back to article Twitter cries for help to solve existential crisis of whether it's Good

Twitter's decided the time is right to measure "our contribution to the overall health of the public conversation". The company on Thursday called for help to create "health metrics". If the company finds it promotes "healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking" it will feel it is healthy. A certain malaise would be …

  1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    I don't consider the 'bots a problem, rather more as a symptom, of the conditions on Twitter and it isn't likely to change. The problem really comes down to, just as with the other social networks, people surrounding themselves with like minded individuals, other than family, usually. Given that, receiving "tweets" from others on the network that echo what beliefs they already hold is not going to raise much of a red flag in most peoples mind, especially when it is linked and presented from other like-minded individuals that they have had a history with. They are far more likely to forward it on and that's the power of a 'bot. We've seen the like for decades in emails, why does anyone think this is novel or new?

    This is the way social groups form and preserve themselves, part of the "human condition." Personally, I like diverse sources of information and opinion, I always have, whether in academe, others personally, and especially on the networks. However, I'm a serious outlier which is why I can see a bit further. Sure, we can have the best AI's on the planet engaged in 'bot detection and it may help somewhat. On the flip-side, the opposition can engage many more individuals to throw a spanner into the works, just less automated. A smidgen less.

    [I'm still fascinated that we, the US, even consider this a problem. We're doing much the same to Russia as I type this. "American Exceptionalism" strike again.]

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      contribution to the overall health of the public conversation

      Is negative. Nothing will change that. Its use will probably fade away with time.

  2. GrumpyOldBloke

    If we curate out a political viewpoint are there enough people left with opposing, alternate or accommodating viewpoints to drive advertising revenue. If yes then healthy else rephrase the initiative to reassure advertisers.

  3. jake Silver badge

    Seeing as twitter "solves" a non-existant problem ...

    ... and it does so in a way that existed long before it came into existence, I'd say that it's all in all a redundant waste of time, and has been right from the git-go.

    Seriously, first came porn, then came cats. After that came malicious gossip and conspiracy theories. (Sound familiar, twitter users?) And THAT was the BBS world, in the years before it was discovered that UUCP could be used for much the same thing, leading to Usenet ... Face it, twitter has done absolutely nothing for humanity. If it disappeared tomorrow, the world would carry on as if it never existed.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Seeing as twitter "solves" a non-existant problem ...

      If it disappeared tomorrow, the world would carry on as if it never existed.


      You've sort of negated your own point here, in saying Twitter doesn't matter. I agree that if Twitter disappeared tomorrow, it would make little difference to the sum of human achievement. But I also think that something else would replace it.

      Which isn't quite the same thing as saying it's unimportant. In that it fulfills a human desire (at least for some people) - to shout their opinions into the void. Says I, posting pseudonymously on an IT website...

      1. andyp-random-number

        Re: Seeing as twitter "solves" a non-existant problem ...

        "But I also think that something else would replace it."

        The masses seem to jump on to anything that is pushed their way as the next thing. The question is how long they stay with it. It will be replaced anyway at some stage by something equally useless as the replacement must appeal to the masses and collect data for someone else who doesn't have the data.

        The people that don't have the data simply don't have it because they don't have the money to buy it so the next replacement will come from someone else who doesn't have enough money and thinks they can sell data, maybe.

        Because of the data already collected the next big thing will need to be able to collect data not already collected and since it's not already being collected the masses need to be told to use something that is completely different to what we have now.

        When the replacement is thought of it will replace the previous must have useless thing just as quick as the previous must have useless things appeared.

        Twitter, facebook, whatscrap, instathing are all waiting to be replaced.

        I think the replacement will simply be the default acceptance of everything on a mobile, including sensors, being slurped. Presumably Apple and google will simply make a universal app for all messaging types, then push us to take it, destroy the whatsapp, insta, twitter markets and keep their control albeit with more power. The kind of data they will want is medical, heart and blood measurments...then they can see drugs to us and capture the pharma arena.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Seeing as twitter "solves" a non-existant problem ...

      Considering USENET, it's still around, and there are NO moderators. So-called "moderated" groups are easy to post to "irregardless" (heh) of the 'moderation', using a very very simple hack. In fact, the alt.hackers newsgroup is deliberately moderated for this reason, because you have to perform 'a hack' in order to post to it, though it's not very popular any more, unfortunately [blame successful tw[a,i]tter marketing].

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I could save them the time and money, the answer is censorship. The first problem is who decides what or who you censor. The second problem is that you remove ideas and conversations that disagree with your own leaving you in an echo chamber. The final problem is where do you stop?

    This to me comes from the book of "being seen to be doing something while not actually doing anything", all for the benefit of governments so they don't legislate you into a position that could harm profits .

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Have you considered that there might be a difference between censorship and avoiding having your platform abused?

      It's one thing to demand that Twitter should edit all it's posts to be inline with some mushy centre-ground consensus. But nobody is saying that.

      It's another to say that they should make an effort to deal with hate speech, death threats and remove links to beheading videos made for terrorist propaganda. That seems totally legitimate.

      There's a certain element of censorship in the above, but freedom of speech does not (and should not) give you the right to threaten to kill or rape people anonymously. And given that it's just people being arseholes, it's probably better to take the power to shock away from them by deleting their crap than it is to have the police hunt them down and lock them up for being anonymous cowards.

      There's also an element of censorship in stopping ISIS beheading videos. But again, it's something I can live with. I don't see why the victims shouldn't deserve protection. And the aim of posting them is to recruit often vulnerable young people whose lives have gone off the rails to come and be suicide bombers. This isn't done out of love for those people, as it's amazing how people like Osama Bin Laden were happy to allow others to make the ultimate sacrifice on their behalf, while his life was apparently better spent hiding. A lot of the suicide bombers in Iraq and Israel were drugged to stop them having those pesky second thoughts.

      I also don't see much threat to freedom of speech from stopping state-sponsored networks disseminating fake news about the place, as if it was being done by real people. We allow Russia Today to broadcast on our highly regulated TV spectrum, so we're not in total censorship mode. But most people don't choose to watch that, as it's often obvious bollocks.

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        It's also not censorship for Twitter, a private company, to decide what it wants on its web pages and online services.

        1. Brian 18

          "It's also not censorship for Twitter, a private company, to decide what it wants on its web pages and online services."

          It is still censorship, just not government censorship. The definition from Webster does not specifically limit censorship to governments. The first paragraph from the ACLU makes it clear that censorship can be performed by governments or "private pressure groups". From the Global Internet Liberty Campaign "Not all censorship is equal, nor does all arise from government or external force. People self-censor all the time". The wired article has 6 tales of censorship, most with no government actions at all.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @I ain't Spartacus

        Thank you for the well thought out reply and I do agree with you however it all goes back to same old problem, when you censor who chooses what you censor? I'm with you on the example you give, nobody should have the right to do those things anonymous or not. I just feel it's a slippery road that leads to too much censorship because ultimately the government will get involved like in the later article about taking content down within an hour and we all know government will abuse it's powers to censor anything and everything it doesn't want the people to be see. I feel this has parallels with 9/11, everyone is looking at what is happening or happened without anybody asking "why?", maybe if the governments looked at how people get radicalised and what we in the west do that allows it to happen and change then we wouldn't have to fire fight because they wouldn't have an argument as to why we are bad. In other words we need to stop f*cking about in the middle east (egypt/libya/syria/irag) and sort out a two party state in Israel that both sides are happy with, there has to be a common ground where we can all live in peace.

      3. Paul 135

        Orwellian "hate speech" should not exist as a concept. The fact that so many straight white males have allowed such an abominable concept to be pushed indicates how weak and pathetic many of us have become.

        1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          On what planet are heterosexual white males the victims?

          Hate speech is not free speech, Paul 135 . It is a tool to oppress others.

          Being civil to others, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, age - and fear about your own circumstances - is a sign of moral strength, not of weakness.

          And those ultra-right snowflakes who want the freedom to oppress others? It is never a bad thing to refresh our memory of Popper's Paradox of tolerance.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: On what planet are heterosexual white males the victims?

            Self-awareness is the way to remove intolerance because once you are aware of your beliefs you can then question them. We are all different but that doesn't mean we can't all live with balance, harmony, perspective, and compassion.


          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: On what planet are heterosexual white males the victims?

            > Hate speech is not free speech, Paul 135 . It is a tool to oppress others.

            It is in the USA. And I don't think he's talking about speech that incites violence against minorities. Have you not noticed the huge movement in the last few years to redefine everyday insults as "hate speech" through corporate policy and even legislatively? It's a mockery of the old civil rights movement and everything the Allies fought the Axis for.

          3. jake Silver badge

            Re: On what planet are heterosexual white males the victims?

            They are victims on every planet where they are all tarred with the same brush.

  5. LucreLout Silver badge

    Twitter can't be good

    Just take a look at the Twitter shaming some people have had to endure (Justine Sacco for example, or everyone involved in the Adria Richards thing). The conduct of Twitter users was utterly reprehensible in each case - awarding themselves the wholly unjustifiable position of judge, jury, and career executioner.

    I absolutely refuse to believe that Twitter could not have intervened and deactivated certain tags, accounts etc to contain the unneccesary and unjustifiable damage a few million small minded people thought it would be fun to unleash.

    Sorry Twitter, the world was better without you in it, and it will be better again when you're gone. Its no good handing loaed firearms to children then excusing yourself from blame when they shoot each other.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Narcissistic cesspit

    See title.

    As I refuse to use it, Twitter has single-handedly destroyed most of the friendships I built up since the late 90s. If you're not on someone's lazy twitter radar, you're quickly forgotten, and there's just no competing with an endless twitter feed once people get hooked. Perpetually out of the loop.

    Occasionally I have a peek at what some once-respected friends post, and it's a never ending shit-steam of blatant attention grabbing nonsense. It saddens me on many levels. An old friend guilty of this once justified it thusly: "I use it so I don't become a social pariah". I feel sorry for these people, it's like they've been sucked into a cult and can't see it.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Narcissistic cesspit

      "I use it so I don't become a social pariah"

      'social pariah' is HIGHLY underrated (especially when it's defined by NOT using tw[a,i]tter).

  7. BigAndos

    I don't like the way users on Twitter become so polarised and dehumanise those they are tweeting at. Seriously some of the abuse you see dished out online people would never dare to say face to face.

    This does apply everywhere over the internet but the sheer volume of users mean things quickly blow out of proportion on Twitter and I think it has become a very unhealthy place. I only use it to tweet the train company to ask what is happening during disruption and even then I've had sarky replies from other users for no apparent reason.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      tweeting the train company, etc

      Part of the problem is that people use it, a broadcast mechanism, to ask one-to-one questions.

      Why should the idiots who don't know me, have to see questions I am asking the customer services of train or other big companies?

    2. DocNo

      "Seriously some of the abuse you see dished out online people would never dare to say face to face."

      Because you'd get punched in the face. That's the natural moderator to normal behavior that is missing when you are a twat (anonymous or not) online :(

      This is a great summary:

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      "Seriously some of the abuse you see dished out online people would never dare to say face to face."

      welcome to "teh intarwebs" - you see it EVERYWHERE. It's because there's no peripheral device capable of transmitting a proper punch in the nose...

      (post-edit - I see someone else said something similar)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Anonymous internet forums - ones that allow *real* hate speech - are far more civil places than Twitter.

  8. msknight Silver badge

    Sorry... did I hear them right?

    Debate? On Twitter? You're kidding. Right?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are SJW do-gooders Good?

    Twitter is an SJW circlejerk, completely detached from reality.

    The only counterpoint you'll ever seen comes from @realDonaldTrump and a handful of other right-wing trolls who haven't been banned yet.

    There is no conversation, no middle ground, no public good. It is just those two extremes parroting themselves and shouting at each other.

    1. Paul 135

      Re: Are SJW do-gooders Good?

      Indeed, a bit like how The Register is becoming with banning of non-"right on" opinions.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Are SJW do-gooders Good?

        "banning of non-'right on' opinions."

        I think _I_ am one example of why that's NOT happening...

  10. breakfast

    A dystopian technology

    This take on Twitter is one I've found pretty convincing, discussing whether it is a true dystopian technology- "a technology that makes each user better off, but makes the world worse off as a whole."

    That seems like a fairly good description of it.

  11. Inachu

    Twitter should be hiring true psychologists and not liberals who only take action based on their feelings and emotions.

    When someone has tweeted majority of things based on their obsession on their self when they have PTSD and they refuse to see how their postings are really from their PTSD instead of of any tweets based on the support on any movements/protests then they need to stop and see how they are affected.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Tis a nice thought, however, non-liberal psychologists are more elusive than biological females in the Chocolate Factory. And ideological discrimination is wrong.

      Why not... hire random normies instead?

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        "Why not... hire random normies instead?"

        They're an endangered species in San Francisco and Silly Valley, as hard to find as "biological females in the Chocolate Factory"...

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