your platform is infested with trolls, because you’re in love with the idea of completely unrestricted speech.

Unless you post a six-second video of an Olympic event. For God’s sake, show a little humanity.