First they came for the stars, turning them into hearts, and we said nothing, or maybe “whatevs”. Then they came for the 140 character count and we looked a bit annoyed and rolled our eyes but essentially did nothing except retweet a couple of “wtf”s. Now they are recalibrating global standards of free speech, so what now?
When Twitter last week removed the blue tick of a writer (Breitbart contributor Milo Yiannopoulos) for breaching its newly created guidelines for speech and conduct on the platform, it pointed the way to a different future for social speech. Anything no longer goes.
Those who cling to the fragile frame of Twitter’s protocol design treat most changes to the platform like they once would have responded to someone messing around with the last half hour of Today on Radio 4. Twitter and its fellow social platforms are the new public media, addressing the global villages, and trying to do it all both efficently and profitably. They are in a very real sense doing things which have never been done before.
There are however also changes which should be universally welcome. At the end of last year, in a post entitled “Fighting Abuse to Protect the Freedom of Expression”, Twitter announced a change in the language regarding abusive speech, and published new guidelines for the removal and moderation of hostile and offensive behaviour on the platform.
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