Twitter's New Policies Are Expanding the Fringes, Not Silencing Them

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Ever since 2020 went into full effect, kicking us all in the crotch repeatedly, a common refrain among those of us who have not completely lost our minds yet has been — where are all the adults? Who’s in charge here?

The inmates are running the asylum and the asylum seems to be exclusively staffed by social media administrators.

Only a child would look at intense, even angry, political discourse and say, “People are being mean. We should make it so mean people can’t be seen or heard.”  It is an extremely immature point of view, and yet one our social media giants seem bent on enforcing.

On Friday, Twitter announced they would be instituting measures to control our conversations even further.

Twitter took steps on Friday to slow the way information flows on its network, even changing some of its most basic features, as alarm grows that lies and calls for violence will sweep through social media in the weeks surrounding the presidential election.

The changes will temporarily alter the look and feel of Twitter. The company will essentially give users a timeout, for example, before they can hit the button to retweet a post from another account. And if users try to share content that Twitter has flagged as false, a notice will warn them that they are about to share inaccurate information.

Twitter also said it would add a label to claims about who won the election until it has been called by authoritative sources.

Twitter is looking to limit the flow of conversation in order to (supposedly) prevent vitriolic speech and discourage extremism. The sad truth is that Twitter is actually encouraging extremist bubbles. Their efforts to limit what people can see, hear and say is emboldening and encouraging the fringes.

Dr. Jordan Peterson has often said that you can’t respond to a bad idea you can’t hear. When we try to force bad ideas underground, we allow them to fester in the dark. The only cure for darkness is light. But like a destructive mold, bad ideas fester and grow in dark, musty quarters. Twitter has been — until quite recently — a wonderful place to see the worst ideas and the best ideas collide. There’s value in that. There’s even value in being able to ridicule bad ideas. There’s value in having your good ideas ridiculed by bad actors. There’s value in all of it because at the end of the day, it’s the light of that day that brings clarity.

It is no wonder so many people are feeling so stressed and confused. We are not being offered the appropriate opportunities for clarity through discussion, debate and even snark. All of these conduits are extremely important in greasing the wheels of democracy. By playing “nanny”, Twitter is in effect creating the bubbles in which fury and bigotry can grow.

Twitter claims they want to close down the echo chamber, but they are in effect growing the echo chamber.

We should not be afraid of terrible ideas or bad information. We should be deathly afraid of not being able to witness either. By forcing people into their respective corners, Twitter is in essence forcing people into their bubbles.

The attraction of early Twitter was that one could see all the craziness across our nation and the world and respond instantly. Now we’re being treated like children. Our thoughts are monitored and if they don’t meet the standards of random people we will never see or interact with, they are labeled unworthy and erased.

If I’m someone who is grossly disturbed by Donald Trump’s actions and utterances, I most certainly want to be able to call them out. I definitely don’t want to force him into a bubble where his popularity among “the crazies” grows, unchallenged.

If I’m someone who is terribly upset by “woke” culture, I really don’t want those people talking to each other and only each other. I want to be able to expose the inanity of those ideas. I want them to  be exposed to the sunlight. I don’t want those people to hole up in their respective bubbles and spend their lives simply patting each other on the back.

Twitter is a private company and they can do what they want, and we as consumers can respond as we see fit. That doesn’t mean that what they’re doing isn’t dangerous, given how influential the platform has become.

With competing social media sites popping up, perhaps we are fast approaching a day when the influence of giants like Twitter and Facebook is greatly reduced. However, those sites are only valuable if they can in turn offer a platform where once again people of competing ideologies can see each other’s expressions — good and bad —  and mix it up in the arena of ideas.

It may sound crazy, but in my opinion the greatest supporter and encourager of racism is Twitter. They are deliberately radicalizing the fringes. Their actions make extremists feel justified in their extremism and in turn that only encourages a wider fringe.

Sometimes “help” hurts. Twitter’s insistence that they be the arbiters of a “fair” election is exactly why they are becoming the most dangerous players in this game of radicalization.