Time Out, Twitter!

The social networking site is finally coming up with ways to deal with the trolls.

Many a bemused Twitter user trying to express a heartfelt opinion about politics, sport, tech startups or even what they plan to eat for dinner has ended up asking themselves: “did I walk under a bridge”.

How else to explain the gang of trolls that have suddenly jumped on their back?

It’s a problem that has been dogging Twitter for years – well, that and how to make a site popularised by heavyweights like the POTUS, Apprentice’s Sir Alan Sugar, football and the liberal elite’s Gary Lineker and This Morning’s Piers Morgan, actually drive a profit…how do we deal with the cyber-bullies?

So Heat Street revealed this week that Twitter has a new tactic. Temporarily “limiting” the accounts of the haters.

If you want to preach hate speech, abuse celebrities, or generally make a nuisance of yourself by bad mouthing innocent (or even not so innocent) tweeters, Twitter is coming for you. Without warning, the Twitter police are suspending users’ accounts, making their tweets only visible to followers, for 12 hours.

Even retweets of a suspended account’s posts will be blanked out. But there’s a problem.

Twitter’s strategy for policing comments is murky – it may be based on targeting certain keywords – apparently, tweeters using words like “retarded”, “fag” and some racial slurs which can also be used in a more “acceptable” format have found their accounts suspended, and they weren’t too happy about it.

Cue a debate about the right to free speech, linguistic contextuality, semantics and Twitter; the platform the world wants, or the platform the world needs?

Twitter itself says: “”Conversations are core to Twitter, but if we detect behaviour that may violate the Twitter Rules or inhibit other people’s ability to express themselves freely, we may temporarily limit certain account features.”

Seems reasonable, say we. Policing a platform such as this is a thankless task; nothing holds a mirror up to society quite like the “Twittersphere”. And thus, on the monetisation side – we ask: why not make the whole platform a not-for-profit?

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