Not content to let Facebook be the most irritating social media platform as far as its own users are concerned, Twitter has been working overtime lately to annoy its faithful. They tweaked the retweet feature to make it confusing. The clamor for the option to edit tweets, especially after a dreaded their/they’re mistake when one hasn’t had enough coffee, has been ignored.
But they just made everyone’s profile pictures round, which was a change no one was asking for.
Now they want to jump on the fake news train.
Twitter is exploring adding a feature that would let users flag tweets that contain misleading, false or harmful information, according to two people familiar with the company’s projects.
The feature, which is still in a prototype phase and may never be released, is part of the company’s uphill battle against rampant abuse on its platform. It could look like a tiny tab appearing in a drop-down menu alongside tweets, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the effort.
The real problem here is that fake news, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. Almost every progressive you meet will insist that pretty much all center-right sites fall into the category.
The leftists on Twitter operate as an unhinged mob quite often, mobilizing group efforts to block or disparage anyone who offends them. If they become the arbiters of what is fake news, it’ll basically be a weaponized way for them to shut down free speech.
Another problem with properly implementing something like this is that Twittter’s motivation may be a bit off:
These long-standing problems gained new urgency in the aftermath of the presidential election, when critics and researchers pointed to the toxic effect of social media on the public debate. Two-thirds of American adults say fabricated news stories that spread on social media have caused a “great deal of confusion” about basic facts and public events, according to a December poll from Pew Research Center. One estimate from the service Twitter Audit found that 59 percent of President Trump’s followers are bots or fake accounts, while Hillary Clinton’s are 66 percent bots. (Twitter does not comment on third-party estimates.)
If this is what’s driving them then they’re trampling on free speech just to protect stupid people from themselves. We’re defining “stupid” here as anyone who believes everything he or she reads on Twitter.
Those who aren’t stupid are merely too lazy to verify something, which usually only takes a minute or so here in the 21st century.
Social media is what you make it. I am an avid user of Twitter, as it has become my free publicist over the years. If I find it to be annoying on a given day, I avoid it. No grand announcements or tantrums, I simply do something else.
Yes, social media has been a vehicle for toxic public debate but it isn’t the cause.
Toxic, unhinged people are. Social media has just made us more aware of how many there are.