I was just going through this link titled Twitter protects violent BLM and ISIS users, bans Milo over celeb spat, and was wondering, how effective censoring and troll controlling is on Twitter. For the sake of perspective, after personal intervention by Jack Dorsey, Twitter has banned Breitbart’s – a conservative publication – tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos for harassing a black actress. Here is a link regarding this on Chicago Tribune.
Of course there are always two sides when it comes to such controversies and every site claims victimhood. The most pressing problem for social networking websites is to clearly distinguish between freedom of expression and simple trolling for the sake of harassment. I haven’t gone through the discourse that happened between Milo Yiannopoulos (how do you type this name?) and Leslie Jones who has played a role in the upcoming version of Ghostbusters. According to a Twitter statement, Milo is accused of inciting his followers to target Leslie Jones. Hence, his account was suspended permanently and Twitter went to an extent of saying that whenever he opens a new account, it will be suspended. This seems to be more of a personal spat between Milo and Twitter rather than Milo and Leslie Jones. Though, after the alleged harassment, Leslie Jones is reported to have left Twitter.
Trolling and online abuse desperately needs to be controlled but what I have observed is, in many cases Twitter, and even Facebook, haven’t followed a balanced approach. In India, sometimes Twitter accounts have been suspended for simply asking uncomfortable questions from celebrities and journalists whereas, known abusers have been spared.
Just as in other countries, there is the so-called left in India and the so-called right. The Twitter management, as is the oft-repeated accusation by the “Right” side, and in many cases justified, is infested with leftists, so only those Twitter accounts are censored and suspended who belong to the “Right” side of the debate while providing a long leash to those who belong to the “Left” side of the debate. Even trending topics are sometimes suppressed and promoted according to the whims of people controlling Twitter India at the backend.
This personal bias was revealed when it came to light that some Facebook employees were not allowing the updates of the Conservative party in the US to appear on Facebook newsfeeds. It was a big controversy and Mark Zuckerberg himself had to meet the representatives of the Republican Party to contain the damage.
A particular Twitter India head openly supports one side and openly opposes the other side which is fine because everybody is entitled to have political opinions. But the problem manifests in the fact that these opinions also begin to have an impact on what sort of discourse is censored and how you define trolling and online abuse. Totally harmless Twitter accounts have been suspended simply because they are managed by people with so-called “Right” views.
So in current format, I don’t think censoring of abuse and trolling on Twitter and other social networking websites is as effective as it should be. Yes, trolling and abuse needs to be controlled but unless it is controlled by an unbiased mechanism, it is going to cause more harm than good. As you can see on the Beitbart link in the first paragraph of this post, the writer has listed many Twitter updates that are outright racist but haven’t been removed by Twitter. Such bias is glaring when it comes to effectively controlling abuse and trolling on Twitter.