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03.10.17

Some Random Thoughts About Twitter Which May or May Not Cohere into Some Kind of Point at the End

Posted 3rd October 2017

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Last month, I complained about The Independent not knowing that porn is allowed on Twitter. Today, I regret to inform you that TechCrunch does not know that porn is allowed on Twitter.

Yes, TechCrunch. The site self-described as “a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news”. Oh dear.

“I’ve been following the rise of social media for most of a decade and I was angry – but not surprised – when most social media services actively shut down erotic images a few years ago even as they simply accepted all other content without comment.”

Twitter has never shut down the posting of erotic images.

“It is obviously in Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook’s best interest to keep the kids from seeing boobs but where does that interest in public comfort stop?”

Twitter didn’t do this. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook all have very different attitudes towards “seeing boobs”.

“If we’re measuring from some esoteric vision of absolute freedom (except for boobs) then Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t be policed at all.”

TWITTER NOT ONLY ALLOWS BOOBS, BUT ALSO SPUNK-COVERED BOOBS.

If you’re going to write an article about what Twitter will and will not allow on its service, I suggest you read through their policy document. You might save yourself an awful lot of embarrassment.

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The problems with mistakes like the above, of course, is that it seriously undermines any other points the piece is trying to discuss. It makes what is an entirely reasonable question easy to dismiss. Clearly the writer knows nothing about Twitter’s content policy: what possible right do they have to talk about it?

Still, let’s get past all that and discuss that real issue when it comes to Twitter’s content policy. And that real issue is: how they deal with abuse. It’s a topic which I’m willing to admit is terrifically complicated, and I’m a little uncomfortable when people reduce it down to one-sentence platitudes on either side. But when you have a co-founder of Twitter making the following tweet:

…all I see is someone who doesn’t understand how fucking exhausting it is for people to deal with abuse on Twitter. (For one of the best things I’ve ever read on the issue, see this thread by @yonatanzunger; crucially, individuals dealing with the kind of abuse that gets thrown at them doesn’t scale.)

And when a co-founder of Twitter says this:

…it’s difficult not to want to just throw your arms up in despair and walk away. As @polotek says:

Do I want to be on a platform where white supremacist accounts are tolerated? Hell, do I want to be on a platform where I see people arguing with Nazis, and the person arguing with the Nazis gets banned? Increasingly, the answer is: no.

*   *   *

Except… I’m not sure I could ever leave.

A year ago today, I was leaving hospital after a two week stay in intensive care. A particularly nasty bout of pneumonia. I won’t bore you with all the details. Somebody nearly dying does, in fact, make surprisingly boring reading.

But it’s no exaggeration to say that Twitter was a major part in helping me through those two weeks. To be able to type 140 characters, and get back the most wonderful, kind, supportive messages. When the only strength I had was to tap something short, and flick a screen up occasionally.

I can sit and moan that if I left Twitter, I wouldn’t get many people visiting Dirty Feed, and it’s true – Twitter is responsible for so much of the traffic I get here. I think I could get past that, though. But the generosity of people I’ve met on there… that’s harder to walk away from. On all my years hanging around the net, I’ve never felt as much warmth and connection from people as I have on Twitter.

And so I’m caught. Hey, I’m not asking for sympathy. The whole point of this article is to say that I don’t have it bad compared to many on the platform. I’m privileged, and the very fact that this is a discussion I can have without abuse thrown at me proves that.1

But I feel if I use the service, I should at least acknowledge my selfishness. And I don’t think there’s a way of getting around that word applying to me. I feel there’s a good argument that I should just walk away from Twitter entirely… but can’t, because people are nice to me.

Which is crap. But perhaps one step of realisation above Biz Stone, at least.


  1. Someone did call me fat once. That’s all. 

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