Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Friday, October 20, 2017

t BirdFor years people have complained about the vicious level of trolling and bullying that is conducted on Twitter. There have been concerted campaigns of harassment, conducted via Twitter, that have driven people to the brink. Piss the wrong person off and you’ll be on the receiving end of a non stop barrage of threats, cruel attacks and more. The worst of the trolls use Twitter as a gathering point to coordinate their attacks. 

Contrary to what some in the media try to claim, these aren’t just incidents of name calling and a few insults lobbed back and forth. Telling someone to “man up” or “stop whining” pretty much encourages the attackers. If I stood on a street corner and some random person came up to me threatening to kill me or followed me down the road spewing invectives, I’m pretty sure this would be seen as unacceptable.  There is a difference between a flame war and a directed campaign of harassment. A flame war has two willing participants. Harassment doesn’t. Most efforts to combat the problem have been pretty half-hearted or poorly instituted. Twitter has been a playground for extremists and a vicious variety of trolls.

This week, Twitter announced it will be forming the Trust and Safety Council in a belated effort to take on the problem. Now the wag in me says Twitter is finally taking action because of the hammering they took this week about the reports of changes to how Tweets will appear. But that’s not true. Plans like this aren’t formed in 24 hours.

Twitter is hoping the Trust and Safety Council will develop a coherent plan to combat bullying and harassment. And let’s be honest here people, when we use the term bullying, we aren’t talking about simple garden variety stuff.  If you or one of your friends has never been on the receiving end of one of the nastier versions, it’s difficult to explain how deeply disturbing it can be. On their Trust and Safety Council page, Twitter nails the problem in one phrase “harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice”. Their Sisyphean task includes creating programs and policies to take on the problem and create a safer environment without gutting the vibrant nature of Twitter.

In a not so coincidental act, earlier this week Twitter deleted 125,000 accounts that were used by ISIS to recruit and promote their actions. Twitterati have vocally complained about their presence, but it was pretty useless. Although Twitter has previously delete thousands of accounts, there was no coordinated plan to deal with them or any domestic trolls. Delete one, 10 more puppet accounts popped up to increase the pressure. Without a solid, coordinated program to deal with the issue, nothing was going to change. Will this work? No idea, quite honestly. Twitter may have left it too late.

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“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”

 ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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