Twitter promises more censorship with new site update

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“Making Twitter a safer place is our primary focus. We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic. That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices. We won’t tolerate it and we’re launching new efforts to stop it.”

Twitter announced at the start of the year that they would take more head-on and proactive actions towards handling and controlling “abuse” and “Harassment”. Yesterday, they made good on their promise by announcing a new update to the social network’s algorithm. The update brings about three main changes to how the website works, and I’ll be analyzing all of them and what they entail.

  1. Stopping the creation of new abusive accounts:

“We’re taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts. This focuses more effectively on some of the most prevalent and damaging forms of behavior, particularly accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others.”

Twitter claims they are putting measure in place to prevent people who have been banned from the social network from creating new accounts. How they plan to do this, I have no idea. I guess they could auto-ban accounts with names or usernames similar to those have been banned in the past, but a repeat offender would probably come back under a different pseudonym.

Even if they begun banning IP addresses, people can always use a VPN or change their IP address. In the long run, Twitter claiming they can stop people coming back to the network is just lip service to make advertisers and the media happy. Facebook is twice as authoritarian and takes fake accounts more seriously than twitter, and even they can’t stop users from creating fake accounts.

2. Introducing safer search results:

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“We’re also working on ‘safe search’ which removes Tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results. While this type of content will be discoverable if you want to find it, it won’t clutter search results any longer. Learn more in our help center.”

This statement contains red flags like “safe search” and “potentially sensitive content”, so you know it can’t be good. Basically, Twitter is taking control of what you see when you use its search button. If Twitter decides that someone’s profile or Tweets are offensive, then they will stop showing up in Twitter search results, which means less exposure for that person.

My biggest stipulation with this is the use of the word “potentially”. It means that your Tweets doesn’t even have to contain insensitive content, it just has to be “potentially” insensitive (Based on someone else’s subjective definition of “insensitive” ), and then the algorithm decides to boot you from its search results.

3. Collapsing potentially abusive or low-quality Tweets:

“Our team has also been working on identifying and collapsing potentially abusive and low-quality replies so the most relevant conversations are brought forward. These Tweet replies will still be accessible to those who seek them out. You can expect to see this change rolling out in the coming weeks.”

For better or worse, this is the worst part of Twitter’s update, and anyone with half a brain should be getting 1984 vibes from this.

Twitter is now going to start labeling certain Tweets as “low quality” and start placing them lower in reply threads. As to what counts as a “low quality” Tweet, or who decides whether a tweet is low quality or not, Twitter fails to mention.

Even Facebook doesn’t stop so low. On Facebook, the comment with the highest number of likes and replies takes the top spot on the thread, followed by the comment with the next highest combination of likes and replies, and so forth. That’s the same way comments are ranked on YouTube, Reddit, and almost every other social network site.

Its an effective and democratic system. Let the people decide which comments are best and place those comments on top. Twitter must not like democracies very much, because starting from this week, regardless of how many re-tweets or likes your replies get, if Twitter decides that they are “low quality”, you can expect to see them on the bottom of the page.

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