Twitter’s continued bungling proves the company doesn’t understand its own platform, its users, or what makes Twitter, on occasion, so great. But I do, and I feel it’s my duty as a good digital citizen to share some insights.
Although Twitter may not be far off from a clean-slate reboot under new ownership, especially in light of its putrid performance in the fourth quarter, I nonetheless thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to determine the top ten changes to Twitter that should happen immediately — ideally with me installed as the company’s new CEO.
These changes are based on my considered opinion as a Twitter power user and my own experience with the problems currently killing the network. After all, I was the subject of the first deverification in Twitter history, along with a variety of other minor indignities at the hands of crybullies enamoured with left-wing authoritarian politics.
1. Return to free speech
My colleague Allum Bokhari has suggested this on Breitbart Tech already, but it bears repeating. Users don’t come to Twitter to agonise over whether their off-the-cuff thoughts are in line with the site’s sprawling and ever-expanding list of rules. They don’t want to spend valuable time mentally debating whether the Tweet they’re about to send will get them banned.
They don’t want to be plagued by the worry that the hours, days, and weeks they’ve put into building up their social media following could be snuffed out in an instant because they misgendered someone or told the wrong joke.
Twitter should of course continue to stop illegal activity on their platform. As we’ve noted before on Breitbart Tech, they could do a lot better job of clamping down on terrorists and terrorist supporters. Other obvious cases of wrongdoing, such as pedophilia, should also be excluded from the platform.
Twitter should model its rules on a speech code that’s proven to foster free debate, free thinking, and innovation: the U.S Constitution. Users should sign up to Twitter knowing that anything they can say under the First Amendment — short of annoying spam — is also permissible on Twitter.
Not only will this relieve Twitter’s core user base from the fear of sudden, arbitrary punishment, it will also give users operating in authoritarian regimes a rare taste of true freedom of speech. That’s what Twitter, which once called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” used to do. It should do so again.
2. Remove politically-zealous employees
The other force fueling the fears of Twitter’s user base is the threat of arbitrary punishment from someone — usually a left-winger — who takes issue with their political opinions. That’s what’s rumoured to have happened to me.
Shortly before my de-verification, a Twitter employee named Michael Margolis said he had “reported” me to the company. Margolis was later revealed to be a fanboy of gamer nemesis Anita Sarkeesian. He even has a shirt bearing the logo of her video series!
— ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴀɪɴ ᴘʀɪᴠɪʟᴇɢᴇ (@Capt_Privilege) February 6, 2016
Twitter may or may not have a systematic policy of suspending users who offend the hyper-progressive political sensibilities of Bay Area hipsters. However, they certainly have a bias problem. Conservative users are targeted far more often than progressive ones, who are frequently allowed to get away with violent threats and doxing.
Former CEO Dick Costolo said he was surprised by how many emails he received complaining about “harassing” behaviour on Twitter that was really just political disagreement. Somehow, I doubt the employees emailing Costolo were conservatives.
Twitter may have a young, progressive user base now, but people get more conservative as they get older. As the famous saying goes, anyone who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart, and anyone who is not a conservative by 30 has no brain. As the radical wing of the millennial generation continues to alienate their more moderate cohorts, social media companies will no longer be able to take the progressivism of their users for granted.
Political bias against conservatives and libertarians will grow less and less tolerable. Twitter should take action now, and impose strict penalties on any employee suspected of banning, censoring, or reporting users based on a political disagreement.
3. Hire people who actually understand social media
I can’t believe I even have to say this. DON’T HIRE PEOPLE WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND YOUR PRODUCT.
It’s astonishingly cringeworthy that so many Twitter employees are unfamiliar with the basic functionality of the product. Maybe Peter Thiel was right about all the pot-smoking.
4. Give us a Tweet edit function
Want to boost Twitter’s stock by double digits in a day? Give users what they’ve been demanding for years: an edit function.
Currently, users wishing to correct spelling mistakes in their tweets have to delete their message and send it again. Unless they do right away, they’ll likely be too late, as their original, mistaken tweet may already have been retweeted dozens of times. Users then have to choose between sending out a less embarrassing tweet and losing their retweets. It’s a particular problem for users with large followings, like me.
Really you guys, it’s huge. Even bigger than Ben Shapiro’s. Did you hear that, Shapiro? SHAPIRO. LOOK AT MY TWITTER FOLLOWERS. GAZE UPON THEM AND WEEP.
5. Create a “power user” advisory group
Executives in Silicon Valley don’t understand Twitter’s users. They don’t have the time. They’re too busy hosting lavish events for feminist activists. And even if they weren’t, their time would still be occupied managing the business side of the company. As such, when social media companies expand, their management tends to grow increasingly detached from the user base. This is a problem.
Twitter can solve it by utilising people who do understand Twitter’s consumer base. Power users — people with huge follower counts (LOOK AT THEM, SHAPIRO) — know what appeals to ordinary users. An advisory group comprised of Twitter’s most successful users could heal relations between the company and its consumers in a matter of days. This really is a no-brainer: if Twitter wants the favour of its users, it should reach out to the people who already have it.
If such a group existed, I suspect appalling changes like “moments” and the Facebook-style “Like” would never have happened.
It should be noted that this week Twitter did quite the opposite, creating a Safety and Security Council made up of the very sort of progressive crybullies that have ruined Twitter for the average user and left Twitter’s stock price in the doldrums.
6. Fix verification
Twitter needs to decide on the purpose of verification. Ostensibly, it’s handed out to high-profile users like me as a means to prevent impersonation. The little blue check mark next to their name separates them from the frauds. Right now though, Twitter seems to view verification as a pat on the head to hand out to favoured users.
Low-level writers with a few thousand followers from obscure left-leaning publications have been verified, yet conservatives with hundreds of thousands of followers are frequently left out. @ThisIsFusion has fewer than 200,000 followers, yet it has a blue tick. @BreitbartNews, with close to 300,000, does not. Twitter’s political favouritism isn’t hard to find, if you look for it.
7. End the blocklist reign of terror
One of the most pernicious tactics used by censor-happy social justice warriors on the internet is mass blocklists. SJWs will frequently create scripts that allow users to sign up to shared blocklists, blocking thousands of users at once. The lists frequently bear names like “trolls,” “abusers,” and “harassers.” In reality, they’re usually just lists of SJWs’ political critics.
Power users in particular feel victimised when they unjustly appear on these lists, and their existence adds to the chilling effect on ordinary users.
Twitter recently encouraged this noxious behaviour by rolling out its own, in-house blocklist feature. Why? It’s an extraordinary pain for ordinary, non-political users, who are frequently caught on the blocklists simply because they follow the wrong people.
They then have to go through the arduous process of asking people to unblock them, or appealing directly to the creators of the blocklists, who are rarely receptive or reasonable. Twitter users should determine for themselves who to block, and not be encouraged to trust blocklists created by politically-motivated third parties.
8. Tweak character usage, not character limits
Was there ever a more absurd idea than 10,000-character tweets? Prior to the suggestion of an algorithmic timeline, it was the clearest sign yet that Twitter is turning itself into a crap Facebook. Such a move will of course be catastrophic.
If Twitter wants to give users more freedom, there are more moderate options. Currently, pictures and links use up characters. Tweaking this, so that users are allowed to tweet pictures and links and a 140-character message would give them more freedom without breaking the platform.
9. A transparent disclipinary process
Twitter is plagued by accusations of lack of transparency. The process by which users are verified is hidden, the process by which users are banned and/or punished is hidden, and Twitter refuses to comment on the punishment of any individual users. The result is a system that is almost entirely opaque.
Users are kept in the dark about why rules are enforced, and have no way of tracking whether they’re enforced evenly. It adds to the perception that Twitter is biased in the way it doles out punishment.
Twitter should take a leaf out of 4chan’s book, and make all punishments transparent. Users should be able to see when, where and why users have been punished. If Twitter is serious about combating political bias, as suggested above, the system should also track who at Twitter initiates punishments — and whether they target some groups of users more than others.
10. Create a “Hugbox Option”
Naturally, if Twitter were to institute all of my changes, they would catch all sorts of heat from SJWs and the left-wing media. They’ll be accused of enabling harassment, of endorsing racism/sexism/homophobia, and, of course, making people “feel unsafe.”
So Twitter should create a safe space. A space with strict rules, where triggering anyone is a bannable offence and where gender pronouns autocorrect if you get them wrong. Perhaps call it “Chirper,” after the sound baby birds make.
Naturally, this will come with a price — just as nasty free speech is confined to Twitter, so too must the speech of SJWs stay off the big boy’s platform. If SJWs want a “safe space” version of Twitter, give it to them — just don’t force it on the rest of us.