There’s no getting around it. Twitter is important. It’s the first line of contact for most breaking stories and has changed the way people have conversations about news and pop culture (also dank memes etc etc).
But Twitter has also proven itself to be oddly sluggish when it comes to reported instances of abuse. Celebrities, a large proportion of them people of colour or women, have been driven from the platform because of inadequate responses to racist and sexist trolling on the platform. A few high profile trolls have been banned from Twitter but only after calls to take action became impossible to ignore. Take British troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, for example, who earned himself a lifetime ban last month for inciting the Leslie Jones debacle.
As a daily user, it’s astonishing to see famous, creative, wonderful people chased off the platform by unchecked trolling culture. In the last month Popbuzz has covered an actress, a singer, and a queer artist who have all grappled with the process of leaving twitter while their abusers are allowed to stay and post freely.
Despite all this, Twitter has never really been in the business of moderating every single offensive comment. But here’s a question: Why are Twitter able to delete accounts that post GIFs and videos of the Olympics but strangely unable to do much about abusive internet behaviour?
Actually, lots of people are wondering the same thing.
Twitter will delete your account for posting Olympic videos with quickness but take their time with trolls— [J]ayJChillin (@JayJazzi) August 13, 2016
If this is all a bit new to you, here’s some context.
The Olympic committee announced a blanket ban on GIFs this year, a move which certainly put Twitter between a rock and a hard place. Twitter has, in the last year, pushed for easier integration of GIFs and videos on the platform. The Olympic committee’s ban forced Twitter to go against its own nature. But better that than a lawsuit, eh?
So, Twitter complied. It meticulously removed user content from the summer Olympics that violated the terms of the Olympic committee’s ban. It even suspended some accounts in its quest to prove itself cooperative.
the trick to fixing abuse on twitter is to force harassers to include a gif an olympics gymnastics routine so they'll be quickly deleted— Colley (@JamColley) August 15, 2016
As users of this platform, I think people have a right to be angry. For years Twitter has claimed that the process of moderation on its platform is complex. We see now that, under the harsh glare of an Olympic sized lawsuit, those complexities which made the Twitter trolling machine what it is, have suddenly disappeared. All Twitter needed was a little bit of motivation this whole time.
For instance, reporting threatening language that isn’t directed at you is nearly impossible, as users essentially get told to mind their own business.
Made a report to Twitter about an account with the bio "I can rape you" that was tweeting feminists. Verdict: "Not violating any rules."— Sarah Ditum (@sarahditum) August 21, 2016
With this new public insight into how Twitter was able to moderate Olympics content, they’ve essentially showed their hand, because; if they have the power to moderate Olympic content, surely they have the power to moderate online abuse? Now, it’s time for Twitter to act.