Twitter Users Share Responsibility for Creating a Cesspool

created May 29, 2019

Twitter has been nicknamed the "Cesspool of the Internet." From what little I have experienced with Twitter, and from what I have read about Twitter's problems, it's a well-earned moniker.

Using Twitter to bitch about Twitter not doing more to reduce the service's toxicity approaches insanity. These Twitter whiners are partly to blame for Twitter vermin being allowed to run roughshod over users.

If the Twitter complainers wanted real change with Twitter, then they should delete their Twitter accounts and say goodbye to their narcissistic following counts.

Taking a sabbatical won't accomplish anything. Real activism involves users deleting their Twitter accounts and embracing the open internet: personal websites, feeds, and email.

If tens of millions of Twitter users deleted their accounts in dramatic fashion by announcing their intentions and informing users where to find their content, then this might get the attention of Wall Street, which would get the attention of Twitter's board of directors, which might get the attention of Twitter's management.

If Twitter miraculously changed for the better, then the people who deleted their Twitter accounts might rejoin and use Twitter along with their own websites. Or maybe these former Twitter users would realize that the open internet works better for their needs, and they wouldn't need Twitter v2.0.

Twitter is in the outrage business. If decent people continue to waste their time complaining about Twitter ignoring the harassers, then that complaining is a form of engagement that benefits Twitter's bottom line.

Twitter finally made a profit over the past year. Twitter won't make drastic changes to improve the "health" of the service because major changes could decrease overall engagement, which would ultimately upset Wall Street.

As along as Wall Street is satisfied, then Twitter's changes will be small scale, token-like modifications that accomplish little.


May 29, 2019 - vice.com - Twitter Has Started Researching Whether White Supremacists Belong on Twitter

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's head of trust and safety, legal and public policy, said:

"Is it the right approach to deplatform these individuals? Is the right approach to try and engage with these individuals? How should we be thinking about this? What actually works?"

Mediagazer link for the vice.com story.

Twitter management feels the need to research how purveyors of hate and violence use Twitter.

These were some of the reactions, attached to the Mediagazer link.

Tweet

Here's something that Twitter doesn't seem to understand: There's vast financial incentive for extremists to become more extreme on these platforms, by the very nature of interaction-based algorithmic growth. There's no financial incentive for humanity.

But I'm certain that Twitter understands the financial incentive for Twitter to permit engagement of all kinds.

Tweet

Moving the Overton Window and having the most unique/outrageous/contrarian take is the very backbone of YouTube political personalities. Directing blame at specific characters/caricatures and going against the grain of the mainstream at every turn is the best way to monetize.

Tweet

When the strategy for dealing with hate speech is "counterspeech", you're putting the onus of producing counterspeech on the people most affected by hate speech.

A tweet by Mike Monteiro appeared with the Mediagazer discussion. I thought of him when I saw this story on Mediagazer. Mike's tweet was a response to the vice.com headline: "Twitter Has Started Researching Whether White Supremacists Belong on Twitter".

Mike's tweet:

Weird, because Twitter users have NEVER mentioned wanting this.

The above comments and many more attached to the Mediagazer link were good observations, but many or all of the individual reactions were posted at Twitter. How is that good?

Recently, I finished reading Mike's entertaining, informative, and enraging 2019 book, titled Ruined by Design.

In his book, Mike wants employees to change websites, services, and products for the better from within, but if that's impossible, then Mike advises the employees to leave their companies for ethical reasons.

But for two companies, Mike said that it's better to leave and not try to change the businesses for the better. From page 10 of Mike's book with my emphasis added:

The goal of this book is to help you do the right thing in environments designed to make it easier to do the wrong thing. (If you work at Uber or Twitter, just quit. We'll also be talking about when to walk away later in this book.)

But in my opinion, Twitter users, like Mike, are not blameless. If enough people quit Twitter, especially journalists, then in my opinion, that would shake Twitter's management awake to "fix" the service by erecting barriers, such as charging a monthly or yearly fee. Twitter should add more opt-in features for users, instead of always making content producers block people.

People can find anything useful. Plenty of Twitter users view Twitter as a great utility. If Twitter users don't care or are clueless about Twitter's cesspool qualities, then those users probably never complain about Twitter's problems, and this post is not about those people.

But in my opinion, using Twitter to bitch about Twitter is asinine. And all of these Twitter users are responsible for Twitter being the cesspool. It's highly probable that these Twitter users have been aware of Twitter's toxicity for many years, yet they continue to use Twitter. Their Twitter engagement helps Twitter to earn revenue. Their usage encourages Twitter to do nothing serious. These Twitter users have become part of the problem, not only for enabling Twitter's cesspool reputation but also by hastening the demise of the open web/internet.

Obviously, Twitter users have failed to get drastic changes made with Twitter during Twitter's 13 years of existence. 13 years. How much more time do users like Mike need to realize that they failed? The next solution is for concerned Twitter users to delete their accounts.

Migrate to their own websites, hosted at the their domain names, and interop with micro.blog and/or with other services, not owned by ad-based silos.

Jun 5, 2019

Twitter users contribute to Twitter being a misinformation machine.

https://www.symantec.com/blogs/threat-intelligence/twitterbots-propaganda-disinformation

Jun 16, 2019

Mediagazer headline ...

David Neiwert remains suspended by Twitter for his header image of KKK hoods from his book cover; he says Twitter punishes the fight against white supremacism

... for this story:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/6/14/1864834/-Twitter-is-showing-that-it-won-t-even-try-to-distinguish-hate-speech-from-the-efforts-to-oppose-it

Journalists use the same platform, Twitter, that is used by white supremacists who apparently have Twitter's blessing. It's all about engagement. Anybody using Twitter is partly to blame for this behavior by Twitter.

Naturally, the reactions to that Mediagazer link were tweets.

Ashton Pittman / @ashtonpittman: KKK Grand Wizard David Duke still has an active @Twitter account, but Twitter, which allows actual white supremacists to thrive, suspended journalist @DavidNeiwert because of the illustration on the cover of his book about American white supremacists. Trash,

Forget everything else about this story. The real question is why does user Ashton Pittman continue to use Twitter? He's a journalist. Ashton Pittman gets some of the blame for Twitter's cesspool nature, especially since he's whining about Twitter management's behavior.

Jun 26, 2019

HN thread titled Twitter has an algorithm that creates harassment all by itself that pointed too ... a tweet that was a part of a dreadful tweetstorm, which has to be the second worst way to make a web post. The worst method is when users, for some unknown moronic reason, type a blob of text in an editor or something like that and then take a screen capture of the text and post the image in a tweet. It gets around Twitter's character limit per tweet. I guess that the tweetstorm and image blob text users have never heard of Blogger that launched in 1999.

Anyway, back to some comments from the HN thread.

By far the most engaged stuff is the most controversial where people begin to fight and attack each other.

Well, duh. If people are fighting they are definitely "engaged", but not in a good way. Defining that more engagement equals more success is what made social networks so toxic. The current state that more eyeballs equals more ad money needs to change.

Aug 11, 2019

Society would be improved if Twitter disappeared. Well, "improvement" is relative. Society has been made worse by Twitter's existence, which began in 2006.

https://mediagazer.com/190811/p6#a190811p6

Dueling hashtags on Twitter, blaming Clintons and Trump for Epstein's death, predictably amplified by the media, show how poisoned our information ecosystem is

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/11/opinion/jeffrey-epstein-suicide-conspiracies.html

At the heart of Saturday’s fiasco is Twitter, which has come to largely program the political conversation and much of the press. Twitter is magnetic during massive breaking stories; news junkies flock to it for up-to-the-second information. But early on, there’s often a vast discrepancy between the attention that is directed at the platform and the available information about the developing story. That gap is filled by speculation and, via its worst users, rumor-mongering and conspiracy theories.

The author supports my belief that "breaking news" is synonymous with "incorrect news." Too many media orgs partake in the breaking news model.

More from the NY Times opinion/article:

On Saturday afternoon, computational propaganda researcher Renée DiResta noted that the media’s close relationship with Twitter creates an incentive for propagandists and partisans to artificially inflate given hashtags.

It's great to see others finally catching up to what some of us have known or at least suspected for a long time.

#ClintonBodyCount began trending on Saturday, journalists took note and began lamenting the spread of this conspiracy theory — effectively turning it into a news story, and further amplifying the trend. “Any wayward tweet … can be elevated to an opinion worth paying attention to,” Ms. DiResta wrote. “If you make it trend, you make it true.”

Saturday’s online toxicity may have felt novel, but it’s part of a familiar cycle: What cannot be easily explained is answered by convenient untruths. The worst voices are rewarded for growing louder and gain outsize influence directing narratives. With each cycle, the outrage and contempt for the other builds. Each extreme becomes certain its enemy has manipulated public perception; each side is the victim, but each is also, inexplicably, winning. The poison spreads.

Twitter is in the fear and rage business. The media peddles fear and rage. That's why Twitter and journalists are a perfect match. Meanwhile, society loses. Great job, journalists.

This is a stunning but correct observation by a media person.

https://mobile.twitter.com/mims/status/1160205695305863170

twitter's trending topics are a mess unpopular opinion: a lot of journalists' agita about social media, directed at Facebook, is just an expression of their daily experience with the mess that is Twitter starting to wonder which is now a bigger threat to democracy

Good observations by others under that tweet.

Are most journalists expected by their employers to be active on twitter? If not, why do it? It seems like a lot of work for many of them.

Another:

It's complicated, right? FB has more than 10x the DAUs of Twitter. But Twitter engages the press more and they find and amplify the nightmares on here.

Another:

Twitter breaking the brains of journalists really maximizes its harm.

Mediagazer discussion:

Discussion:
Christopher Mims / @mims: twitter's trending topics are a mess unpopular opinion: a lot of journalists' agita about social media, directed at Facebook, is just an expression of their daily experience with the mess that is Twitter starting to wonder which is now a bigger threat to democracy
Hamza Shaban / @hshaban: Two compelling takes on coverage of Epstein's death. They examine the grim logic of Twitter driving conspiracy theories and attention-seeking that's validated and amplified by the press. https://www.nytimes.com/... by @cwarzel https://www.washingtonpost.com/ ... by @abbyohlheiser https://twitter.com/...
Dylan Matthews / Vox: The conspiracy theories about the Clintons and Jeffrey Epstein's death, explained
Sierra Juarez / The Daily Dot: TrumpsBodyCount pins blame on Trump for mass shooting and migrant deaths
Tim O'Donnell / The Week: William Barr asks Inspector General to open investigation into Jeffrey Epstein's death
Renee DiResta / @noupside: The problem with Twitter is inseparable from how the media engages with Twitter. Any wayward tweet by a rando egg can be elevated to an opinion worth paying attention to. Every gamed trend is a meaningful thing we have to analyze and assess in the context of the culture war https://twitter.com/...
Bari Weiss / @bariweiss: Strong column by @cwarzel. Begs the question: would things improve if all journalists got off Twitter? https://www.nytimes.com/...
Charlie Warzel / @cwarzel: New from me: I wrote about the Epstein conspiracies yesterday and how our information ecosystem is poisoned. https://www.nytimes.com/... https://twitter.com/...
Jay Rosen / @jayrosen_nyu: “It's increasingly apparent that our information delivery systems were not built for our current moment.” True. https://www.nytimes.com/... We have to persuade more journalists to recognize that fact. (Please don't @ me with “NOW they realize this?” Thanks.)
Emily Pothast / @emilypothast: Interesting take. Though, as a historian of print media, I'd dispute the notion that the “news” was ever more objective than it is now. (In 1605 Johann Carolus, the world's very first newspaper publisher, faced threat of closure if he didn't censor the news.) https://twitter.com/...
Dare Obasanjo / @carnage4life: As @mims pointed out yesterday, a key problem with modern journalism is how much journalists source their narratives from Twitter. This leads to news cycles based on Trump's latest insults and whatever the trending topics algorithm says is popular today https://www.nytimes.com/...
Kelsey Tamborrino / Politico: Kellyanne Conway on Epstein's death: Trump wants everything investigated

Good observation:

https://twitter.com/noupside/status/1160229759063691266

The problem with Twitter is inseparable from how the media engages with Twitter. Any wayward tweet by a rando egg can be elevated to an opinion worth paying attention to. Every gamed trend is a meaningful thing we have to analyze and assess in the context of the culture war

https://twitter.com/bariweiss/status/1160622522930466818

Strong column by @cwarzel. Begs the question: would things improve if all journalists got off Twitter?

If you have to ask that, then you may be too far gone for help. Of course the answer is YES, things would improve everywhere, including with Twitter because Wall Street would get outraged at journalists bailing on Twitter, which would force Twitter to make drastic changes.

Good one:

https://twitter.com/carnage4life/status/1160668134619004928

As @mims pointed out yesterday, a key problem with modern journalism is how much journalists source their narratives from Twitter. This leads to news cycles based on Trump's latest insults and whatever the trending topics algorithm says is popular today

That ain't journalism. That's garbage, and it does not deserve to be funded nor saved in any manner by readers.

Interesting historical perspective, not related to this post.

https://twitter.com/emilypothast/status/1160615536314634241

Emily Pothast / @emilypothast: Interesting take. Though, as a historian of print media, I'd dispute the notion that the “news” was ever more objective than it is now. (In 1605 Johann Carolus, the world's very first newspaper publisher, faced threat of closure if he didn't censor

In the Mediagazer discussion attached to Warzel's article, I highlighted the following tweet:

Two compelling takes on coverage of Epstein's death. They examine the grim logic of Twitter driving conspiracy theories and attention-seeking that's validated and amplified by the press.

Twitter management, its board, and Wall Street probably saw only dollar signs over the past weekends, due to the major U.S. stories. Engagement or usage, that's all that matters to Twitter/Wall Street, regardless of the toxicity and stupidity.

Stupidly, journalists continue to claim that Twitter has utility. Twitter's goal is not to be useful.

Twitter's only goal is engagement, encouraging as many people as possible to waste their time, spreading misinformation, hate, violence, harassment, and all of the other qualities that make Twitter a cesspool.

Twitter and the media highlight the few intelligent nuggets of info posted to Twitter to paint a false image of Twitter's usefulness.

Charlie Warzel wrote the above Aug 11, 2019 NY Times opinion. Below are excerpts from my 2019 post, titled The Media's War on the Open Web that included a tweet by Warzel.

Here's a tweet, related to that same NBC News story.

there’s a very good case that it’s irresponsible for us all to be using this website if the platform is this irresponsible. maybe we should all seriously think about what it means to post all our stuff alongside an increasing volume of garbage

Yep. Why do journalists love to use a silo that promotes hate, violence, and misinformation? They could post their thoughts at their own domain names. Depending upon whether or how they accept comments, the journalists could be the only ones posting content to their sites. Even if they permitted Webmention comments, they could remove the garbage ones. They would be in charge of what occurs on their websites.

My February 2019 post : Should Journalists Stop Using Twitter

Aug 13, 2019

This is the best media opinion that Margaret Sullivan has written, during her time at WaPo.

https://mediagazer.com/190813/p15#a190813p15

The Twitter-fed misinformation disaster following Epstein's death makes a case for slow news consumption, where readers disengage from breaking news

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-twitter-fed-disaster-over-epsteins-death-demands-a-solution-slow-news/2019/08/12/c437d248-bd1d-11e9-a5c6-1e74f7ec4a93_story.html

We welcome Margaret to the dark side.

http://sawv.org/slow-news-movement

Twitter is ALWAYS a misinformation disaster. It was not a one-weekend aberration.

Aug 15, 2019

I stumbled upon this tweet by Pinboard.

https://mobile.twitter.com/Pinboard/status/1162015144840351744?p=p

Thanks, Twitter, for showing me a promoted tweet by a Chinese propaganda agency spreading disinformation about the situation in Hong Kong

http://pinboard.in provides a useful service. It's focused on speed and utility.

Aug 19, 2019

Mediagazer title:

[Thread] Twitter has been running ads from Chinese state news agency Xinhua that aim to discredit protesters in Hong-Kong

Unfortunately, the link points to the dreaded tweetstorm, which is one of the dumbest methods for posting text to the web.

https://twitter.com/pinboard/status/1162711159000055808

Anyway, this highlights why Twitter is one of the worst services on the web, and it's because nearly every journalist uses Twitter. Bogus information gets amplified by the journalists covering it. The media does not realize that they are a tool being used by misinformation campaigns.

Here's another Aug 19, 2019 story that appeared at Mediagazer.com.

https://mediagazer.com/190819/p1#a190819p1

How journalists can avoid amplifying misinformation, given their reporting can improve search engine rankings and increase the visibility for bad info

https://firstdraftnews.org/when-does-reporting-become-a-megaphone-for-disinformation/

If the media stopped using and relying upon social media for referral traffic to support their moronic business models, and if journalists stopped using Twitter, then it would it would be harder but not impossible for misinformation to spread.

Misinformation relies on speed. If journalists, media orgs, and the rest of us posted primarily on our own websites, then it's likely that lies would take longer to spread, and it's likely that we would see the debunking before seeing the falsehood. The Slow Web Movement and the Slow News Movement would deny misinformation the speed that it needs to thrive.

Back to the Pinboard tweetstorm about the Chinese state news agency buying ads on Twitter to spread lies ...

https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/19/twitter-is-blocked-in-china-but-its-state-news-agency-is-buying-promoted-tweets-to-portray-hong-kong-protestors-as-violent/

https://www.fastcompany.com/90391824/twitter-is-displaying-ads-by-chinese-state-run-media-condemning-the-hong-kong-protests

Journalist tweeted

Thread which points up the dilemma of ad-dependent orgs in a world where authoritarian governments can buy ads too. It will sound trite, but imagine 1936-8 with social networks, taking ads from anyone to make unverified propaganda claims.

Another journalists tweeted

It's very clear that China is using Western freedom as a tool against Western freedom. But what can free and open democracies do about it? Should they do anything about it? What role can or should the companies play? I don't have answers, but I'd love to hear practical ideas

Are journalists proud to be using the same service that is used by authoritarian governments, terrorists, trolls, and hate-mongerers?

Forget looking to companies to provide solutions. The journalists should act on their own by deleting their Twitter accounts. That would get Twitter's attention. Twitter would make massive changes if ALL journalists deleted their Twitter accounts.

The last thing that silo services like Facebook and Twitter want is for the masses to embrace the open web. That's a reason why Google shutdown its Reader feed reading app back in 2013. Google did not want to offer users any option to its Google+ social network, which Google shutdown in the past year or so.

Aug 20, 2019

https://www.memeorandum.com/190819/p78#a190819p78

https://mediagazer.com/190819/p16#a190819p16

Twitter says it will no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities, but the rule does not apply to “taxpayer-funded entities”

https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2019/advertising_policies_on_state_media.html

"Twitter Helped Chinese Government Promote Disinformation on Repression of Muslims"

https://theintercept.com/2019/08/19/twitter-ads-china-uighurs/

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