We need to talk about Twitter.
In 2011, I made my first Twitter account. Back then the microblogging site appealed to me and I saw it as something new and mysterious. But that’s probably because I was in my teens and got excited that I could my favourite celebrities. Then slowly, as I got the gist of how the website worked, I started to follow businesses, news accounts and politicians. I found it was a pretty useful tool and a very handy newsfeed. I didn’t have a Facebook account and to be honest, I’m glad I didn’t because I found Twitter was unique provided something Facebook didn’t have. I saw Facebook as a platform to either show off about something or have awkward family interactions and friendship fallouts.
Before I knew it, Twitter became a part of my everyday routine. Wake up, check Twitter. Lunch time, check Twitter. Bed time, check Twitter. Watching TV, check Twitter and live tweet. As a millennial, I found that it wasn’t just a newsfeed; it made everything so much more interactive and amusing. Whether it was finding weird parody accounts to all the hilarious memes, Twitter just turned the internet into a lively festival. And that comes as no surprise from a study done by conducted by Twitter which found that 71% of millennials think Twitter enhances live events, making them more enjoyable. But that’s not it, millennials also rely on Twitter to cure boredom as 82% will share a Tweet which they find funny and 60% say they are more entertained because of Twitter. Social media is an immensely dynamic and impressive tool which has kept millennials engaged with the outside world.
Fast forward to 2017 and the website is a horrific mess. In fact, when I think about it, it’s amazing how one of my favourite websites has turned into a monstrous, ugly pile of rubbish. But it’s not the turbulent political environment that has made it such a miserable place; it’s also the fault of the company itself. As a regular user, I’ve been left infuriated at times when I see abusive messages that are not taken down. When it comes to running Twitter, there seems to be one glaring problem: the company fails to listen to their users and obsessively continue to bring unpopular changes which the majority of us don’t want.
When it comes to tackling abuse, common sense would tell anyone that if somebody is directing physical violence, death threats, rape threats or even stalking, swift action should be taken to investigate, deal and suspend the account. There have been many cases of abuse being directed, particularly at women, resulting in no action being taken. If Twitter wants to sort out their bad reputation for failing to deal with abusive trolls, they need to up their game and realise that algorithms will not solve this. It could take me just minutes to find a Nazi account that has been there actively tweeting. And when it comes to Nazis on the website, it looks like Twitter don’t seem to care. Take Richard Spencer for example, an American Nazi white supremacist who is still allowed to have his account. Why did Twitter suspend and then change their mind and re-instate his account? The issue is there isn’t just one Richard Spencer. Twitter is now peppered with white supremacist accounts like Spencer and it’s very hard to not stumble across any of them.
Having said all this, in fairness to Twitter, they have tried and worked hard to combat extremism. In August 2016, the company stated they had suspended over 235,000 accounts for violating policies and promoting extremism. Sure, that’s fantastic to hear. But it really feels like we’ve got a long way to go. The thing is I don’t know if Twitter will ever go back to the days it was a fun and quirky website. Maybe those days are gone. But the experience for its users could be drastically improved if they targeted trolls more forcefully. The website is saturated with abuse, trolling and Nazis. Action is way overdue and something has to be done.