There is no secret that in the age of the internet, the reach of our power of speech has grown to a level unimaginable just a few decades ago. While it used to require a printing press and funds to get your opinion to more than your small circle of friends, today it only requires a phone and a social network. The lowering of the barrier to entry to speak to a wide audience has meant that more people can be heard, but it also means that more people can be heard.
It requires no training or thought to create a Twitter account and begin speaking to an anonymous audience. Because of that, people say things that they might not otherwise say, if they had to attach an identity to their words. Twitter has been aware that their platform is often used for mean-spirited, illegal and misinformational content.
This week, Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey, tweeted about the problem. In the thread, he said,
We love instant, public, global messaging and conversation. It's what Twitter is, and it's why we're here. But we didn't fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences. We acknowledge that now and are determined to find holistic and fair solutions. We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We aren't proud of how people have taken advantage of our service or our inability to address it fast enough.
There is a wide variety of issue with trying to deal with the problems that exist on the platform. The biggest issue, of course, is the same one that all of the social networks are experiencing: who decides what content should and should not be acceptable on the platform? What is a real person and what is a bot? How do you determine the difference? When dealing with content, who decides what is true and what is not? Just because it's a "conspiracy theory," does that make the content offensive? Conspiracy about the assassination of JFK has been around since the day it happened, but the books written about it have never been recalled because someone was offended.
This is, more than anything, the reason why Twitter, and the other social platforms, have been reluctant to make changes to their algorithms and to start policing content. They don't want to be seen as content censors, because that is a guaranteed way to lose at least part of your customer base. In the first episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, there is a fantastic quote that most of the modern world forgets,
Living with this free speech means sometimes you get offended.