Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Biased Opinion - I'm Done With Twitter

With the move impending, I've decided this is a good time to make some other changes too. Some big, some little, but all notable to some degree.

I think I am done with Twitter for good.

I've used Twitter a lot over the years. I set up my first account nearly a decade ago. At one point I had three active accounts, each of which I used for different purposes. I racked up more than thirty-three thousand tweets on my main account. I met people, made connections, made friends. I initially met the redhead through a Twitter interaction. As a social networking platform, Twitter is a great idea and showed so much promise in the early years.

Despite this, I have come to the conclusion that Twitter is just not something that should be supported. At the extreme, I think that Twitter may be something that needs to die, or at least be driven extinct by something else. This is not a complaint about the technology, but rather a complaint about the people who run Twitter. The short version is simply this: The guys who run Twitter are way too friendly towards the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and even outright Nazis who infest their site.

I've been increasingly uneasy about using Twitter over the last year or so as it became apparent that their system for handling loathsome individuals was not merely to accept that they were present in their user base, but to help defend and protect them as well. I suppose that the first glaringly obvious indication that this was the case was back during the days that GamerGate began, although the fact that Twitter was a refuge for people willing to spew venomous hatred at women was apparent even before then. Even during the darkest hours of GamerGate, there was some hope for Twitter - it was possible to believe that with the evidence of the rampant harassment and abuse that was running through their community highlighted in such glaring clarity, that Twitter would figure out that they needed to clean up their site and make their service a less hostile place.

Unfortunately, this belief was not borne out, or rather it was borne out, but only if you were one of the harassers. Twitter's official policy is that they want to make Twitter a "safe place where people can express their views", but what they really seem to mean is that they want to make Twitter a safe place to be a Nazi. Or a QAnon supporter saying all Democrats need to be in jail because they are running a worldwide child sex ring. Or an advocate for the genocide of people because of their race, or religion, or sexual preferences. Or an advocate for raping women who have opinions online. I know this, because Twitter has repeatedly told me, in response to reports I have sent them of such tweets by others, that these sorts of comments are perfectly fine and do not violate their terms of service.

I have seen tweets asserting that all liberals should be killed because liberals support Planned Parenthood. I have seen tweets asserting generalized violence against transwomen, and threatening specific violence against specific transwomen. I have seen tweets supporting killing all gay people in the United States, and threats of violence made against specific gay people. I have seen anti-Semitic, racist, and misogynistic comments, including the advocacy of murdering all of the people in those categories. I have seen accounts specifically (and explicitly) created in order to harass and threaten specific people - and I know they were created for such a purpose because the people who made them said that was what they were created for in the profile header of the account. All of these tweets and accounts are, according to Twitter, just fine and don't violate their terms of service.

The really telling element is that Twitter has shown that they can police their site, they just don't choose to do so. In some countries, Twitter is required to block Nazi accounts by law, and so they do. Twitter could ban the Nazis, racists, and misogynists if they wanted to. They know who they are. They just don't want to. Conversely, Twitter has become very diligent at policing the Twitter activity of those who are targeted by Nazis, racists, misogynists, and homophobes. I have seen trans activists suspended for using the completely accurate term "TERF" to refer to trans-exclusionary radical feminists. I've seen accounts banned merely for pointing out that some particular piece of information being passed around the conspiracy theory loving QAnon supporters was actually untrue. I've seen accounts suspended who did nothing but get targeted by right-wing hate mobs. Time and again, Twitter has made it clear that they are on the side of the Nazis.

4Chan has well-deserved reputations as hosting the sewer of the internet. Twitter is rapidly proving that they are a dumpster fire. In addition to the fact that Twitter enforcement has apparently aligned themselves with the worst elements of their user base, there is the fact that Twitter has become one of the primary means of disseminating right-wing conspiracy theory bullshit, which is aided by the extensive network of bot accounts that reside on the site. Just like with the Nazis, Twitter could clean up this aspect of their service, as it is pretty easy to determine what accounts are bots, but they don't, and the reason seems to boil down to money. By allowing the bot accounts to remain, Twitter inflates its user numbers, and consequently inflates their ad revenue and the reports they can provide to investors. According to some measures, approximately fifteen to twenty percent of Twitter accounts are bots and sock-puppets being used to push conspiracy theories like those spouted by QAnon, and Twitter turns a blind eye to this in an effort to make money.

This doesn't even get to issues like the fact that Twitter is used to harass artists like Rian Johnson and Noelle Stevenson over their creations, or the fact that I find myself needing to use blocking services with parameters so broad that I had, at last count, a couple hundred thousand accounts blocked and I still ended up blocking and reporting dozens of accounts every day.

In the end, the only conclusion I can come to is that Twitter is unsalvageable. Yes, reading messages about John Scalzi's crazy burritos and Chuck Wendig's rants about Star Wars has been fun, but the negatives of Twitter have come to outweigh the positives by so much that it isn't worth it to keep using it.

I'm done with Twitter. I don't think I'll miss it.

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