Last week I wrote about Facebook, censorship, and the danger of relying upon these supersized social-media conglomerates to get your message out, particularly if that message is deemed “offensive” (i.e., “conservative”).
Now, according to one report, Facebook’s rival Twitter is “preparing to introduce new measures to reduce the visibility of ‘hate speech.’”
For a company ostensibly in the communication business, Twitter’s public utterances can be head-scratchers. One longs for the rise of a Twitterologist in the tradition of the Kremlinologists of the past and the Vaticanologists of the present.
So the Financial Times’ interview with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo contained more “buts” than a gonzo porn shoot. Costolo insists his company’s mantra will remain “Tweets must flow,” but he wants to tamp down the abuse that UK celebrities supposedly suffer at the hands of anonymous stalkers and “trolls.”
This First World problem is apparently so pervasive and corrosive that the government’s new defamation law may include a troll-tracking provision.
(This is the same country where an actor sued a journalist who described him as “hideously ugly”—and won. A country in which performers such as Rowan Atkinson, John Lydon, and the Carry On crew are among its few remaining exports.)
Here’s another “but”: Costolo says he doesn’t want these troll-tracking measures to accidentally curtail anonymous Tweeting by “Arab Spring”-type political dissidents.
Naturally, he has no idea how to make all of these things happen simultaneously on the platform he’s constructed—one that was never designed to hold so much weight.
What happens if, for example, celebrities are being subjected to “hate speech” not by anonymous British trolls, but by other celebrities? What if that “hate speech” has an arguably political flavor?
Comedian Louis C.K. can “drunk Tweet” to his thousands of followers about Sarah Palin’s surprisingly fascinating vagina without consequences. In theory, under the new Costolo/UK libel dispensation, the comedy star should be subject to the same punishment—a lifetime Twitter ban?—as any anonymous troll. Yet the very thought of every hipster’s favorite standup being banned from Twitter is laughable.
Meet one Russell Barth, a Canadian leftist whose self-penned Twitter profile is impossible to improve upon:
Medical Marijuana License Holder, multi-disciplinary artist, writer, activist, public speaker. Fibromyalgia, PTSD, wife with epilepsy. Need social justice.
(If you’re thinking, “I bet I can guess exactly what this guy looks like,” you win.)
Last week, highly vocal pro-life MP Stephen Woodworth’s ministrations to “his ailing mother” were interrupted after Barth Tweeted that Woodworth believed that “Rape is God’s will.”
Barth defended the Tweet as “satire,” but only after it was re-Tweeted “at least 10,000 times” by gullible progressives. In a hastily issued press release, Woodworth called himself a “long-time supporter” of two rape-crisis centers.
Whatever. Russell Barth’s Twitter account is still up and running, even though he was caught clearly and cruelly “trolling” a “celebrity” of sorts. And Barth’s not even anonymous.
So whose Twitter accounts do get shut down? Oh, please.
You can flag any Twitter account as a spammer with the click of a button. Enough such complaints, and the account is deleted without warning.
Not surprisingly, organized leftists have been using this tool to “mass report” non-spamming conservative pundits such as Chris Loesch when they get sick of arguing with them online and because, as one Tweeter said, it’s “funny seeing conservatives go crazy.”
Loesch’s account was falsely tagged as spam. It was automatically blocked and his follower list erased. Then it was unblocked (with apologies from Twitter) after Loesch and his supporters complained.
Then, after the button-pushing game started up once more, it was blocked again.
As with Facebook, Twitter’s principles about “hate speech” and politics seem to default to whatever the latest “progressive” fad happens to be. Also like Facebook, its methods of handling complaints resemble a decidedly low-tech carnival Whac-A-Mole game.
Conservatives on Facebook and Twitter look like “marks” of the worst kind: the know-nothing know-it-all who’s convinced he can outmatch the carny and win a rigged game. As the sun goes down, right-wingers shuffle off the social-media fairground pissed off and their pockets empty. But when the Internet circus comes back to town next summer, they’ll line up to buy tickets again. That’s the safest bet you’ll ever make.
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