It’s Time For @Twitter To Fix The Fact That It Is A Toxic Environment

You’ll note that the title of this post has “@Twitter” in it. That’s because when this gets posted to both this blog and to Twitter, I want Twitter to see this as they need to see this feedback about their platform which can be summed up in these five words: Twitter is a toxic environment.

There. I said it. Twitter used to be the town hall for the planet. But instead it’s become a place with racists, misogynists, and other really negative types to be able to have free reign to say and do whatever they want. And if you call out one of these types, the perception is that you are the one that will be punished by Twitter. And that’s a problem.

Let me give you an example.

A friend of mine called out a bunch of Armie Hammer sympathizers on Twitter. In case you’re wondering who Armie Hammer is, this Wikipedia article will help. But you should pay attention to this specific section which outlines some very serious abuse allegations against Hammer. During this exchange on Twitter where opinions were exchanged on both sides of the argument, a bunch of trolls predictably appeared to make the conversation take a trip to a very toxic place. And my friend told one of the trolls to choke on a vegetable. That was apparently enough to get her banned from Twitter for a few hours. From what I can tell, none of the trolls were banned from Twitter as checking their accounts illustrates that they are still able to post freely online while my friend couldn’t do so as she was in Twitter’s penalty box so to speak.

The thing is, this isn’t an isolated incident. I have heard of this sort of thing before and it isn’t an uncommon experience where the trolls get away with all sorts of things on Twitter and people who stand up to them get punished by Twitter. And this illustrates problem number one. Twitter doesn’t appear to deal with situations like this in a fair manner. This is how it was put to me by the person who got banned in the example above:

It’s completely a 2 tiered approach. People of colour and women don’t have the right to fight back, while white people, “DEVOUT CHRISTIANS,” racists, trolls and abusers can say whatever they want.

I want to believe that this isn’t the case. But in the absence of objective facts that prove otherwise, this is reality that people see on Twitter. This is a huge problem if you’re Twitter as perception is reality to anyone who uses the platform. So my first suggestion to Twitter is to lay out how you deal with situations like this and clearly demonstrate that punishments for racism, misogyny, and the like are fairly and publicly doled out.

Related to that, I have ask why are racists, misogynists, and other really negative types welcome on Twitter in the first place? Seriously. Social media spaces online should not be lawless spaces where these people are free to roam and say whatever they want. There are laws against this sort of thing. Specifically laws against hate speech and verbal abuse. These should be applied online just as they are in person. And Twitter should have a protocol to “encourage” these people to alter their online behaviour and bring them to the attention of law enforcement if they don’t alter their online behaviour. Now some free speech types may read that and say that this is a massive over-reach. My response is that free speech has limits. And based on what I have seen where examples like the one above, and based on experiences that I have experienced on Twitter with comments about my race, that limit was reached a long time ago and Twitter needs address this.

Now in the absence of Twitter seriously addressing these issues in a more active way, there are ways that you can address this sort of behaviour if you are a victim of it. Twitter themselves have these tips to deal with these situations. But Twitter really needs to address this in a very meaningful and public way if they want to still be known as the town hall for the planet instead of being known for being a very toxic cesspool.

The ball’s in your court now Twitter.

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