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Twitter's Fucked (degoes.net)
370 points by buffyoda on July 27, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 376 comments



Yep. Yep, yep, yep. And Twitter's response is to ban some, but not all harassers, using the algorithm of "whoever is high profile and we don't like politically." That gives said harassers surprisingly legitimate reasons to claim censorship by Twitter as a company, despite the fact that they were in clear violation of Twitter's ToS and deserved to be banned.

I refer of course to the Milo Yiannopoulos situation (edit: I said the article didn't mention. I missed the mention.). The man deserved what he got, but there are dozens of accounts that were his "executors" - doing the actual harassment for him in many cases - who got off scot-free, while he remains banned. There is no consistency.

I think there's a possibility that the arbitrary enforcement is partially because Twitter knows that if it were consistent in enforcing its own rules, so much of its population of users would disappear that it would be hobbling itself.

The only "safe" way to use Twitter now is as an echo chamber - only follow people you like, only talk to people who think the same way you do. That's a waste.


> "I think there's a possibility that the arbitrary enforcement is partially because Twitter knows that if it were consistent in enforcing its own rules, so much of its population of users would disappear that it would be hobbling itself."

This x100. If you have no followers and no one is re-tweeting your vitriolic slime, why should twitter care, they simply want you to stay on the platform. Now if your circle has reach and you are a known public name, they must act as if they care. They play politics to please the masses, without subjecting the masses to the same politicking.


The inverse can also sometimes work. If you're a newsworthy public figure (say, the President of the USA), you get away with violating the rules, shilling your product, etc: https://www.quora.com/Whats-it-like-to-play-basketball-with-...


> shilling your product

I'm not sure that a plug/PSA about a government program really counts as "shilling your product", we're talking about a program that was enacted by the congress and signed into law by the president, at a minimum it's totally distinct from plugging a product that you own or profit from.


The inverse only works when you are a public figure with greater power/sway than those who enforce rules, ToS, standards et cetera, or if you have an insider track with those who enforce the rules who can elevate you above them (the rules), ignore them, or give you a free pass (ie you are friends with a high up employee at twitter).


> The only "safe" way to use Twitter now is as an echo chamber

"Echo chamber" is a deliberately pejorative term, which I think is unfair here. If you use Twitter to discuss your beliefs, then, yes, it functions like an echo chamber, and that can be a bad thing because when your beliefs are wrong, they won't be constructively challenged.

But I generally use Twitter to discuss my interests. Sure, the line between the two is fuzzy, but I think there is a difference. I love pixel art, and follow a lot of pixel artists. Does that make my feed a "pixel art echo chamber"? I guess so? But that seems to me about as harmless as joining model railroad club.


"because when your beliefs are wrong, they won't be constructively challenged."

Does this ever happen? It seems to me like every time someone says something unpopular, the world goes on a witch hunt to destroy that person's life. That's not what I call "constructively challenged". I call it "just short of hanging them, which is what people really want to do."

I'd love to see a world where I could debate a matter with someone without everyone getting so emotionally charged that logic gets thrown out the window, and ideas that are incorrect can be pointed out to a person without everyone hating one another.


I must say I'm similarly perplexed by this notion.

Every time I've witnessed a "debate" where people "constructively challenge" people who have opposite views, it ended in a shouting match.

I'm happy to avoid any such "debate." In my experience, the kind of debate you describe tends to happen far more often between people who have (paradoxically?) similar views, and who just like to explore ideas and challenge each other.

That intellectual trait is completely orthogonal to the views themselves. The closest thing I tend to compare it to is the charity principle, but that may not encapsulate everything quite right.


To me this is the defining problem of the media age.

It used to be that you lived next to your neighbor and you had to talk to them or at least acknowledge their humanity even if you disagreed. In the early days we all heralded the internet as ushering an a new era of enlightenment and democracy with freedom of information for everyone.

Of course the reality is that when there was only one nightly television news program, those creators felt some responsibility to report objectively, and no pressure to pander to some demographic. Now, anyone can get any view point they want at any time. There is no value in thoughtful, reasoned opinions because that doesn't resonate with a highly opinionated audience—it's better to be loved or hated than passively respected. You don't have to talk to your neighbor at all because you can literally stare at your phone every time you are outside. No one ever has to hear an opinion they don't like, and when they do they can find their own bespoke mob to initiate a witch hunt.

Technology has enabled us to have a civil war without needing to be divided by a physical border. The tribes can coalesce from arbitrary locations.


My beliefs are all right now though, so I prefer an echo chamber.


I created a parody account for a celebrity, which was getting quite popular. Without discussing it first, they just removed the account and ignored 3 x emails asking them why. I was gutted.


Well, like any good social media platform, they have no actual support. It's impossible by design to ever speak to an actual human who works at Twitter except via form-email smoke signals.


>It's impossible by design to ever speak to an actual human who works at Twitter

There absolutely is, if you have a friend of a friend work there in which case you can get special backchannel treatment and they'll ban whomever tweets something unpleasant at you.


Isn't this the case at most of the "trendy" tech companies?


*whoever


Well, having people answer phones costs money, and you are not paying for Twitter. Your "data" and "eyeballs" aren't actually worth much. Would you be ok with a premium rate number where you pay per minute?


Actually, that's... not a terrible idea. It's not the best idea, but pulled off right, a simple "we'll help you but if it's not a security issue, site downage or a serious harassment incident you gotta pay" is way better than current help models for social media/large sites.


I agree with the overall idea, but let's keep it affordable. Something like $10-15 per call.


Why not a 900 number (remember those?), pay per minute.


Then people would accuse them, fairly or not, of being slow on purpose to collect more money.


It's not the user's fault if the business model isn't sustainable.


Sorry, but no. This isn't acceptable. The value in their product is the people. Cutting them off, without discussion means they are selecting their product choice. If a human did this, based on a complaint (perhaps), they can talk to both sides - not just the complainant.


I tried to sign up and went through the horrible sms gateway check only to find that the username I wanted wasn't available. I stopped the sign up process at that point without an account but I wanted to be sure my phone number was no longer in their database. I've filed a handful of requests to clarify the situation but ive been ignored every time. Really terrible experience, will never make an account now.


Same thing happened to me! Though mine was not getting popular.


The only "safe" way to use Twitter now is as an echo chamber - only follow people you like, only talk to people who think the same way you do.

That is by no means safe, when brigaders are actively looking for opportunities for whipping up a mob.


True. I should add "and use copious blocklists and never look at your mentions" to that list.

Basically, you'd get the same experience by having an email list of your friends.


Or Facebook.


Or [insert 2016 social network] for that matter.


>The man deserved what he got

No. Twitter incorrectly used him as some kind of example. They had also did temp bans on him in the past and also the immature move of removing his check mark.

The harassment was happening WELL before Milo was tweeting the ghostbuster. Milo wrote the article. Milo's tweets weren't anywhere NEAR harassment level. Trolling a famous person on twitter is not harassment and brigading. And as many have already shown the ghostbuster herself was just as guilty in the past of attempts at brigading.

There's even some communication from her where she was actually thrilled the incident would give exposure to her and the movie. Whatever people think of this, Milo didn't cause her any suffering or feeling of being 'unsafe' Other harassers were deplorable. Milo was not in that category.


Removing his blue check was especially ridiculous to me. "Because you are who you are, you can no longer be verified."


If you're Verified, you have access to a Verified Twitter stream, which means you can avoid seeing anything from people who are not verified.

This provides a civilized version of Twitter that is mostly populated by smart and funny people.

So Twitter removed a professional jerk from the Verified streams while allowing him to continue as a rabble-rouser.


So Twitter's verification is more about access to this socially elitist feed? That may be a feature, but I think the primary function is to avoid people impersonating well-known public figures on the platform.

Removing Milo's check out of politically-driven spite definitely undermines the validity of the entire verification system.


I didn't say it was the primary feature. I simply pointed out that verification wasn't as simple as is generally assumed.

> Removing Milo's check out of politically-driven spite definitely undermines the validity of the entire verification system.

That sounds like a prejudiced opinion expressed in prejudicial language. However, you might consider this section from I’m With The Banned

https://medium.com/welcome-to-the-scream-room/im-with-the-ba...

QUOTE >>

Milo is excited. This is his night. How does he feel about his suspension?

“It’s fantastic,” he says, “It’s the end of the platform. The timing is perfect.”

He was planning for something like this. “I thought I had another six months, but this was always going to happen.”

Milo shows no remorse for the avalanche of misconduct he helped direct towards Leslie Jones, who is just the latest victim of the recreational ritual abuse he likes to launch at women and minorities for the fame and fun of it.


> Milo shows no remorse for the avalanche of misconduct he helped direct towards Leslie Jones.

He shows no remorse because she clearly didn't suffer from anything he said. Like I said before. Other people actually harassed, he didn't. Trolling a celebrity star of a bad movie isn't harassment by any measure. His comments were intelligent and funny. His article on Breitbart was scathing, which is why Jack targeted him, to set an example.

Also stated before, She was happy to leverage it for publicity. So much for being traumatized. And another thing, Milo doesn't launch abuse at Minorities. In fact, since he's in love with british black men, your comment has no value there because you're clearly uninformed on his background.

Milo attacks ideas and does sophisticated trolling. Judging by Twitter's crashing stock price right when this incident occurred, it can't be denied that Twitter's censoring of an minor media celebrity proved it made a bad move. So much so, Jack's been trying to put out the fire, even where he addressed it for a canned question during the investor phone call. He just wants it to go away.


> His comments were intelligent and funny.

So, you've been suckered by an obvious troll.

> In fact, since he's in love with british black men, your comment has no value there because you're clearly uninformed on his background.

You're funny. OK, answer these questions:

1) Where was Milo born? 2) What was his birth name? 3) What does his father do for a living?

I have another dozen if you get any of those right.

One of us knows Milo and it isn't you ;-)


> This provides a civilized version of Twitter that is mostly populated by smart and funny people.

Twitter circa 2009 before Kutcher vs CNN? This still exists?


Only if you are Verified ;-)

I did suggest some time ago that Twitter could monetize by charging a high fee for verification (with, say, passport scans and other personal details). Sadly, they do it free.


> Milo's tweets weren't anywhere NEAR harassment level. Trolling a famous person on twitter is not harassment and brigading.

Milo had tens of thousands of flying monkeys to troll and harass people on his behalf. He knew this perfectly well, and used it all the time.

His tweets didn't need to be particularly harassing: all he had to do was point the finger. Which he did.


So what, when you gain over some arbitrary amount of followers, you're not allowed to ever tweet about another person? What's the magic number at which you're not allowed to speak about anything but generalities?

That's an plainly insane rule. How about Twitter actually ban people who actually break the site rules, act with some small measure of maturity, and stop moderating with a political bias that a child could see?


Running out of money ?

Give $10,000-$25,000 to The Clinton Foundation

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/05/clinton-foundati...


You're ignoring the context. Milo knew what he was doing. It was deliberate harassment.

And thanks to his thuggish role in gamergate, he had plenty of "previous".


Milo knew what he was doing.

What objective facts do you base this on? The tweets themselves are completely innocuous.

And meanwhile, people who post actual harassment and threats are left unscathed (I've personally reported a few myself), and while I'm not privy to what happens in Jack's office, it definitely quacks like it's okay to to harass if you subscribe to one political mindset, but not another.


We followed each other on Twitter, and have mutual acquaintances. I also know personal stuff about Milo that not many people know. If there were meanings that weren't obvious to you, that doesn't mean they weren't there.


It also means those meanings are completely worthless to bring into this discussion as they can't be evaluated - your comment is worded as if it's personal stuff you don't want to get in to.


Maybe it's a cultural thing. Milo is basically an example of British schoolboy humor, and the biggest joke for us, watching it, is that Republicans don't get the joke and take him seriously.

But then, Milo is just riding Trump, and plenty of Republicans take him seriously as well. (Not all, of course. Some have retained their integrity https://goplifer.com/2016/07/22/resignation-letter/ )

The problem is that people who are being taken for a ride obviously don't know they are being taken for a ride, or they wouldn't be. And they definitely don't want to know that: they'll just get angry. So it's much better not to tell them....


his 'thuggish role' you mean when he realized that the media were telling lies, where gaming websites were insulting gamers and he stood up for them on Twitter and Breitbart. What you call thuggish is really superior charisma and getting results.


Whatever #gamergate was supposed to be, in reality, it resulted in a series of thuggish massed attacks on women such as Zoë Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

I guess any self-righteous and simple-minded "cause" like #gamergate is likely to attract trolls and misogynists, but my personal experience on Twitter was that it was mainly backed by thick bigots. Of course, YMMV.

Just the sort of crowd that Milo can manipulate. And in his cynical self-aggrandising universe, dupes are there to be manipulated.


I implore you to read some of the facts on #gamergate - it's no coincidence that most of the people crowing the loudest about harassment have a financial motive to present that argument.

Most of what you're hearing is horribly, horribly slanted, if not outright false. Ask yourself why we're supposed to take someone that cries "i'm being harassed!" on faith. Ask yourself why certain prominent individuals have been caught faking harassment directed at themselves.

http://deepfreeze.it - literally every single point of discussion on this site is backed up with a citation, and it provides a very strong, very plausible alternative to the narrative surrounding that movement. I'm not going to say that trolls in there don't exist, but it's not near as significant a component of the group as you've been led to believe.


> Most of what you're hearing is horribly, horribly slanted, if not outright false.

Not in my personal experience, both of Milo and of Gamergate. Glad to hear you have a different and better experience, but I saw the harassment and thuggery in action.


>Milo had tens of thousands of flying monkeys to troll and harass people

your claim. I was reading his tweets and you're wrong. It's simple. you don't have a leg to stand on. And thanks to twitter, we don't have the records to look at either. But since I was reading them I know, so I don't have to take your claim into consideration.


For what it's worth: https://tweetsave.com/nero


Your problem, I think.


Yeah I reread his tweets there. They were no where near harassment level, again I reiterate. This is twitter's failure and it didn't help them in their stock this week. It may be a fatal blow as things continue and replacement platforms start to surface.


I read his tweets. We followed each other on Twitter. The problem is you're naive enough not to understand them. But as with gamergate, Milo is an expert at exploiting dupes.


"The man deserved what he got"

If Milo deserved to be banned, then so does 30-40% of Twitter. He did nothing wrong, and certainly nothing worse than this: https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/756219192878268416


Saying he did nothing wrong is ignoring the entirety of the situation. At the very least, you have to agree that falsifying tweets from another user was against the ToS, and thus earned him his ban.


The article does mention Milo, it has an entire section dedicated to it actually.


You're right, I missed it somehow. Sorry.


Milo's ban was perhaps the best thing that could have ever happened to him, and while I agree he didn't deserve it, serendipity often works in odd backhand ways.


> The only "safe" way to use Twitter now is as an echo chamber - only follow people you like, only talk to people who think the same way you do. That's a waste.

Which is what Facebook is right now.


I have personally lost the belief that you can actually change someone's opinion on almost anything. So an echo chamber doesn't have to be a bad thing. I think people overestimate the value of having your beliefs challenged, does it ever really change someone's mind? If that's the case, you might as well view twitter as entertainment and to clue into the things you care about, in which case it can be pretty useful.


You can change somebody's opinion, just not through one direct interaction. An opinion change requires time, internal rationalization, and repeated exposure.

An echo chamber is bad because it not only repeatedly re-broadcasts beliefs, it also amplifies them. "The President is wrong and should be voted out of office" can turn into "The President is wrong and ought to be shot" in an echo chamber environment much faster if there's nobody around to say "wait, hold up, maybe don't."


Most recent studies of deep canvassing (redone to fix the fabricated data) indicate that a strong, empathetic listener with leading questions has only about a 10% success rate.

Note this is NOT shooting out facts, not necessarily a close individual who you've built repoire with, and in fact almost zero talking. AND it persists for at least 3 months!

It's small, but it's also viable and completely different than what most people I know think of when we go out to "change someone's mind."


Most likely at that point, they are making the opinion for themselves and you probably have very little in the decision making


Yes, that's exactly what is happening. You can't reach into somebody's brain and make them change, but you can plant little idea-seeds that grow into change.


Recent studies [Nolan 2010] have shown this method to be tricky and dangerous, but effective.

[Nolan 2010]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inception

P.S. Sorry... couldn't resist ;)


>"The President is wrong and should be voted out of office" can turn into "The President is wrong and ought to be shot" in an echo chamber environment much faster if there's nobody around to say "wait, hold up, maybe don't."

Are you implying that social media created Donald Trump?


Milo was not the kind of agent that could change people's minds, except maybe those that already agreed with him.


You can change someone's mind once you know someone's mind, through deep empathy.

My friends and I can change each other's minds quite often, by approaching arguments from their own rubric. For example, by drawing an analogy between the topic of discussion and one of their deeply held views, exposing some dissonance.

But it takes time, empathy, and understanding. Which is to say I doubt it ever happens on the internet.


HN changes my opinions. Or at least, helps me understand those opinions.

It helps that I'm not employed in software engineering, so I have a degree of humility. Well, a little.

The rules are: Don't believe anything that isn't substantiated, Do be open to new ideas, but don't be afraid to question them, and don't be afraid to re-evaluate your position. After all, your ideas deserve as much skepticism as anybody else's.


HN changes my opinion on things all the time. If your beliefs never have to stand up to challenge, your faith in them being correct should be very slim.


If your beliefs change all the time, they can't have been held very strongly or justifiably in the first place. Maybe you should stop having beliefs like that. That's direct evidence that you shouldn't be confident in many of your beliefs, given they change so often. A person with stable beliefs, even if they aren't ever challenged, has no such direct evidence to suggest they should be less confident, they can only have the same general blow to confidence as everyone else with arbitrary unchallenged beliefs.


> A person with stable beliefs, even if they aren't ever challenged, has no such direct evidence to suggest they should be less confident

That's like saying someone who comes up with a bunch of scientific hypotheses and never tests them should have more confidence in them than someone who does. Holding on to your beliefs even in the face of evidence/arguments to the contrary is not a sign of having better or more considered beliefs, it's a sign of arrogance. If you truly think that you're never wrong about anything so there is no reason to even look for contrary data, that is especially arrogant.


You cut off the rest of my sentence. It's not that never having your beliefs challenged is good, it's that it's not a strong signal that your beliefs are actually wrong, and so your confidence can't actually diminish much from pointing out this fact, because everyone should already account for this in their confidence factors for beliefs they haven't actively tried challenging. Whereas if you're frequently changing your mind, well, that is a strong signal that your beliefs are frequently wrong, or that you're interpreting evidence poorly, either way that is a signal you should be even less confident in your beliefs than general. If you're frequently testing your beliefs, then it's the results of the tests, not the fact that you're testing, plus your ability to have your beliefs appropriately shifted by the results of the tests, which determine how good your beliefs are. The latter half of that equation is probably the bigger factor for what causes wrong beliefs anyway. Ideally your confidence in the belief should match its actual probability distribution, and shifts should be in correspondence with Bayes' rule. In reality many people will see a known-to-be-uniformly-independently-random binary process output a 'run' of Trues and feel more than 50% sure the next hit has to be False because it's 'due'. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler%27s_fallacy)


I've had plenty of my opinions changed, and I've changed many of my friends and families opinions numerous times. I once even managed to change someone's opinion about gun-control, on the internet.

Rational arguments, a bit of rhetorical ability, and persistence are surprisingly effective. The problem is the persistence part requires multiple interactions over months or years, so it's hard to study.


Was that over twitter? 140 characters is very restrictive.


I think you're right, but it's my hope that if you both communicate with true intentions you can come to understand a part of the perspective of the other person and why they believe what they believe.

You won't charge their mind, but maybe you won't see each other in such negative light for what each person believes.


Don't look at the trees for the forest. Challenging the status quo solved the aphartaid, freed nations, emancipated women and much more.

Sure those changes are generational as people don't get their opinion changed easily.

But allowing these discussion to take place freely especially amongst the youth is essential to let them shape their world.


> I have personally lost the belief that you can actually change someone's opinion on almost anything. So an echo chamber doesn't have to be a bad thing

So you want to change someone's opinion, but not going to allow someone to change yours?


The article says that Milo didn't deserve what he got, and I agree. You may not agree with his politics but people of all stripes have done worse.

I guess we'll end up with a conservative twitter clone, and a liberal twitter, and no-one will ever face the "danger" of seeing viewpoints they disagree with.


[flagged]


In the US, and in this particular decade it is true that the left is keenest on actual politicking to create censorship. But in terms of the human weakness of not wanting to hear arguments against your own POV, then the right is at least as bad.

I think the difference behind the political fireworks is this: conservatives already revel in sub-communities like churches where they can protect themselves from unwanted speech. Progressives are starting to dominate open places like universities to the extent that they want the same privilege there.


Do you have a couple of examples of 'right wing censorship' outside US, let's say in Europe?


Saudi Arabia and China.


Do you mean China

  1. Not leftist

  2. In Europe


So now you're moving the goalposts.


There's nothing inherently conservative or liberal about being offended and wanting an echochamber at times.

Both want freedom of speech sometimes and both want to be able to block out dissenting voices at others.

The trick is finding a balance. Too big of an echochamber can be unhealthy, too small of one and little discussion about core beliefs gets discussed (everything gets sidetracked by the dissenters).

Young conservatives definitely seem to be outnumbered online, and I've seen them put up walls so they can discuss their beliefs without being constantly picked apart by people with alternative beliefs.

So I think the divide on ideological lines is unrealistic. Just human nature (good and bad).


Definitely not true of current neocons. They use freedom of speech as a cover for "let me say whatever I want to say" while ignoring it when it suits them.

As a live-right-now example, the mods of /r/The_Donald on Reddit are preemtively banning users before Trump's AMA to prevent dissent, and have stated plainly they will delete any unflattering questions.


Right-wing authoritarian populism of the kind Trump represents is pretty far from neoconservatism (both are right-of-center and, in the US, uneasily fall under the umbrella of the same major political party, but they are not the same, or even particularly all that similar.)


/r/The_Donald is like... the opposite of neocon.


yeah and that's a Trump specific forum and they have RULES on the side for what is banned. Contrast that with r/news where it's purported to be 'news' not some partisan subreddit. You will get banned for having an opinion mods don't like. Not only that but those same mods will simply ban you from other subreddits they are mods for. r/news and r/worldnews was hit with that the other day.

You're example is false equivalency. And what you call a preemptive ban, you'll actually discover that they are quite used to being brigaded on that subreddit and they know who participates. And bans aren't necessarily permanent there.


No, that's exactly my point. They have no desire to make a concession to free speech. They don't value free speech. Their ideology does not value free speech. My point is that modern neocons (who are really just neoprogressives progressing down a different line of reasoning) don't value free speech or reasonable discourse.

Having rules that say "we don't value free speech or discourse" doesn't excuse them.


That's the difference between neoprogressives (Trump) and conservatives (Cruz).


Being banned from a particular subreddit with a particular set of rules by mods of that subreddit only on that subreddit is not banning from an entire platform (twitter) ALSO that sub in particular gets massively brigaded. BTW at Trump rallies, protesters didn't just get kicked out. MANY remained there, and he addressed certain ones with answers. Some were kicked out when it was clear they would not stop distracting those who were there to see TRUMP.

Also, reddit allows you to subscribe, but twitter creates a stronger relationship between poster and followers. You'd be subscribed to a particular person but when they are banned, all their history is gone, you no longer see anything. It's like someone came into your house and took away one of your favorite TV channels, as well as anything you had recorded from that channel on your DVR.

Who is this THEY you keep referring to anyway? You keep saying 'they' like readers are just supposed to know.


Yup. Notorious progressives Bush and Cheney gave us "free speech zones":

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/free-speech-...


Bush and Cheney were much more progressives than conservatives.


> Bush and Cheney were much more progressives than conservatives.

No, they weren't. They were authoritarian conservatives. (In the US, there's often a confusion between "conservative" and "libertarian", and if you confuse those and assume anything that isn't libertarian must be progressive, I can see how you'd make that mistake, but Bush/Cheney is about as far from progressive as you can get.)


> Conservatives were dismayed as he proposed a traditional Keynesian stimulus which Democrats lauded. Above all, he made one of the most dramatic federal interventions in American history by his aid to the financial system

> Conservatives and libertarians have criticized Bush for greatly increased domestic spending, creating a new entitlement program for prescription drugs, failing to veto a single bill, and expanding both the size and scope of government

http://www.conservapedia.com/George_W._Bush


Now I'm curious. Who do you consider conservative, Conservative, or both?



Thank you for answering.


Wasn't the physical free speech zone created by the bush administration when they made protestors stay in designated zones


The liberals are who take safe zones too far are the same type of people as the conservatives who view any disagreement with them as censorship.



> conservatives who view any disagreement with them as censorship

What are you talking about?


What other people choose do with their privately-owned platforms does not limit anyone's freedom of speech, as the law currently stands.


You are confusing freedom of speech with "the right to freedom of speech". Me restricting your freedom of speech is still restricting your freedom of speech, it is just legal and does not violate the first amendment. The government restricting your freedom of speech is not legal, and violates the first amendment.


what is "freedom of speech" outside the context of law?



does this book contend that there is a thing such as "freedom of speech" which exists outside law? what is the reasoning?


You're right, but it does show an endemic lack of respect for the concept of free speech.


No, it very definitely limits freedom of speech, it just fails to infringe the constitution.

And a "privately-owned platform" that is open to the public, used by a nontrivial amount of people, advertised by the owners as a place for public discussion, quoted in the media, etc etc etc isn't so "private" anymore.


Freedom is not about the law.


conversely, it could be argued that freedom is only about the law.


> it could be argued that freedom is only about the law

Hmm. I'd like to hear those arguments, since by itself the notion doesn't sound particularly compelling.



yes, really.


Except online, all platforms are privately owned. Hence you often get de facto censorship. You can technically say something not allowed on those platforms, but then find there's no way to draw any attention to this content/those views. It's like living in a company town where anything the administration don't like isn't allowed.

It's a problem with freedom of speech and private property in general, and why some people have considered the idea of treating large social platforms as closer to utilities rather than businesses.


So don't go to those sites/platforms. And this isn't a case of "things the administration doesn't like", this is a case of breaking the clear rules and harassing other users.


"Conservatives are ok with freedom of speech"

No, they're not. They're the ones saying that people shouldn't be allowed to protest many things like Chik-Fil-A's support of gay marriage bans, protesting police departments that act like black lives don't matter, etc.


> They're the ones saying that people shouldn't be allowed to protest

Citation needed.


Are there approaches like silent bans or usage of degrees of separation that would help matters?


I think this is caused by chilly US legal climate, not inherent to Twitter, fwiw


I "safely" follow the @theRealDonaldTrump comedy show.

I don't like him or think like him, but it's sure fun to have a firsthand view on the dumpster fire that is the 2016 election.


[flagged]


Please do not comment like this here.


True story: I was at a fundraiser in SF in about 2009, and over the course of the evening I found myself chatting about Twitter on two different occasions: once with Bill Maris of Google Ventures, and once with Joi Ito.

Bill and I were actually talking about what kind of investments GV was looking to make. He stressed that GV was looking to invest in businesses that were actually good businesses. As a counterexample, he brought up Twitter, which at the time he considered to be a "good investment" (said with a grin and a wink) but not a "good business". I had one of those feelings that you get when somebody really smart just shared with you The Truth.

Later I found myself in a conversation with Joi, I think as part of a group and not one-on-one, and Joi was talking about Twitter's lack of revenue. Joi was an early stage investor in Twitter, and he was telling us something to the effect of, "once we have all these users, we're going to bring everyone to the table and figure out how to monetize and what we can charge for."

Over the years I've thought a lot about Bill's distinction between a "good investment" and a "good business", and about Joi's "users first, money later" optimism. I always felt like Bill would be proven right in the long-term, and I think at this point he sorta has been.

Ultimately, though, either approach to investing can work -- but if you're gonna do the Joi thing, you gotta know when to get out of the trade. (I have no idea if/when Joi got out... just stating a general principle.)


I was a huge naysayer about the Facebook model that Joi espouses in your story. Facebook ended up being very successful with their users first approach surprising everyone.

I suspect that in 10 years Facebook will be an exception rather than a rule.


Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, Line?


Up until earlier this year, WhatsApp actually had a for-pay business model: it cost $1 per year. They stopped charging in January, evidently, in theory to remove a barrier to entry. (Being owned by Facebook now probably helps them make that move, though.)

I've wondered how Twitter would have been different if they'd taken a similar approach: $1 per account per year. They'd certainly be smaller than they are now, but I suspect they'd still be bringing in several hundred million a year before going the advertising route--the pursuit of which seems to be at the root of a lot of their questionable product decisions over the last few years.

None of that's directly relevant to the article, of course, which is implicitly about better filtering tools. I continue to be kind of bemused that this is so difficult for modern services to figure out, given that LiveJournal essentially figured it out fifteen years ago. Yes, the two services aren't directly comparable, but it wouldn't be wildly difficult to offer controls over, for example, who's allowed to @mention you.


The problem is that people treat free very differently from very cheap. Rationally, they shouldn't, but they do. So I suspect the number of users with the dollar-a-year plan wouldn't just be lower, it would be really dramatically lower. An order of magnitude, probably. Two, even.


The problem is that Twitter delivers very little real value to the majority of the people who use it. If it was switched off tomorrow how many people would really miss it? I suspect the answer is just their core user base, which is a very small % of all accounts Twitter has.

IMO had Twitter tried to charge their demise would have been even faster than the current slow but steady decline we're all watching.


That's quite possible. But if you're not the kind of user who checks Twitter on a fairly regular basis--not necessarily more than once a day, but at least several times a week--you're probably not the kind of user who's bringing in much advertising revenue, either. Maybe making signing up free but requiring the $1/yr to be able to post, or to follow more than 50 people.

It's possible none of that would work, either, but I'm confident in saying there are at least tens of millions of people who do get value from Twitter. They've chosen a business model where having "merely" tens of millions of users may not be enough to support them, but I don't think that points to an intrinsic flaw in Twitter's concept--just an intrinsic flaw in their particular monetization strategy.


Fair point, although I'd replace WeChat with SnapChat (WeChat being created by Tencent).

I don't think it's impossible to convert a large non-monetizing user-base into a profitable company (Google, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.) but I think that strategy is not a wise one for someone interested in building a sustainable company. There's a bigger reward to scaling before monetizing, but there's also a bigger gamble.


Ya, in general I agree with you. Just listing a few more exceptions to the rule. Also, I can't believe I left out SnapChat! Showing my age there aren't I?


SnapChat was what made me realize I was old. I never got the hang of the UI.


Bill is wrong. Twitter's revenue per user is quite good. Their problem is that user growth is poor. They can't get enough users to meet their goals. Joi was correct that focusing on users first was the correct decision. They just haven't been able to execute on that goal as well as they hoped for.


There is evidence from past social networks that if you don't hit critical mass of mainstream user adoption, and you've got these lofty valuations, the company is in for a really bad time


Yes, exactly. Hence the maniacal focus on "users first" to reach critical mass because if you don't do that you are dead.

Then "money later."


How is Twitter not a good business? It's still worth $11 billion.


Any public company's valuation is the sum of every vested actor's belief in the stock's promise of (future) value. It definitely doesn't mean that Twitter has $11 billion in the bank.

If anything happens that makes vested individuals doubt that Twitter is worth as much as it is, its value will drop, as it did right after the Q2 2016 earnings report was released.


It's never made a profit.


This is a good point. So I looked up some Twitter financials.

In 2015 they posted a Net Income of -$521.03M and EBITDA of -$137.21M.

I don't exactly understand how those two numbers can differ so much, but either way they're pretttty bad.


I was curious as to why the two numbers differed so much. A lot of it seems to be deprecation charges on servers and networking gear.


Does Twitter have to be Facebook to not be "fucked"?

I don't understand these statements that "Twitter is fucked". Twitter could improve filtering and safety but if it never changed I'd probably still get my news from it for the rest of my life. I just can't think of a better app for my use cases. I often like Twitter Moments, like something funny or some pop culture stuff I wouldn't have picked up on.

Every time there is breaking news Twitter carries it first.

I don't want longer tweets. That's what URL's are for. If you want to discuss really distill your thoughts and thread them. I'm on here to scan for stuff that lights up my brain not have an Op-Ed shoved in my face taking up the whole screen.

I just don't understand. I love twitter.


The main reason Twitter is screwed, isn't that they don't have a product people like. So what if Pokemon Go has more daily users? It's not really the same type of product.

Twitter can be successful, at the same type that Pokemon, Facebook and other are successful. These companies aren't mutually exclusive.

The reason Twitter is screwed is because they created a popular product and absolutely no idea on to make money on it. Just freaking charge the users $10 per year after the first year and $250 for business accounts and be done with it. If people truly love Twitter, as much as they claim, it shouldn't be a problem.


While I would have no problem paying $10 for a year of Twitter, I think it would kill it.

For a brief moment, I thought Google had a chance with Google+. The discussion model is better, the moderation tools are better, but it just doesn't have the users. I wonder if they had launched with a read/write API and good developer libraries, would Google+ have achieved critical mass? I'd still love to see Google try this since they really have nothing to lose at this point.


The marketing was all wrong. The rate at which Google admitted new users to the platform left many potential users feeling alienated. It took several days for me to get an invite and I'm pretty saavy.

When they launched all the talk was focused on the social network. The focus should have been on the primary product which is that they introduced an account system. The social network just simply came with it for free. You could use it or not use it.

Google accounts meant you no longer needed to use your Gmail accounts to sign up for Google services.

Could bind everything, Gmail, any other Google services all to the same Google account. When Google then pushed to get people onto the new accounts system people thought Google was trying to shove the social network down their throats.

The social network again, though was secondary to the account system. Google+ likely would have been better received had people been properly informed on the benefits of creating a Google account.


Google accounts actually came out several years before Google+. I remember that Google already had a unified account system across all products before I started working for them; I think they rolled it out in 2008. Google+ didn't launch as a destination site until 2011.


As far as I can remember Google services required a Gmail account before Google+. Here is Schmidt commenting about the release of Google+ as an identity service.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2011/08/29/googles-e...


My point is that Google's had a unified login system across all products (except legacy Blogger and YouTube accounts) since at least 2008. It doesn't really make sense to call it a GMail account - GMail was one of the services that it gave you access to, but it also was your account for AdWords, Analytics, Google Voice, Blogger, Reader, Docs, etc. You can find references to it on the web from 2009 onwards, as well as reports that the Chinese hacked it in 2010:

http://blogoscoped.com/forum/164385.html

http://www.computerworld.com/article/2517360/security0/repor...

The "G+ is just an identity layer on top of Google" was a common soundbite reported by executives at the time, and perhaps they even believed it, but my engineers-level view as someone who worked with the G+ codebase was that this was mostly marketing speak to differentiate us from Facebook and deflect criticism of "Well, if G+ is a new social network, why would I use it over Facebook?" By saying it's the identity layer for Google, they can then say "Well, you use Google already, this is just the social layer that ties all Google products together." On a technical level a "G+ account" was just a bit set in your Gaia record that indicated whether you had opted in to G+ features.


Google fucked it up by hogtying everything from the Play store to Youtube to that G+ account. Thus if you violated the G+ TOS you suddenly found yourself locked out of everything the account tied to.

Then again, the guy responsible for the mess was an ex-MS exec that continued the mentality of mentally tying his fief with everything else. Sadly Google is taking forever to untangle the knot (likely because it is unsexy maintenance work).


> I don't want longer tweets. That's what URL's are for.

This right here.

Medium, PostHaven, Wordpress, blog services, etc. All of those products exist for an extended thought. I always believed that where Twitter excels is in micro-sharing/blogging.

I am not willing to read, let alone comment on a 500+ word Facebook status post. But I'm certainly willing to enjoy/participate in a discourse over a 160 character thought.

If I am in the 500+ word reading mood, I goto Medium or PostHaven or the equivalent blog-platform. Where there's a forum, there's an audience. And Twitter's quick digestible tweets cultivates an insane amount of diverse discourse.

Sure, there's harassment. Sure there's spam. But there's a lot of gems on Twitter.


The tension is that Twitter wants to be both a place for both news in the moment and for actual conversations. It's fine for the former but terrible at the latter. That itself isn't terrible -- they could just drop or de-emphasize conversation functions and call it a day. But Twitter is a public company that, rightly or wrongly, feels the need to boost engagement and you don't get great numbers if your users only log in when something big and important is happening.


They could have gotten the conversation right when they introduced the quote system (put a link to the tweet you are responding to and the client/site will embed the tweet body inside yours), but instead managed to break the existing system they had where a client could include a tweet id number to indicate what tweet someone was replying to when using @username.

End result is that rather than have the potential to build a conversation chain, readers have to manually drill the "tree".

Never mind that they never implemented support for merged SMS (introduced all the way back in the 90s!), so you are constantly stuck at 140 characters.

All in all it is a quintessential US company with the classic US mobile network blinders firmly fitted.


People love to hate Facebook and Twitter, but they ain't going anywhere. The service they provide is too useful, and after so many years they are ingrained in people's social lives.


Exactly. They fill a need. These Monday morning quarterbacks should march up to sand hill with a prototype and build their own. Leave my twitter alone.


Well the actual quarterbacks, in the form of its owners, are selling. Today it's down 14%. It's lost 1/2 its value in 12 months. It's not profitable.

Now maybe they just haven't discovered, or innovated, a business model that'll at least stop them from taking on more water. Nevertheless, I'm curious how much it's worth to you, in dollars, per day, per month or per year. Because $0 isn't working, clearly.


Exactly, people in the tech world just have to get rid of their own unrealistic expectations of infinite growth - which doesn't exist anywhere else either. Twitter may be useful for some people. For others like me, it's as pointless as Facebook.


Facebook is profitable, Twitter isn't.

But you're right, just perhaps not in the way you mean, Twitter isn't going anywhere. $11 billion market cap is nothing to sneeze at, however it's lost about that much value in one year. So is it a going concern? Sure it'll probably still be here in a year, but my confidence level beyond 12 months is weak at best. Five years? shrug 50/50. If it's not profitable, how does it continue to function at a certain point? At what point is it functionally on life support?


As far as I'm concerned, the only useful service Facebook provides is event scheduling. I don't have a Twitter account. Most of the "needs" they fulfill are either entirely imaginary, or aren't fulfilled in any sensible way. (I.e. the whole notion of "staying in touch" with people via Facebook is a sham. It's more of a simulation of staying in touch.)

If you use popularity as the main measure of usefulness then yellow press is useful too.


I'm feeling the exact same feelings. All Facebook seems to provide anymore is a way of tracking your friends, not engaging or socializing with them. The platform is engineered to maximize clicks, not foster meaningful social interactions.

I'm just waiting for the rest of the world to realize this so I can dump Facebook Messenger without looking like an idiot.


agree. all these "fixes" are to change what twitter is. twitter is a short-form, _immediate_ publishing platform. it's great for what's happening _now_. i don't want to read long-form pieces that took 2 days of editing.

i think moments and periscope are good steps. not perfect, but they emphasize _now_.


There's a big spectrum in-between an essay that took two days to write and a tweet. Hacker News is a good example of messages that are long enough to say something useful and short enough to not require any commitment by the reader.

I dislike the way the article uses the word "violence". Nothing that happens on Twitter is violent. The definition of violence right from a Google search for "define:violence" is

behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something

Nonetheless, the author articulates the reasons I do not use Twitter myself. The amount of drama that site creates seems, to a non-user, to be far in excess of the amount of insight it generates. I have never heard of a really great conversation or unique, insightful idea emerging on Twitter. I have heard, a lot, about idiotic fights that escalate into real world problems. I agree that the 140 character limit is the cause of such problems.


Yep.

I can understand that he wants to make a distinction between aggressive word usage, and non-aggressive. But calling it "violence" is hyperbolic, and dangerous to free speech.

Threats of and exhortations to violence are universally considered unprotected by free speech. So people who dislike other peoples speech have an incentive to call it "violence".


"Mental anguish" and "harassment" (which is also a a crime, and not protected) are a much better terms for things that are not a threat of actual physical violence. However, trying to dismiss all of this as simply hyperbole is... well... dismissive. See http://femfreq.tumblr.com/post/109319269825/one-week-of-hara... This is a woman who gets vile harassment and actual death threats for doing academic critiques of video games.

Let's be honest here. These tweets aren't a discourse. It's a mob.


A death threat is a threat of violence in the tradtional sense. It might not be violence, but it sure as hell is wrong, illegal, and not protected free speech.


I feel a more accurate way to put it would be that Twitter the $11b, 4,000 employee juggernaut is fucked, but Twitter the niche, 100 employee, 100 million dollar site for news junkies still has a chance


Time to pivot.


I agree. The entirety of the linked article is self-righteous and vapid. In fact, it probably could have been summarized in 140 characters.


This guy speaks for me. I read this piece thinking that all the reasons he thinks Twitter sucks (minus the harassment issue) are all the reasons I like it.

You have to manage Facebook. Twitter is just a way to convey thoughts and ideas, occasionally with things turning into a discussion. That is an important service with a definite need that Facebook has never filled.


I don't think it needs to be Facebook to not be fucked, but I agree with OP that it could change it's user metrics to better affect behavior. Maybe similar to rep here on ycombinator.com where you get downvoted by the community if you are an ass or not adding productively to the conversation. Combining rep with privileges like stackoverflow.com where a user can't DM until they hit a certain rep, or can't cause a notification on other's devices when they tweet would curtail sock-puppeting and other trollish behavior that plagues Twitter.

As for up to date news, I follow Google's top 10 searches in Feedly (where I follow hundreds of sites) and it works as a pretty decent up-to-date top news trend that gets updated every hour or so. I can appreciate if every hour or so is too slow for some folks though. I'm not in media, and don't really care if Rihanna fell of the stage a few minutes ago during her concert, but I totally get it if others do.


Googles news is based on typical journo sites mostly. Twitter provides unfiltered live on-scene coverage and commentary, statements by police often are Tweeted as the press conferences are happening or in lieu of them. Ever since Sully landed a plane in the Hudson news on Twitter has just been a different beast and I love it. Nothing else is "good enough" for me.


My rule is that if nobody would pay for your service, you probably don't have a worthwhile business.

If Google instituted a $0.99 monthly fee to use Google search, people would line up to pay it. They don't have to, because their business model works differently, but they could do that, and it would work. I'd probably pay for an account.

If Facebook instituted a $0.99 monthly fee to use that, a lot of people would do it just because it keeps them in the loop with their friends. And in fact, many people would be willing to pay $2.99/mo for a business account which gets to do more (like post more events or whatever). Again, this isn't their business model, but this would totally work as a business model.

People would pay for Uber de-facto; they do pay for Uber.

Likewise, half my coworkers have bought coin packs in Pokémon Go. In general, lots of games do pay models.

If Twitter added a $0.99/year fee, there would be a clone written in a more scalable architecture taking all their users within a week. Some businesses would keep Twitter accounts, but that number would decrease as they lost users. Remember that Twitter added some minor advertising and instantly started losing users.

There are tons of other startups with this problem. The idea these days is, get a bunch of users and introduce ads. The problem there is that when you add ads, you're fundamentally changing your service. It's a bait-and-switch. And once you do the switch, if people weren't willing to pay for your service before, they're not going to want to start paying for it in the form of ads.


I see where you're going with your rule: services that provide True Value™ would likely survive if they suddenly started charging a nominal fee right now.

However, as a game developer with Free-To-Play development PTSD, I think this rule rests on an implied-but-important condition: People are already using and loving the service. Imagine that some shiny new app called Spark launches tomorrow and vaguely promises to be Twitter 2.0, well no one would be willing to jump on unless it was free. Even $1 a month is too much for us short-attention-spanned smartphone users, as the total shift to F2P games on mobile has shown us. Nothing outside of Minecraft is in the top 100 grossing apps on Android nor iOS.

Perhaps the answer lies in starting free, getting people hooked, and then easing in a subscription fee? This would also come across as a bait-and-switch, as you said, and some users would inevitably flock to the next free clone.

Ultimately, and unfortunately, I don't think there's an easy answer to monetization anywhere...


> However, as a game developer with Free-To-Play development PTSD, I think this rule rests on an implied-but-important condition: People are already using and loving the service.

No, that's exactly not what I'm saying. Uber did just fine starting as a pay service as do a great many games, Netflix, HBO, Amazon, etc.

> Imagine that some shiny new app called Spark launches tomorrow and vaguely promises to be Twitter 2.0, well no one would be willing to jump on unless it was free.

Right--that's because Twitter 2.0 is also fucked from the beginning: they don't have something users would pay for any more than Twitter 1.0 did.

> Even $1 a month is too much for us short-attention-spanned smartphone users, as the total shift to F2P games on mobile has shown us. Nothing outside of Minecraft is in the top 100 grossing apps on Android nor iOS.

F2P is basically just an advertising strategy; I'd count that as having something people are willing to pay for, because they're willing to pay for in-game purchases or premium experience subscriptions.

> Perhaps the answer lies in starting free, getting people hooked, and then easing in a subscription fee? This would also come across as a bait-and-switch, as you said, and some users would inevitably flock to the next free clone.

I guess I wasn't clear about this, but I think a bait-and-switch business strategy will work fine if you have something people value enough to pay for. It's kind of pointless, though, IMHO, because it doesn't fail fast: if it turns out you aren't providing people anything they value, then you won't find that out until you get to the "switch" part.

Ultimately, I think the bait-and-switch strategy is just a way to extract money from VCs and offload risk onto them without having to prove your value proposition, but that comes at some significant cost. If I were a VC I'd probably want to invest to build something and then release it for pay up front--that saves the cost of implementing the bait-and-switch strategy.

> Ultimately, and unfortunately, I don't think there's an easy answer to monetization anywhere...

The answer is "provide value that people are willing to pay for", but I agree that's not an easy answer. :)


> Uber did just fine starting as a pay service as do a great many games, Netflix, HBO, Amazon, etc.

I think that's an unfair comparison for two reasons: (1) People were already comfortable with the idea of paying for cabs, cable, games, books/electronics in the old world. Whereas the current norm is _not_ to pay for social media services.

(2) A transportation service, game, streaming video service, e-retailer can deliver value to their first customer. A social network is only valuable if others are using it. If Spark / Twitter 2.0 launches tomorrow, even if they can provide a bunch of product improvements over Twitter 1.0, the first users have no reason to pay b/c they're joining an empty / worthless conversation, so at launch it's almost necessary to allow people to join for free. And this creates the norms described in (1).


> I think that's an unfair comparison for two reasons: (1) People were already comfortable with the idea of paying for cabs, cable, games, books/electronics in the old world. Whereas the current norm is _not_ to pay for social media services.

Of course; this is because cabs, cable, games, books/electronics all provide value. Most social media services don't, at least not enough value for people to pull out their credit cards.

> (2) A transportation service, game, streaming video service, e-retailer can deliver value to their first customer. A social network is only valuable if others are using it. If Spark / Twitter 2.0 launches tomorrow, even if they can provide a bunch of product improvements over Twitter 1.0, the first users have no reason to pay b/c they're joining an empty / worthless conversation, so at launch it's almost necessary to allow people to join for free. And this creates the norms described in (1).

I disagree, I think the norms described in (1) exist because Twitter/Spark provide very little value to their users.

You're describing a first-to-market advantage, but that's not really relevant. If that were a signifiant deciding factor, Twitter could simply institute a subscription fee and be profitable by tomorrow. But they can't: if they did that, they'd lose all their users overnight.


"The idea these days is, get a bunch of users and introduce ads."

That's exactly what Google and Facebook did.

All I can take from your comment is "if hypothetical scenario then my opinion is true"


Do you disagree with my hypothetical scenarios? That is, do you think if Google/Facebook introduced subscription fees nobody would subscribe?

Would you pay to read Twitter? Do you think that anyone would?


I disagree with it when put in the context of when the product launched.

I wouldn't have paid for Google in 2000 when I first discovered it; while it was better than all the other search engines out there, it wasn't better enough that I'd break my rule of never shelling out money to visit a website. I certainly wouldn't have paid money for Facebook; I was a poor college student when I got my FB account in 2004, and all you could do was poke people. I can poke people in real life without shelling out money for it.

I think many people confuse the value they get for a service now, after it has had a decade to refine its product and become deeply embedded in our lives, with the value they get from a service at launch, which is often virtually nothing.


That's a reasonable critique, and I think you're right. There exist products that start off without value people would pay for and slowly develop into something with value people would pay for, and Google is a good example.

I guess that leaves room for Twitter to develop into a product people would pay for, but I'm skeptical that can happen without very significant changes to their product, to the point that I'd be hesitant to call it the same product.


I think overall this is decently convincing, the problem I have with it though is the Uber example. Uber is bleeding money and clearly subsidizing rides. If people were paying the true cost of what drivers are paid plus some reasonable mark up, I have serious doubts it'd be as popular as it is. And case in point, I don't use Uber in NYC. Friends and colleagues don't either. It's usually easier and cheaper to get a cab. So... if Uber becomes more expensive than it is now, let alone more than a cab, I think broadly speaking most people will vote for the less expensive option rather than the service with the shiny app.


Yeah, I think that having a product people would pay for is a prerequisite to success, but it's not a guarantee of success. I definitely think Uber could lose to a competitor in their product space.

The distinction I'm making here is that I don't think anyone will ever succeed over the long term in Twitter's product space, because they don't have a product people would pay for. A competitor might knock them out for a little while, but no competitor will have lasting success unless they figure out a way to modify Twitter's product into a product people would pay for. And at it's core, Twitter's product is kind of worthless, so I don't think there's a modification that would make it worthwhile.


App.net briefly tried to be a paid-for Twitter clone. I guess they've sort of pivoted from that model but it was an interesting idea at the time. And obviously it didn't work, because free is cheaper than non-free.


Yeah. But even if they both charged the same amount of money, I think they'd just both go out of business, because nobody is going to pay for what either has to offer.


I want to disagree with you, but I paid for app.net and then didn't use it... so I guess I can't.


> there would be a clone written in a more scalable architecture

Curious, what would be more scalable than Twitter's existing JVM based architecture? 3 years ago[1] they were able to handle upwards of 140 (edit) thousand tweets per second without any latency -- that's pretty ridiculous.

[1] https://blog.twitter.com/2013/new-tweets-per-second-record-a...


I didn't explain that well--initially Twitter was on RoR and sharded MySQL, which wasn't scalable. Obviously they have done a lot of scaling work and can handle their load now.

If I were implementing Twitter today, I'd probably do Elixir and Cassandra. I don't generally leap to go NoSQL but Twitter's structure is particularly suited to Cassandra. Elixir gives the ease of development I associate with Ruby with the scalable, decentralizable BEAM. I'd also consider going with Erlang straight up--it may not be as pretty as Elixir, but there's a lot to be said for maturity in a language.

But I'm saying this because I have the benefit of newer technologies and having seen Twitter's mistakes. From a technical perspective, I think Twitter is pretty well done.


143 000 tweets/second. Not 140 millions.


Is that not exactly what app.net is? They have hardly taken all of Twitter's users.


It was the reverse of what the OP suggested. Twitter is still free, and App.net charged people a fee to use it.


Neither of them provide value people are willing to pay for, so that's unsurprising.


Every platform that is public and anonmyous runs afoul of this, this isn't just twitter. You can look at Youtube comments, reddit, pretty much any forum.

What's missing is that other platforms, like Facebook, took a very hard stance on this and forced people to signup as their real identities.

Twitter, can easily follow suit. That won't fix all of the problems, but it will go towards improving things and it won't require massive product updates and changes to the UX.

Given that their MAU growth numbers are low, and no longer the number that they want the public market to focus on, actually instating this now wouldn't even be that damaging from a reporting perspective, and if they bled out a few users that weren't really contributing it could go a long way to improving things.

Technically there is a privacy setting that twitter doesn't play up that can be used for people that want to use twitter as a consumption platform and limit the interactivity from other people.

Twitter is still fundamentally different and more open than facebook and with requesting non-anonymous users they can still keep that open platform and potentially clean up some of the outlier conversations that seem to be a focus for so many people of what's wrong with twitter.


If you think that enforcing real names induces civility and you use Facebook as an example, your argument is wrong and self-contradictory.

Facebook is /proof/ that the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory doesn't need anonymity. What the Internet proves about communication is that fuckwaddery (yes, this is a word, my word) is inversely proportional to interface friction. The quicker it is to spill the contents of your mind without the filtration enabled by interface difficulty, the more crap you can put out. Since 90 percent of everything is crap, [Sturgeon] even what you are thinking 90 percent of the time is crap and you're lucky if you manage to only commit the remaining 10 percent without contaminating it with the rest. Interface difficulty enforces thinking about what you commit to discussion. Which is why pen-and-ink letter writing "is an art" and the twitterverse is a cesspool - real names or not.

This is not to say that if everything went back to pen-and-paper that there would be no fuckwads. There would simply be fewer of them.

Lastly, I never used my real name on Facebook or other social media. Why should I give up what I have every right to do in real life just because it's electronic? People don't care whether I'm using my real name or alias as long as they know who they're talking to.

BMO's Revised Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

(Normal person + communication medium) / interface friction = fuckwad

And when friction=0, you have a black hole of fuckwaddery. You usually get this when you use alcohol as a lubricant.


I'd say fuckwaddery or whatever is more proportional to the distance between the user and the person they're communicating with. If someone lives in the same town, you'll be a lot more hesitant to insult the hell out of them than if they live on another continent.

That might be why Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc are so screwed up. Because the userbase knows that there's a very slim chance they'll ever meet the person they're attacking online. That there's a slim chance there'll ever be any genuine consequences for their actions.

Of course, making it easier and more convenient like on the sites (or limiting people to only 140 characters) definitely makes it easier to be a douche. But you're not going to send a threatening SMS message to someone sitting next to you.


Bullies operate on people who are in the same school as them, it has nothing to do with distance.


HN is public and anonymous and mostly manages to not suffer this problem, due to the heavy manual labour of the moderators and a whole lot of selection bias in its userbase.

To a slightly lesser extent, Slashdot has also licked that problem: for any story that attracts enough comments (more than 300) the top rated ones are often pretty good and the worthless ones start auto-collapsed. Even though Slashdot gets a lot of jip these days, some of it deserved, I've still spent many enjoyable hours reading some of the top rated comments there. Especially nice is the fact that upvotes must have an adjective attached, which gently nudges users into certain kinds of behaviour. For instance it's the only site I've encountered where people often post extremely funny comments despite the serious topics. The moderation system there encourages that sort of behaviour.


HN is not as mainstream as Twitter or Reddit, so I don't think we can really compare it that way


I wouldn't necessarily consider Reddit mainstream either. Sure, it has a lot of users. But I don't hear people on the streets telling each other to look at their subreddits.


If we can trust in Alexa, reddit is #26 globally and #9 in the US. Even with some error margin, that's damn mainstream.


Also Metacritic has managed to keep foul comments under control.


> Every platform that is public and anonmyous runs afoul of this, this isn't just twitter. You can look at Youtube comments, reddit, pretty much any forum.

We had ways of dealing with this on Usenet back in the day. 1) Thick skin, and 2) killfiles. Generally, killfiles weren't for people with whom you disagreed (though they could be, if you wanted), they were for people who were assholes.


I actually think none of these things are Twitter's biggest problems and that while they are big issues Twitter could gradually, painstakingly fix them through thoughtful policies coupled with careful engineering. Their biggest problem is Facebook rapidly building Twitter's future inside Facebook.

What I mean is this: I agree with Jack's vision of Twitter being a "window to the world", a place where you can instantly get a sense of what your compatriots are thinking and how they are reacting to news. They have two features which accomplish this pretty well: hashtags and live video. When crazy things are happening Twitter is one of the best ways to "live" the event through those two features. Jack appears to have taken this to heart and recently said that Twitter's future will heavily involve breaking news. This also addresses one of the big complaints in this post - you can't have a thoughtful debate in 140 characters. But you can react! And you can absorb little pieces of information and media.

Unfortunately for Twitter, Facebook has also seen the writing and the wall and has built superior versions of hashtags and live video directly into their experience. I have seen a noticeable improvement in the specificity and granularity of their trending topics lately and we've all seen over the past couple weeks how effective and raw (maybe too raw) their live video is.

So I don't think Twitter is fucked - I think their future still, after all these laggard years, has a lot of potential. The problem is they have to stare down an 800,000 pound blue and white gorilla to win.


Speech is not violence. The author's conflation of the two trivializes actual physical violence.


Completely true. We're losing the meaning of words because people want to sensationalize their points.

Speech can be hateful, harmful, hurtful, etc., but it is not violent. Speech can incite violence, but it is still not actually violence.

We see this all of the time when people want to resort to hyperbole -- "misgendering a trans person is violence!"

It doesn't further your case, it's just using a cheap rhetorical trick.


"Negroes not allowed" on an entrance would count as just words. And yet those words perform a locutionary act and enforce behavior.

Yes speech is not the same thing as actively hitting someone or throwing someone out of a club. But At the same time there are classes of speech which cause direct harm.

To be pedantic about it, words can cause physical pain, fear, stress and anxiety. So words have been demonstrated to cause physical harm.

In short: your erecting a false dichotomy/comparison. There is violent speech, and yes it's not the same as physical violence. It's not considered to be.

Additionally, I think your short sentence encapsulates a particularly incorrect assessment of the modern world, and especially life "online".

Online Life is locution. An unusually large portion of ones persona lives in words exchanged online. All actions that occur which silence someone, elevate someone else, instruct, confuse, insult or praise do so through words. Speech is everything online.



Again, in both cases it's using violence as a rhetorical trick.

Verbal and emotional abuse of children are serious issues, but they do NOT have to be violent for them to be horrible. The conflation of the two muddies the language that we have to describe the events that happen to us.

If someone says, my parents were very violent to me, what would you assume happened? Doesn't knowing that there was physical abuse help give context that helps you respond to the situation?


Did you even read the links?

'Violent speech' and 'violent communication' are a form of violence. They have a nuanced definition. They can be used in multiple ways. Language is not strict. It is fluid, it changes over time, and in this case, totally applies to the subject. You are arguing for an unrealistic, unenforceable, overly-literal use of language.


Rhetorical nuances in the service of emotional manipulation are not yet considered definitional. You and others are free to misuse words, and I and others are free to point out it is rhetorical bullshit.


We have word-phrases for what you're talking about. More nuanced than your proposed catch-all of 'violent communication.'

As someone who's been on the receiving end of a large portion of 'violent communication', it's much easier, and significantly more validating to say 'emotional abuse' or 'hate speech'.

I don't understand what about asking violence to retain its definition is unrealistic. It's an important word with important implications.

(I did read the links -- that's how I pulled an example out of them. You really are a fan of rhetorical pot shots!)


Violent communication is an umbrella term for a variety of causes and effects. It may not be hateful. It may not be abusive. But it has the quality and characteristics of the intent to cause harm, which is what violence is.

But going back to your main assertion here, you say that the word 'violence' has a particular definition, and the use of this phrase does not retain it, and that it thus harms people's interpretation of the word and its meaning. Let's see if that's true.

The American Psychological Association defines it as this:

" Violence is an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder. Violence has many causes, including frustration, exposure to 𝘃𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗱𝗶𝗮, violence in the home or neighborhood and a tendency to 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲'𝘀 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗵𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆'𝗿𝗲 𝗻𝗼𝘁. Certain situations also increase the risk of aggression, such as drinking, insults and other provocations and environmental factors like heat and overcrowding."

The Oxford dictionary has this definition:

"violence. Pronunciation: /ˈvī(ə)ləns/. noun. 1) Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. 1.1) 𝗦𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗴𝘁𝗵 𝗼𝗳 𝗲𝗺𝗼𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻 𝘂𝗻𝗽𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗿 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗻𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗹 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗰𝗲: 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘃𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀. 1.2) Law The unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force. To do violence to. Damage or adversely affect. Origin: Middle English: via Old French from Latin violentia, from violent- 'vehement, violent' (see violent)."

Wikipedia has this to say:

"Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as "the intentional use of physical force 𝗼𝗿 𝗽𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿, 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗱 or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, 𝗽𝘀𝘆𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗺, maldevelopment, or deprivation", although the group acknowledges that the inclusion of "the use of power" in its definition expands on the conventional meaning of the word.[2] This definition involves intentionality with the committing of the act itself, 𝗶𝗿𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗶𝘁 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝗲𝘀. However, generally, 𝗮𝗻𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗲𝘅𝗰𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗻𝗷𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗼𝗿 𝗱𝗮𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝗺𝗮𝘆 𝗯𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝘀 𝘃𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝗳 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝘃𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 (by a person and against a person)."

Also note that Wikipedia (and many other sources) define the types of violence as self-directed, interpersonal, and collective, spanning acts such as physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, and emotional. (Other sources include expanded or additional categories)

--

You'll note that in many definitions, the term encompasses several iterations on the theme, such as assault and non-physical harm. (As a fellow linguist, i'm sure you're aware that the definitions of the word "assault" in both a legal and non-legal context includes non-physical harm) According to multiple sources, the definition of the word flies in the face of your more strict interpretation.

But you also mention catch-all word-phrases for things like this - like 'violent communication'! You can also notice that since the word 'violent' is in the phrase - and since it is the root word of 'violence' - and since their mutual definitions span the same subjects and imply the same cause and effect - that it isn't a perversion of the original word's meaning at all, but merely elucidates a particular category of thing the root word wouldn't have directly described as well.

Now, let's finally address your love of the word 'rhetorical'. The word 'rhetorical', in a general definition, is to form a question in order to make a point rather than elicit an answer.

Taking into account the rest of my argument & evidence on the original subject, don't you think it might be more useful to use language to point out a flaw in logic, rather than trying to break down someone's argument with ad-hominem attacks?


You're willfully misinterpreting definitions here:

>>" Violence is an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder. Violence has many causes, including frustration, exposure to 𝘃𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗱𝗶𝗮, violence in the home or neighborhood and a tendency to 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲'𝘀 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗵𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆'𝗿𝗲 𝗻𝗼𝘁. Certain situations also increase the risk of aggression, such as drinking, insults and other provocations and environmental factors like heat and overcrowding."

Notice the APA's definitions includes assault, rape, and murder, and your bolded text specifically refers to the root causes of violence. The exposure to violent media predisposes people to violence, the perception of other people's actions as hostile even when they're not causes a misunderstanding that leads to violence.

1.1) from the Oxford definition is a testament to how strongly people react to violence.

The Wikipedia article is a far more compelling argument for your case, but the WHO has political interests that colors their definition of the word. Was the FDA promoting trans fats violent? It certainly is an action that was taken from a position of power which caused harm. The FDA actually might be one of the more violent domestic US institutions under this definition. Are all parents violent? Doing some harm to your child's mental health or well being is going to happen in 18 years of making decisions.

Clearly there is a difference in significance between the 'violence' of a parent who teases their child a few times and a parent who is beating their child.

We have an obvious colloquial use of the word violence that supercedes using violent as an adjective in this way. If we're going to talk about linguistic drift, this is a very poor example. Rather, this appears to be a small number of people who are attempting to expand the definition of violent. This definition has only been adopted by a few special interests groups who have a vested interest in changing how the larger population communicates. One method that they are using to do this is using rhetorical[1] tricks, like labeling everyone who does not agree with them as violent, by using overly loose definitions like the WHO example above.

[1] When an argument is nearly entirely about the way that we use rhetoric, I'll use the word rhetorical. That's the nice thing about words, when they have strong definitions, they're highly applicable to situations. You can use them and everyone will know what you're talking about!


> exposure to 𝘃𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗻𝘁

FYI, those bold unicode letters don't render in firefox on my mac, making a large portion of your comment unreadable.


This whole thing reminded me of protected vs non-protected speech in the definition of First Amendment law. There's a really good legal precedent on why violence-inducing speech is banned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Party_of_Am...


You completely lost me here. Violence can happen through a variety of mechanisms. There's no body that can insist that only the physical tearing of flesh or bone is encapsulated by the word 'violence'.


Speech can definitely be violence and suggesting otherwise trivializes emotional abuse and trauma faced by those that suffer from PTSD and other mental illnesses.


Speech can be abusive; I see no one trivializing that. It is not violence.


While I agree with most of the author's points, I'm not convinced at how possible it would be to have a product that "adopts the market-orientation and ad hoc network of Twitter" in such a way that "harassment would be impossible." While deep learning and similar technologies can certainly make it much more difficult to harass someone, you can't rely on the content of someones message[0] nor can you rely on the network status of an individual, as spam accounts won't be readily differentiable from new accounts, and blocking new accounts from contacting people defeats the "ad hoc network" requirement.

[0]: People are great at communicating meaning non-literally (see: definition of literally) and one of the ways that manifests itself is through slang, which is going to break anything but a so-close-it-might-as-well-be-AI system. If you ban a word or phrase, it's meaning will be communicated through another word or phrase. The insulting adversary has an advantage here, as they can use other real words and phrases that would otherwise be innocuous to insult you, it would be especially advantageous to use popular/common words/phrases as replacements (see: euphemisms).

It's certainly possible to train a system in hindsight, but I highly doubt you could do so in real-time and any delay in reacting to new slang means that's when antagonists will strike. Hell, you could even do asynchronously defined insults, send many messages containing various words phrases and then announce, shortly after their delivery, what they mean (heh...).


Why did you jump to ML as the solution to a vague product description (and then proceed to outline how it'd be difficult to do with ML)?

Twitter 2.0 could do something as simple as forego the linear timeline (and the restrictions that that imposes re: filtering) and still achieve all the goals the author outlined.


I disagree with the author because I've seen much more hostile content on Facebook, which doesn't exhibit any of the author's identified causes.

I also think John De Goes doesn't mention the elephant in the room with which he got burned, the last LandaConf along their policy and handling of the created situation. And far from me to judge that situation in this comment, but I find his judgment compromised, to say the least, if not disingenuous.

As for some of his claims, I'm actually glad that Twitter doesn't filter my content. I DO NOT want any more filter bubbles. I actually want the people I respect to show me their religion and political beliefs. In fact I want disagreeing opinions, even if painful, because that's how I learn. I'm a tolerant kind of guy and I want to see the world for what it is. And if I can't tolerate somebody, then I'm not interested about his work or jokes either.


I'm sympathetic to the author's general ideas, but also find myself perturbed by the myopic cheapening of the term "violence". (chars < 140)


I found the author's usage of the term eye-opening rather than myopic!


Interesting. The way it was used seemed hyperbolic & better replaced w/ something like, "banal", "vapid", "uncivil" or "derogatory". (< 140)


People are tired from crybullies. We need a place where freedom of speech still matters.

Freedom of speech doesn't include invading someone's privacy (this is illegal; doxxing, stalking etc. should be banned and actively fought against). But if you can't handle insults, it is not anyone's job to prevent them. There's always "Block" button, and then, there's always "delete account" button.


Explain to me how effective blocking individuals is when you're being spammed by dozens and hundreds of people with so little to do that they will happily go create egg accounts to continue harassing you. It's not practical or feasible to block all of them. So people should delete their accounts because they get brigaded? To hell with that, and with the people who think that is a social norm worth protecting.

"Crybullies." And I literally thought this could not get any sillier a thing.


Without taking a stance on either side of this contentious issue, I would note that it should be technically feasible to offer an option which would auto-block any account that hasn't established a certain extent of "not a troll sockpuppet" bona fides - for example, by being more than a few weeks old, and having a certain degree of engagement with the community at large. Accounts which fail to meet these criteria, and persist in attempts to abuse someone already recognized as being targeted, might be automatically suspended or banned.

I don't care for Twitter particularly, but it's a thing that exists, and it's not likely to go away any time soon. And I don't care for shitposter brigades at all. As the current brouhaha demonstrates, manual intervention in high-profile cases is no solution at all. Twitter's engineering team is easily capable of an automated solution; all they need is for their management to turn them loose on the problem. I'm not sure why that hasn't yet happened. Of course it's impossible for any automated solution to make everyone happy - but what we're looking at right now is a response that has made everyone unhappy. Twitter can do better. I hope they take this incident as sufficient reason to do so.


I hear and respect what you're saying, but I don't think you can technologically fix a social problem. Twitter needs moderation, and I don't think that's practically accomplished with a purely technological solution. Assholes simply don't have a right to be there, and Twitter has a responsibility to its userbase to not subject them to it at all, rather than merely "well, machine learning" to a merely intermittently abusive, rather than constantly abusive, state.


Of course you're absolutely right. What I'd really like to see out of Twitter is a fair, unbiased moderation team that's up to the challenge of operating at Twitter scale.

But I'm not even sure that's possible, and even if it is, it'll take a long time to build - and in the meantime, a system like the one I sketched in my prior comment, augmented with an ability to communicate "hey something looks to be going on here" to human moderators when necessary, seems like a reasonable stepping stone.


FWIW, even attempting technological solutions sends a signal of a sort. It's probably a "Red Queen's Race" to stay ahead of determined abusers, just as it's difficult to conquer spam, but one side-effect of making a concerted effort to try is that Twitter would be sending an unambiguous message about limits on behaviour.


This is a good point. That some movement is happening is, unambiguously, a good thing. It demonstrates at least some recognition of the situation. Whether it's the right movement, or whether Twitter will consider it to be "enough" and stop, is still an open question.


I agree that the person you're replying to is being cavalier, but Twitter does have tools to mass-ignore accounts you don't care about. You can change notifications to only be from people you follow. There's also a "Tailored for you" option for each notification type. I'm not sure if it's the default, but that seems to be the setting on my phone. It basically makes egg accounts invisible.

It's rare that I get involved in drama on Twitter, but thanks to notification settings, I've found it pretty easy to filter out the negative people.


There are social networks (Facebook, Tumblr) where you can turn off the ability to be messaged by people you don't friend/mutually follow. Getting attacked by trolls? Shut it down, and enjoy the silence.


As I mentioned in a sibling comment, a big part of Twitter for me is meeting new people. Not only have I had good, thought-provoking conversations on Twitter (for all the 140-characters jokes I don't find it that difficult) but I've made friends who are now RL, in-person, at-the-bar-on-Fridays friends there. That doesn't happen when you're blocking external folks in that way, and that's a bad tradeoff to make just because "well, those people are dicks, we can't control them, emojishrug!".


For that, there is another button: "stop receiving notifications". And another one: "don't allow anybody but the people I follow to spam me with shit". Both are easily activated on Twitter.

What other button we need to invent? "Activate our hordes of ML algorithms to make sure that all replies you receive are about kittens or pink ponies"? Can be done, but we already have Facebook for that.

For me, all this drama looks like an orchestrated attack on Twitter.


Do you realize that a big part of Twitter, for a lot of people, is making connections with different groups? I've made multiple friends on Twitter, people I now know and talk to through other channels (as well as Twitter). Even aside from those friends, I have had many conversations with people I don't follow and who don't follow me about issues--interesting ones that, in your weird little world, simply wouldn't happen because instead of fixing the problem of superannuated juveniles who have nothing better to do than blow up your phone with guro and death threats, you offer complete non-solutions to begin with.

But, then. "Crybullies." Res ipsa loquitur.


So, you've got death threats and guro in your inbox while seeking new friends? (Both are serious, btw, and criminally punishable — nothing to do with free speech; however, e.g. comparing somebody with certain bodily orifice _is_ free speech. Little differences.)

And yes, crybullies. People like Melissa Click. I don't know why you are so enraged by this word, quite accurately describing them.


"People are tired from crybullies. We need place when freedom of speech still matters."

That's not going to exist in any medium that is controlled by a single organization, whether that's a government, nonprofit, or corporation.

If one person (or a small group of people) can pull the plug, eventually it will get pulled.


4chan (the horror!) still seems to be alive.


First, I don't think you speak for "People," just the kind of people who are just like you.

For example, I have never used the expression "crybullies," and if I did, it would probably be to describe the kind of white male who gets on a place like HN and cries that his freedom to be a raging asshole in somebody else's privately owned medium is being trampled by moderation.

But back to your point, I will argue with it in good faith. You say:

  > There's always "Block" button, and then, there's always "delete account" button.
This sounds (superficially) fair. If I insult Milo, he can ignore me, block me, or insult me back, and I can do the same to him. If either of us rage-quits Twitter, well, sucks-to-be-us.

Well here's the thing. What is it doesn't work like that in practice? What if the "block" button is not an effective mechanism for using Twitter positively? What if Milo blocks me, but thousands of my followers insult Milo, overwhelming his ability to block them all?

It's more than just his feelings, if his entire experience is flooded with my army of trolls, he simply can't keep up with the tools in place.

And the kicker is this: People know this, so they "game the system" by flooding your mentions with so many new and different accounts that you simply can't block them all. Overwhelmed by a DDOS, you delete your account.

IF there were effective tools for ignoring insults and floods, I would agree with you that you have options, and if you delete your account that is entirely your personal choice. But in the current design, Twitter provides a grossly imbalanced power dynamic between those who wish to abuse other users, and those who wish to use the system without abusing other users.

Where does this imbalance lead us? To social network where only trolls remain standing. That is not in Twitter's best interests, nor does it have long-term survivability even if they thought it was. This dynamic has been repeated many, many times, and so far it has always worked out the exact same way; When the trolls arrive, you either moderate actively, or your social network dies.

Now, you say:

  > if you can't handle insults, it is not anyone's job to prevent them
Actually, when you run a social network, it is your job to decide how it is to be used. We're on a moderated platform right now, and it is someone's job to prevent certain types of speech from taking place.

Furthermore, it has nothing to do with whether any one person or group of people can handle insults or not. Hacker News simply does not wish to cultivate an insult-heavy tone, period. So it has guidelines, and it enforces the guidelines, and people like you and I decide that the benefits of a moderated conversation outweigh the freedom to unleash our raging id.

Should Twitter be less like voat and more like facebook? That is a question of opinion. But it is not necessarily true that it's not anybody's job to police the the of a social network, and it is certainly not even remotely true that there is always the block button, because the consequence of Twitter's current design choices creates an asymmetry between abusers and the abused.


> First, I don't think you speak for "People," just the kind of people who are just like you.

Of course, just like you do and everybody else is doing. Therefore, my opinion is just my opinion, and if somebody insults me, it is their opinion, and I am not obliged to react to it in any way. I might, if it would be someone I know and respect, but an anonymous account created two weeks ago just to post a random insult in my direction? I'd be flattered I am _that_ important for somebody.

And as you have just said, Twitter is a private company. They can serve needs of people like you or people like me (and I do not engage in insults, this is immature — but I do value freedom of speech and its total independence from the current PC handbook du jour). The question is what is more profitable and what is more aligned with founder's values.


> For example, I have never used the expression "crybullies," and if I did, it would probably be to describe the kind of white male who gets on a place like HN and cries that his freedom to be a raging asshole in somebody else's privately owned medium is being trampled by moderation.

This is an unnecessary escalation into racial/gendered personal attack.


> But if you can't handle insults, it is not anyone's job to prevent them.

Care to explain the ethical viewpoint that's led you to this conclusion?

The problem isn't "insults" and the solution isn't "handling them". The problem is social dynamics that create disrespect and dehumanization towards certain people. The dynamics and their consequences are real regardless of how the victims "handle" them.


>The root problem with Twitter is that the product is carefully engineered to cultivate maximum violence.

Hard to make it past this part. Not sure what definition of violence you're using.


I made a version of this argument three years ago here: http://jasonlefkowitz.net/2013/02/i-kind-of-hate-twitter/

Twitter's core problem is that its product's design encourages users to behave badly. Mechanisms are baked deeply into it that make it very difficult for its users to come across as anything other than jerks. Even those with the best of intentions fall afoul of these mechanisms by accident periodically, sometimes with serious real-world consequences like loss of a job or important personal relationships. Users with bad intentions, meanwhile, are enabled and rewarded by other mechanisms.

Twitter is a Perfect Storm of bad discussion software design.


The severe limitation on the size of tweets selects for puerile violence rather than thoughtful, mutually satisfying interactions.

It's not just the size of tweets, though that does exacerbate things. The entire attention economy of online social media rewards viral attention, and therefore it rewards outrage politics. (Politics in the general sense of Homo sapiens following its social mammal instincts.)


Give them 500 characters. It doesn't matter it's the commons. You want people to behave? Teach real civics in the schools.


It doesn't matter it's the commons.

Oh yes, it does! There's a ton of historical, economic, and game theoretic work that indicates this matters. A lot!

You want people to behave? Teach real civics in the schools.

That only provides the information, not the incentive. If you want people to behave, give them a stake in society.


All good points. Perhaps I was too flippant. To clarify, it does matter how people behave. I just have little faith that the commons won't continue to fall tragedy to itself without some sort of indoctrination (or incentive system as you pointed out).


I don't think the author knows the definition of "violence"


Yeah he used the term "violence" as a drop in substitute for the term "troll". Not to dismiss that one can incite or promote violence via trolling, but they are not unanimously equivalent.


I think he has a fair idea:

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/violenc...

2. Strength of emotion or of a destructive natural force


You're broadening / redirecting that definition. One can have violent feelings or reactions to something, such as someone suffering PTSD, mental breakdown, emotional reaction to medicine. But one can't just claim that words that they don't like spoken by someone are violence committed on them. At that point you get into the "you're raping me with your thoughts" and that's just irrationality. If one were irrational words will no longer retain meaning anyway.


2 devalues 1. Don't do it.


'An action that intentionally hurts other people' sufficed for me. Why do so many HN commenters have trouble reading this simple idea?


Because for most folks it's always meant physical harm. People using "violence" to describe being insulted are trying to capture the emotional value of the real definition to add weight to their argument. All this does is devalue the word.


He does, he is being deliberately dishonest to get attention. Ironic, given his criticism of twitter as a medium.


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