Today, Twitter announced an update to the Twitter Rules in a blog post entitled “Fighting abuse to protect freedom of expression.” It takes some reading between the lines to work out where Twitter is going. But the direction of travel isn’t good.
In the aforementioned post, Twitter’s Megan Cristina describes the efforts that the social media platform has made in an attempt to “protect freedom of expression,” including blocking tools and a more aggressive approach to enforcement of their policies.
The policies themselves have received an update intended to “[emphasize] that Twitter will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice.” The updates themselves constitute a very broad-strokes approach to moderation of a public forum.
But it’s all in the wording, see. “Protection from abuse and harassment is a vital part of empowering people to freely express themselves on Twitter” is Silicon Valley code for “we’re going to give special treatment to people who cry victim.”
Infractions can be as nebulous as “one-sided” activity toward other users, or engaged in activity that might “promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”
The war Twitter is supposedly waging on trolls has been historically one-sided, no matter assurances that they “embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs.” They’ve been far more effective shielding certain points of view from criticism than dealing with open terrorist recruitment on their platform, and they don’t seem to have so much of a problem with your content if you know the right people.
All of this would be a lot easier to swallow with some consistency and transparency. But the policy changes, couched in buzzwords and vague assertions, seem to provide little more than a license for Twitter to continue to decide what conversations are allowed to be had on its platform.
All users can do is go on past behavior. And Twitter’s track record of punishing anyone who, say, dares to crack a joke at a feminist’s expense, while blithely allowing ISIS terrorists to recruit and advertise on its service, couldn’t be worse.
— PixelMetal (@PixelMetal) December 29, 2015