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“The New Cigarettes” by the author.

Since We Take Twitter Seriously Now…

Let’s Improve Our Social Media to Improve Our Society

Fine. I give in. The world wants Twitter to be more than just 140 characters of musing? Since my years working in digital marketing, I have only seen the quality of content go down, but significance people and brands give it go up. We live in the epoch of the Twitter President anyway, right? Well, if I’m going to stay aboard, here are a few things Twitter can do to earn my respect and better their platform for everyone:

1. Photo I.D. Verification For Personal Accounts

The Internet has given rise to a fabricated separation of digital and tangible reality, i.e. what I do online stays online. Too many people think the things they post — these clickable forms of expression — are limited to the confines of their screens and their personal bubbles. Be it the millions of British and American votes cast because of false information or the thousands of bodies murdered at the hands of disillusioned Daesh jihadists recruited online, people behind accounts need to be held, well, accountable. Accounts need to be as real as the people on control of them.

Currently Twitter has a one account per email policy. I say it’s not enough. We need real verification. Like if you were to rent a car, Twitter should be handing over the keys to their platform to someone who, best case scenario, knows how to drive it skillfully, or, worst case scenario, they can hold accountable when they do damage.

This also helps to solve the massive, still far too unknown problem of fake and filler accounts. Click farms should be common knowledge, but instead (to some) they make any joe-schmo with a few hundred bucks look successful, important, and respected. That’s dangerous.

A single verified account per user eliminates the bot, click farm, and duplicate accounts that have given clout to many who did not earn it fairly, only monetarily. That is unless ten thousand Bangladeshis or Indonesians do actually make their own accounts. When you put the humans back into the sweat shop model, it makes click farms seem a lot less “easy” a solution, eh marketers?

Keep in mind this is all on the back end. Handles can and should still be personalized and anonymous; information held securely per Twitter’s terms and conditions. Alas, to those who still would not volunteer legal proof of their humanity (even though most of us already put pictures of ourselves in profile photos), let me ask: if you do not wish to be associated with the things you post on the internet, why do you put them out there? Very few people are pure nihilists, so what gives?

The common misconception that what is said online is confined to the digital space needs to end. Your tweeted thoughts may have just been a five second musing or outburst, but those thoughts came from YOU. If you’re not willing to defend them or take responsibility, you should not have said them in the first place.

When we’re all verified and we’re all held accountable, we will see a healthier Twitter culture.

2. Licenses and Background Checks for Business Accounts

When it comes to businesses and organizations, it would be silly and inappropriate to ask that one employee or member volunteer themselves to represent the brand’s Twitter, so instead I suggest verification through a business license, certification, or for startups and young organizations a simple letter of intent signed by the founder/CEO.

If your submit that your goal is to advertise a product — be it a movie, band, dishwasher liquid, a store, or a charity — then that is the expectation your account will be held to. If you are found to be spamming or even scamming, you violate your agreement and your account will be frozen.

Background checks from the Twitter team can make sure an organization is granted their First Amendment rights, but haven’t violated the law before they came to the platform. A background check can ensure a brand or entity is trustworthy.

Think what better statistics companies and organizations could have if they really knew there was a person on the other end of that Retweet. Think how much better they might treat (potential) customers too, instead of just seeing them as a number on a spreadsheet. There is potential for a return to common decency in an age of cutthroat business and politics that prey on reactionary volatility.

People are highly manipulatable on the internet. It’s about time non-personal accounts with high levels of cash flow had a finite power check that serves the real people on the receiving end of hourly torrents of information.

3. Regular Content Sweeps

To maintain the above suggestions, Twitter could spend more time combing through the constant stream of content to make sure intense bullying or the spread of false information is kept in check. Facebook (and Instagram, its subsidiary) delete images that violate its terms of service. I admire Twitter’s non-censorship, but it should follow Facebook’s example when it comes to intent.

It is not about silencing people. Twitter’s current terms of service, despite enforcement being notoriously delayed (Milo Yiannopoulos), are pretty fair and do not infringe on a person’s right to free speech. However, free speech, it goes without saying, does not include threats, abuse, hate, and incitement of violence. Twitter is like a giant high school cafeteria where everyone feels the need to flaunt their identity while clubs try to get you to join and bullying runs rampant. Instead of leaving it to users to act as hall monitors, Twitter needs to be the head masters of this environment they oversee.

If Twitter had a task force dedicated to flagging questionable content (false, debunked, and/or discredited news and phishing attempts) and deleting hate speech before it circulates (and more importantly before it hurts people), we would see a far healthier online community there. Since it has become such a key part of our lives off the internet, I furthermore believe this could also highly benefit our society as a whole.

4. Proofread

Let’s just create a culture in which we double check our tweets and aren’t so lazy that we won’t delete and repost if we spell something inccorectly. Simple stuff. Maybe then we won’t have to enter another ‘covfefe’ into the National Archives.