While I am aware of the well-justified concerns of many conservative activists about the potential abuses of Twitter’s new “Hate Speech” policy, I applaud Twitter for finally doing something about a problem that was making Twitter unenjoyable and borderline unusable: perpetually abusive anonymous (often racist) trolls.
Twitter has been in search of answers about its lack of growth (especially relative to other social media sites like Facebook) for years. Twitter’s stagnation problem has been well known for quite some time – while Internet use overall and social media use in particular continues to grow, Twitter hasn’t. This problem has hit their bottom line like a ton of bricks and since their IPO has had a continuing negative effect on their stock price (above and beyond the difficulties they have had effectively monetizing their product).
The reason for the problem has been fairly obvious: abuse. Twitter has long prized – well over and above all the other social networks – their freewheeling policy that at least theoretically almost never results in users having their accounts suspended – especially relative to Facebook/Instagram/etc. For a long time, Twitter was able to successfully market this freewheeling exchange of ideas into massive user growth.
However, the power to troll anonymously on the Internet is apparently too tempting for human nature to resist. As a result, Twitter has ceased to be a fun – or even tolerable – environment. If you have enough followers to make the free-flowing exchange of ideas fun, then you also have enough trolls that reading your mentions column will instantly put you in a bad mood. No one wants to spend significant amounts of time on a service that does nothing but give them negative emotional feedback.
As a result, more and more people have returned to Facebook, which was once considered likely to go the way of Myspace in response to the threat posed by Twitter. But then people noticed that if someone jumped into a conversation you were having on Facebook to spew racist epithets at you and your family, or threatened your children, their Facebook profile would be suspended indefinitely. Since no one wants their Facebook profile suspended, and since creating a new one and finding all your friends again takes time (and explaining why your previous account got suspended) takes time, effort, and humiliation, Facebook’s troll problem mostly self-corrected. Combined with the fact that almost no one uses Facebook anonymously, and Facebook has become an infinitely more pleasurable place to spend your time fraternizing online.
I’m definitely aware of the possibility that these new rules might be abused disproportionately against conservatives. For my money, the risk is worth the reward. I would sooner risk having my own account suspended for saying the wrong thing than to continue on reading ignorant hate and anonymous threats day after day. As much as some on the right are nervously watching to pounce on the slightest error by the Twitter abuse monitors, the overall effect of this policy will be to make Twitter a more enjoyable place to be. Lord knows it could not end up worse.
And besides, Twitter did not need these new policies to engage in selective bad policing of conservatives, as Michael Deppisch can tell you.
If the end result of this policy is that Twitter has less insanely angry anonymous accounts who speak exclusively in capital letters and without punctuation, and who resort immediately to threats and personal insults for no reason whatsoever, then I am all for it.