Twitter was supposed to be a place where people who are miles apart, be it literally with distance or figuratively with status, could communicate with one another as relative equals. You were essentially put into the same virtual room with one another so you could interact.
Over time, however, Twitter became a place where you were heard if you had the right kind of opinion, and silenced if you had the wrong one. If you supported leftist philosophies, causes, and candidates, you were welcome to say whatever you wanted. It could be a simple opinion, or straight-up openly wishing for the death of your political enemies.
Those political enemies were anyone on the right, and according to Twitter, they were fair game. Should anyone on the right say anything remotely denigrating to the left, you could expect a suspension or ban within days.
I made a video not long ago highlighting the absolute hypocrisy of it all.
Now, Twitter’s director of product management, Suzanne Xie, has unveiled new rules at the Las Vegas CES event that make it impossible for you to even be heard by people you disagree with — period — according to The Verge:
Xie says Twitter is adding a new setting for “conversation participants” right on the compose screen. It has four options: “Global, Group, Panel, and Statement.” Global lets anybody reply, Group is for people you follow and mention, Panel is people you specifically mention in the tweet, and Statement simply allows you to post a tweet and receive no replies. (No word on whether Statement also automatically formats your tweet as a classic iPhone Notes app apology, but it should.)
Xie says that Twitter is “in the process of doing research on the feature” and that “the mock ups are going to be part of an experiment we’re going to run” in the first quarter. It will take learnings from that experiment and use them to launch the feature globally later this year.
Translated, these three new options break down like this…
GLOBAL – Standard Twitter. How it was meant to be used. You tweet something, the world sees it and gets to interact with you.
GROUP – Only your friends and people who agree with you get to see these tweets. If you like echo chambers, then this is the setting for you.
PANEL – If you and your friends want to talk AT people while agreeing with one another, then congratulations. Now you can express your opinions as a group without anyone being able to argue back.
STATEMENT – Maybe you just want to talk at people by yourself and make statements that no one can say you’re wrong about. Now you can switch your tweet to being a “statement” and no one can come at you within your replies with something as dreadful as an opposing opinion.
We currently live in such a comfortable time that one of the worst things that can happen to a person is hearing disagreement on an issue. Between social justice warriors and preachy celebrities, platforms have become golden but one of the chief complaints from both of these parties is that people are able to “troll” them, creating a “toxic environment” on social media platforms.
While I’m not remotely denying the existence of trolls — I deal with them daily — a good chunk of what these people are experiencing is simple disagreement. I can’t count the number of times I went through the mentions and responses of someone who complained they were being harassed by racists, sexists, or whatever “ist” they found appropriate to use at the time, only to find an entire column of people disagreeing and offering up a debate.
Sure, not all of it was polite. It is the internet, after all, but to say that they were being flooded with “trolls” wasn’t, at all, what was being done.
But it’s easier to dismiss your opponent as a “troll” or worse instead of engaging in an argument. Anita Sarkeesian, culture critic and would-be feminist tyrant, often paints her opponents as “sexist men” who have some sort of problem with women. She used this as a way to escape having to answer for her claims against industries that she labeled as sexist.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez avoided debate by proclaiming that people were trying to hit on her. Trans activist Brianna Wu used to claim that he was being trolled all the time with threats and transphobic comments. Funny enough, Wu was caught being one of the ones sending those comments toward himself.
Twitter’s new setup will pretty much allow people to say whatever they want with impunity and without fear of an argument. The obvious fallout will be the creation of unchallenged narratives on the platform.
In the long game, however, this could help foster the culture of not being able to hear opinions that you don’t like, which is already a grave issue in our society. People need to be argued with and debated. People need to hear that they’re wrong and see proof of it. Without this, people become entitled to their own reality. The “your truth” philosophy that has wrecked many people’s sense of right and wrong can only grow.
This may sound like the extreme end of this decision by Twitter, but I want to remind everyone that we’re already at the extreme end and this is only going to exacerbate the problem. Especially when that problem has an extreme bias attached to it.