What seems to be a powerful tool for users selecting what they want to see online is actually being touted by Twitter as a potential self-policing tool based on a blog post the social media broadcasting giant outed earlier today.
Twitter cited its hateful conduct policy as one of the reasons for it rationalizing the availability to end users (instead of moderators) to limit the information being broadcast via certain conversations, hashtags and even unique keywords. This comes in hot after news from Google and Facebook stating that they would not allow advertisements placed as part of their ad networks on websites distributing fake or incorrect news as a result of being tied to incorrect information that some allege could have actually influenced part of the US 2016 election results.
Twitter’s move comes in at the time when it is essentially the medium of communication for various political heavyweights. One of the more popular or most controversial of them is President Elect of the United States, Donald Trump. Mr. Trump’s comments are notorious for often creating outrage even as he continues to garner significant amount of support from like-minded individuals. On paper, this is an extremely powerful tool, but if one looks more closely, it seems to be little more than essentially a lame duck way of saying: “we know this happens, we can’t or won’t fix it completely in the short term, so here is some duct tape on your Twitter feed to make yourself feel better about the world.” Alone, this would simply be, at best a feature and at worst, an admission of failure.
While Twitter acknowledges the issue, stating that it is also working on retraining its staff to better address these issues as well as making it easier in the future for users to report abuse of its policies, it essentially makes a poor case for itself. Market giants such as Google and Apple and to a lesser degree, some comment regulation services like Disqus are looking to invest in AI to make this an easier task, there is simply no excuse for Twitter to, at least preliminarily, attempt to find a similar solution, not a half-baked mute button as part of an “empower the user” blog post.
It is true that all social media and communication platforms need to do more today if they are to be considered a medium of communication when it comes to differentiating between hate speech and free speech. Twitter needs to do more, of that, we have no doubt however; but even a small step in the right direction is a powerful one.