On Twitter and Twitter Policy...

On Twitter and Twitter Policy...

Originally posted as a Tweetstorm here

Fascinating chat on Joe Rogan’s podcast between Tim Pool (independent journalist), and Team Twitter (Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde). Listened to it and drafted my own (unstructured) thoughts on topic.

Twitter is a “single surface” social platform i.e. the original post and the comments/shares are all surfaced in the exact same manner on the platform. This makes it unique among as social networks: it’s ‘democratic’. Democratic, as in: It was, by design, not just an ‘anonymous vote’ per person but in fact, but one for every person. No matter who you were, you were equal to everyone else. Movie critic, one tweet. Movie goer, one tweet.

Things that make it less so: “special” verified accounts, suspensions, mass account creation, bots etc. Diving into some (not all) of the issues, and adding my unstructured recommendations:

On Account Verification: This has been misused as a status symbol, vs. being an authentication mechanism. It appears counter-intuitive for a single-surface platform to have separate types of user accounts. Ideally: Anyone should be able to verify their account to be considered a unique, non-anonymous user of the platform, and anyone who wishes to remain anonymous can do so, and just deal with the lack of verification.

On Suspensions: Twitter has what appears to be an obligation to allow free speech, while also controlling how that speech is used (i.e. directed abuse etc. can’t be allowed). In this context, blocking user accounts using a central review mechanism seems counterproductive. 

Instead, using one of the more decentralized methods listed below + stopping “distribution” of tweets from flagged accounts seems more logical. The account can still tweet but anyone curious would need to go to their tweeter’s profile to read tweets (i.e. won’t show up on anyone’s timeline)

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On Mass Account Creation: This is an unsolved, spammy aspect of Twitter. Difficult to resolve, and perhaps best left to the machines to review the social graph and activity patterns. Perhaps one cost all users could sign up for is that anyone might lose all distribution upon being flagged as a mass-account spammer. Seems challenging to resolve this deadlock without a small societal cost.

On bots: Any kind of bot is best designated as a ‘verified bot’. Unverified bots should be detected and blocked. Nice and simple, no confusion. This is definitely possible with current day tools and UX, though I’m no expert at determining the effectiveness of these methods. (Any experts on topic? Would love to learn more.)

Coming to the AMA-type discussion between Tim Pool and Team Twitter led by Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde, it was a necessary conversation, though not sufficient.

A necessary and sufficient conversation would cover:

  • Discussion Issues with Twitter’s policies and application of free speech policies

  • Looking closely at privacy challenges with Twitter, which is now a powerful platform for business and political users as well

  • Understanding Twitter’s incentive structure and how it impacts decisioning

  • Deep-dive into technological solutions and actual review of what Twitter’s already doing

  • Discussing solutions/decisions and getting agreement on a date to review Twitter’s decisions on these topics.

The discussion never got there because, and I feel terrible saying this, the intellectual horsepower in that discussion was stacked on the Twitter side. Perhaps I’ll let Adam Townsend’s tweets speak to this point.

In all, Godspeed to Twitter, probably the most effective social media platform in the history of the internet. In time, hopefully some of the big issues resolve themselves through the work of Team twitter + the community.

P.S: It’s insane that Joe Rogan’s podcast is the single biggest destination of sane conversation in the US right now, and is driving complex conservations across a variety of topics

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