Twitter wants to label rule-breaking yet newsworthy tweets


TechSpot Staff
Staff member

One of the biggest factors for the rise of Twitter was that it could function as a way for people to interact with major public figures. The ‘blue tick’ to authenticate high-profile users like celebrities and politicians meant for the first time people would have an instant means of communicating with their heroes. But over time that functionality has morphed from a blessing to a curse in many ways.

In 2017 Twitter stopped awarding new ‘blue ticks’, as they felt they were conferring status or validity to owners of ticked accounts. They realised that the blue tick could be seen as Twitter endorsing content that they deemed troubling. But that wasn’t the only problem.

For years now Twitter has been faced with a conundrum: what to do with content that breaches their terms of use, but was written by high-profile, newsworthy sources? If they leave such posts up, they are tacitly agreeing that bullying, hate-speech or threats are legitimate ways to communicate on their platform, but if they remove the posts they risk interfering with public discourse (and, probably, losing users in droves).

Twitter has indicated that it is looking into new methods to label and disclose individual tweets that breach their rules but should stay ‘live’ for discussion.

In an interview with The Washington Post this week, Vijaya Gadde, global lead for legal, policy, trust and safety at Twitter, laid out one possibility for how the system would work. She suggested a warning could overlay rule-breaking tweets that users had to click and acknowledge before they could read the content, such as “this Tweet contains potentially dehumanizing speech.”

It’s an interesting approach, and one that could bring consistency. In February Twitter faced calls of hypocrisy after hiding a tweet from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei after it breached rules by renewing the fatwa on Salman Rushdie.

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TS Evangelist
I never thought I'd end up saying this but Twitter is making a lot of sense here. The only reasonable approach to free speech vs. offending people is to put the filters in the hands of users. And why not? This is how search engines and a lot of sites have operated for ages. On Steam you can screen out all the porn games and videos with a couple of clicks and I imagine the same is true for sites like Netflix (assuming they have "adult" material - to me that still means anything R-rated). To my thinking the main question is where to set the defaults for the filters. There is also the issue of what Twitter considers inappropriate and whether or not its applying those rules equally to all who post. We've seen how deep the bias can run on Facebook and other services.
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Letting people break the rules with a disclaimer? That's about as effective as letting your dog defecate on the carpet and leaving a sticky note of your disapproval.

Twitter's uneven application of the rules is funny at best but I guess they will do anything to keep that money coming in.

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Best Solution .... Shut them down and force people to go back to communicating face to face .... of course the insults would not be so widely spread but the number of bloody, broken noses would go way up!


TS Enthusiast
Best Solution .... Shut them down and force people to go back to communicating face to face .... of course the insults would not be so widely spread but the number of bloody, broken noses would go way up!
Very true. But people used to duel with swords or guns when they were offended. Heck, if somebody offended a man's wife, he would fight to the death.

There's another problem. What is offensive to one person is music to the ears for another. Democrats were appalled at Trump's infamous 's-hole country' comment but cheered at Clinton's 'deplorables' comment. And vice versa.

Corralling offensive speech on the internet is a lost cause.