Twitter Is Not Likely To Eliminate Abuse

I’m a big fan of Twitter. Yes, I use it for work and our brand here at ThirdParent, but I also use it personally – a lot. It really is the best way to stay up to date on current events as they happen, and hear real time thoughts from leaders in literally every field.

Twitter logoThe main problem with Twitter is abuse and abusive users.

We’ve written about abuse and Twitter before – here and here and here. Twitter has been talking about abuse for a while, and sound like they have good intentions, but each tweak that they implement on the platform seems to come up short.

Last night, Twitter reported earnings and on the call CEO Jack Dorsey made comments that lead us to believe that they will never be able to make it a safe environment for some users. Dorsey’s comments in full:

“This is Jack. This is really, really important to me and to everyone at the company. So, I want to address both freedom of expression and safety together here, since the two intertwine.

We are not and never will be a platform that shows people only part of what’s happening or part of what’s being said. We are the place for news and social commentary. And at its best, the nature of our platform empowers people to reach across divides, and to build connections, to share ideas and to challenge accepted norms.

As part of that, we hope – and we also recognize it’s a high hope – to elevate civil discourse. And I emphasize civil discourse there. Abuse is not part of civil discourse. It shuts down conversation. It prevents us from understanding each other. Freedom of expression means little if we allow voices to be silenced because of fear of harassment if they speak up. No one deserves to be the target of abuse online, and it has no place on Twitter.

We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we must do better. That means building new technology solutions, making sure our policies and enforcement are consistent, and educating people about both. We’ve made improvements in the first half of the year, and we’re going to make more. We named safety as one of our top five priorities for this year, and recent events have only confirmed that this is truly one of the most important things for us to improve, and has motivated us to improve even faster.”

Why are we skeptical that they can stomp out abuse? There are indications that they don’t want to. Consider this sentence:

“We are not and never will be a platform that shows people only part of what’s happening or part of what’s being said.”

In any discourse, harsh disagreements, criticism and arguments are at times part of what is being said. Twitter wants to preserve that real discourse on its platform. To get rid of abuse entirely, they would be forced to manually review every reported interaction and decide where the fine line is between civil and uncivil disagreement. That’s pretty much impossible if they intend to let users speak their mind and err on the side of assuming users are innocent until totally proven guilty.

Instead, it appears that they want users to self-police, and “elevate civil discourse”. That is a nice goal but it won’t happen. There will always be some users who are genuinely mean, or get a kick out of trolling others. Twitter won’t be able to get this right without taking more extreme steps, unfortunately.



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