I’m starting to hate Twitter these days.
Since 2008, it’s been an ever-flowing channel of communication -- direct and unfiltered. Celebrities, basketball stars, and even Presidents can post with reckless abandon.
We’ve been living in the age of unfiltered status updates for almost ten years now, but it makes me wonder if there is a better way to share thoughts spontaneously...but with a little more civility.
As a recent example, President Trump posted an off-hand remark about possibly ending press briefings and would, instead, hand out prepared statements only. The implication here is that reporters would not be able to ask questions in an open format or engage in dialog with White House reps. It would be more structured and controlled...and less democratic. Regardless of your political view, this is a strange tweet.
But did he really mean that? Was it an off-the-cuff statement?
Part of the issue these past ten years is that, once you hit send on a tweet, you can’t really take it back or edit what you say. Twitter online abuse is still an ongoing problem, but even things like an employee revealing too many details about company plans can enter the flow and then never come back again.
Once a tweet is live, anyone can save it forever.
To me, President Trump’s tweet is an indication of everything that’s wrong with Twitter. We’re not talking about freedom of expression. We’re talking about a tool that encourages an unfiltered attitude -- no thought about consequences or harm.
What would work better? One example is on Facebook, where it’s easy to go back and edit a post or delete it. It’s a closed system -- if I tell a friend he’s an idiot or share a marketing plan that's confidential, it remains someone contained. Only the friends of both parties see the post (if the privacy settings are set correctly). It’s one reason I know a handful of people who have deleted their Twitter accounts but stay loyal to Facebook.
Another answer to the problem is to use AI routines that are much smarter and faster at spotting online abuse or warning users about confidential information. Some (but not all) of the most harassing tweets are said in anger. With better contextualization and smarter filters, Twitter could spot a tweet before it ever goes live and warn the user about online harassment or other issues. That does not happen today. Again, this is not a free speech issue. Warning a user is a helpful way to curb online abuse and block harassment.
I depend on Twitter -- it’s my primary tool for communicating about my job. Still, I maintain a safe distance -- I only post about my work and occasionally share a few personal details. It’s not a safe environment, and it’s never really been that safe. It’s a place where unfiltered commentaries run rampant. There are ways to reel that in and make Twitter smarter and safer. Now the question is -- will Twitter do anything about it?