Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Why I stopped using Twitter

Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on November 25, 2022

a woman in red scarf holding a megaphone

Based on my recent article, Is the Demise of Twitter imminent?, I have outlined the reasons why I believe Twitter is very close to closing down entirely. While that is a reason not to use the platform, it isn’t my primary reason for leaving Twitter. Twitter has a lot more wrong with it than potential closure. Let’s explore.

Content Moderation and Trust

Let’s jump right into the heart of the reason why Twitter is in serious jeopardy. Any social network that offers User Generated Content (UGC) is at risk if the operators of the site are unwilling to handle that UGC appropriately.

Terms of Service (TOS) agreements and Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) exist to protect the site from lawsuits. Meaning, so long as the site adheres to the terms laid out in their agreements, then the site is said to be doing its fiduciary responsibility to its users.

TOS and AUP agreements define what is considered acceptable conduct by anyone who uses the web site. Most such agreements lay out that conduct such as hate speech, harassing speech, bullying, threats of violence, death threats and any conduct which is considered illegal federally or locally is prohibited on the web site. The article I mentioned above also touches on this topic.

Whenever a site is created that publishes such user generated content on behalf of its users, a site must make sure that the speech remains within the confines of acceptable use. That means offering such mechanisms as user reporting features (allowing users to report offensive content), automated scanning of content to detect such infringing content and a team of content moderators to remove or suspend users who willfully break the rules.

Why do these agreements exist?

Trust. These agreements are in place to help users understand that Twitter is a safe and trustworthy space. As long as the agreements are upheld, then users can know that Twitter is looking out for them. Without such agreements or, more specifically, knowing the agreements aren’t being enforced, then the safety level of the site drops precipitously, along with the site’s level of trust.

Politics and AUP

Recently, too many people on Twitter are now seeing everything through the a political lens. Specifically, the right wingers are now seeing everything they say through a political lens of free speech.

Let’s understand first and foremost that First Amendment Free Speech DOES NOT apply to Twitter or any non-governmental organization operating a social network. It never has. The First Amendment only applies to Governmental organizations and staff. While your local county official cannot abridge your freedom of speech or freedom of press, Twitter can.

Further, let’s understand that terms of service (conduct) agreements are not built with politics in mind. They are built by lawyers who are paid to provide legal services to corporations. These agreements are not political leaning. These agreements apply to everyone using the services equally. Anyone who infringes the agreement is subject to disciplinary action… yes, ANYONE.

Right Wing Activists and Lying

Right wingers have been completely jumping on the bandwagon that somehow Twitter is selectively applying its rules only to right wing activists and not to left wing activists. That would be unfair application of terms of service, but it’s also a false statement. That kind of false rhetoric is now a staple with right leaning conservatives. They’re willing to lie about nearly anything and everything. Why would social media be an exception? It isn’t.

Twitter has applied its rules equally to all people who infringe, left, right or center. It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs, if you put forth infringing content, you’re suspended or banned.

Left wing activists have also been banned from the platform. Thus, this right wing falsehood is just that, a falsehood… like many others. Yet, they keep saying it with careless abandon as though saying it multiple times will somehow make it true. It doesn’t.

As of this moment, right wingers are completely out of control on Twitter… running afoul of Twitter’s rules without any disciplinary action by Twitter staff. That’s not to say left wingers aren’t out of control, because they are also. In fact, there are a lot of apolitical people on Twitter simply playing games with Twitter’s rules because Twitter isn’t enforcing them…. and here is the problem in a nutshell.

Rules, Chaos and Crowd Sourced Moderation

Rules exist to stem the chaos and enforce trust. Without enforcement of rules, a social media site is simply a cesspool without trust… and that’s exactly where Twitter sits right now.

If Twitter had been designed to allow thread creators to manage and moderate user comments within their created thread, like YouTube owners can moderate comments on videos, then Twitter would be in a much better place right now.

It would mean that I, as a Twitter user, could dump off comments from my thread that break not only Twitter’s rules, but my own personal rules of decorum. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t afford that level of content moderation to the thread creator. That means relying on Twitter’s now non-existent staff. Of course, when that staff doesn’t exist, there’s no one there to do the moderation work that’s needed.

If Twitter had moved to crowd based moderation, the platform would be in a much better place. It wouldn’t need nearly as much moderation staff as thread creators could simply remove comments from threads they own. If someone chimes in with an insensitive, inappropriate or problematic comment, then “Delete” and the comment is gone. No Twitter staff needed.

In fact, this is the way social media needs to operate now and in the future. Twitter still firmly believes that it is Twitter’s staff sole responsibility to moderate content. That’s not doable when you have perhaps billions of messages being sent daily. A company can’t grow its moderation team to scale to this number of messages. It is also an antiquated idea that should have been gone years ago. However, at the time of Twitter’s conception, crowd managed UGC wasn’t really commonplace. Partly that’s something that wasn’t being done, but partly it’s because Jack Dorsey’s team didn’t have the foresight to realize staff moderation of billions of small messages was not humanly scalable.

In recent years, crowd managed moderation has become not only more acceptable, it’s become commonplace and even important. YouTube has allowed this for quite some time. It allows the channel owner to remove any and all messages from its videos that the content creator deems problematic. It firmly puts the burden of content moderation on the creator. That’s also a completely acceptable situation.

Crowd Moderation

Wikipedia has completely proven that crowd moderation of content works. As a company, you can’t afford to hire the thousands of people needed to scout billions of messages all over the platform. Instead, it’s better to empower content creators to manage a much smaller number of messages.

Reporting inappropriate comments is still available, however. This allows staff the opportunity to jump in and manage inappropriate content if the content creator reports a comment.

However, conscientious creators should be willing to hold and moderate comments prior to allowing them to be published. With Twitter, publishing is instantaneous with no advanced moderation possible. Considering the sheer volume of messages on Twitter, it might be almost impossible to handle a single hold-queue style moderation system. With a spam filter, it may be possible to separate the wheat from the chaff into more easily manageable piles.

Trust, Quality and Moderation

Here’s something that Twitter has needed for a very, very long time. Twitter is chock full of bad actors. Any bad actors who consistently write bad comments of low or questionable quality would see their comment moved into the “junk” moderation pile for the content creator to manage and/or report.

Such a system would allow Twitter to offer up content moderation for all of its content creators. Enabling content moderation places moderation in the hands of the content creator using a hold queue. This halts many instant responses, but it ensures higher quality comments. Comments are then examined and filtered into trust and quality buckets. High quality comments from more trusted individuals get placed into the pile the creator manages first. Successively lower quality comments from lesser trusted people get moved into successively lower moderation piles.

Content creators can both move comments from one pile to another and they can mark commenters so that future comments get placed into specific piles all the way to a block which prevents the user from commenting at all.

For example, piles might be labeled as:

  • Instant Publish
  • Mostly-Trusted
  • Semi-Trusted
  • Untrusted
  • Untrusted Junk
  • Junk

These 6 piles are a good starting place. Instant publish is for your most trusted followers. You know that these followers can be completely trusted to instantly publish a high quality comment with no holds. No moderation is needed for fully trusted people. For people who are mostly trusted, these comments go into the mostly-trusted pile for moderation hold. These are people who are very close to getting instant publish, but you still need to hold their messages because you want to read the comment first.

All other piles are reviewed at the sole discretion of the content creator. If the content creator chooses not to look through the remaining piles, then the comments get purged after 7-30 days on hold.

How does a user become trusted?

Trust comes from both following and adding a new button labeled ‘trust’ along with an assigned level (1-6). Following someone only places someone into the Semi-Trusted pile. Meaning, you’ve followed them so you’re assigning them the default trust of level of 3. However, you haven’t completely trusted them. This means you’ll need to moderate comment content.

As a user gets more and more messages posted out of moderation, the user will automatically move up the ranks of trust, eventually reaching Instant Publish unless the content creator explicitly sets the user’s trust level.

User trust levels can also be managed by interactions with others. A content creator can enable “inherit trust averages” to new followers. This means that user’s trust level is calculated and inherited based on past interactions. If a user has consistent bad interactions, been reported a number of times, been blocked by many people and so on, these bad activities affect the user’s inherited trust level and the user’s trust level goes down. Instead of being assigned a default of level 3, the user might inherit a level of 5 or 6.

Note, being blocked by lower trust level users doesn’t influence a user’s inherited trust. Only people of higher trust levels who block them influence the inherited trust level. This stops bad seeds from gaming this system and attempting to lower a person’s trust level by creating hundreds of accounts and blocking someone of higher levels of trust. The only trust levels that impact a user’s inherited trust level when blocked is if the blocking user has a trust level above 2. That means bad seeds would need to work their hundreds of accounts up to level 2 before blocking people to reduce trust. Even then, any user attempting to game the trust system will automatically be banned.

Note that there are effectively two trust levels at play. There is the inherited trust level of the user themselves, which is gained by behaving correctly, producing high quality content and, in small amount, by having someone follow you. The second trust level is set by a content creator. Even if a person is inherited with a 90% trust level, if they follow someone and comment, the content creator can set that 90% trusted user down to level 6 if they choose. That moderation trust level only applies to the content creator, but doesn’t impact the follower’s inherited trust level… unless many high level trusted people all mark that user down.

Trust levels are the means by which the bad actors go to the bottom of the pile and good actors bubble to the top. To date, no social networks have instituted such a trust system. Instead, they have chosen to allow chaos to reign supreme instead of forcing users to learn behavioral norms when interacting on social networks. Enforcing behavioral norms is something social media desperately needs.

Trust Numbers

Implementing a trust numbering system would also add more control by users and content creators alike. Users who insist on being untrustworthy, to lie, to generally be toxic will see their trust numbers reduced. It doesn’t matter if it’s a celebrity or a nobody. Trust numbers are what people will judge. Like any score system, it can be used to allow users to auto-block and auto-ignore users who choose to have trust cores below a certain threshold. If a comment from a user with a trust level below 50 would appear on a timeline, a rule saying hide comments from users below trust level 50 would automatically weed out toxic comments.

More than this, if a user has a less than 50 trust score, a content creator can make a rule that prevents low score users from commenting at all. In effect, the trust score auto-blocks the user from comments. If the user wishes to make a comment, then they need to do the right things to raise their trust score. A trust scoring system is the only way for users and content creators to know that they can be safe on a platform like Twitter.

Chaos now reigns at Twitter

Because Elon Musk has decided to cut over half of Twitter’s staff, there’s really no one left to enforce much of anything on Twitter. In effect, Twitter is now overrun by untrustworthy, lying, conniving bad actors. It is these toxic people who don’t deserve to have any interactions at all. They are the absolute dregs of social media. These are toxic people you would never interact with in person, yet here they are on full display on Twitter.

Because Twitter has no moderation staff left to manage these bad seeds, the platform is overrun by people of bad intent. These are people who insist sowing seeds of chaos and doing as much damage as possible all with providing no value to the platform. Their comments are worthless, bordering on toxic and are sometimes even dangerous.

With no moderation team, there’s no one at Twitter who can review these comments for their toxicity, let alone do anything about it. Worse, Elon Musk is pushing a “new freer” Twitter, which simply doubles down on this level of toxicity all over the Twitter platform.

If Twitter were to introduce a trust and moderation system as described above, Twitter could forgo the moderation staff, instead letting content creators manage these bad seeds to push them off of the platform. Such a moderation system would also take a huge burden off of Twitter’s staff. Bad seeds would eventually disappear when they find their comments don’t get published. They also can’t claim Twitter is a fault because a content creator moderation system would mean people of all political persuasions would be kicking these bad seeds to the curb.

There’s really no other way for Twitter to manage such bad seeds other than a crowd managed moderation system like the above. Unfortunately, Twitter’s staff is dwindling at an astonishing rate, including the very software engineers needed to design and build such a system.

If Twitter wants to become a platform about trust and safety, it needs to institute a mechanism that enforces this philosphy, like the above content creator moderation system. Without such a system, Twitter remains chaos.

Toxic People

Toxic Symbol

Toxic people are everywhere, but it seems that social media like Twitter attracts them in droves. I don’t know why other than the anonymity that seems afforded. Suffice it to say that while Twitter was relatively toxic prior to Musk’s takeover, the content moderation staff took care of a lot of that toxicity through suspensions and banning.

Unfortunately, Musk seems to have reversed that stance and is now allowing (and even condoning) toxic people back into Twitter who were formerly removed. That means Twitter is now becoming even less of a safe and welcoming space than it formerly was. Toxicity now prevails. Toxicity is something no one needs in their life, least of all on Twitter. Toxic people are draining for all of the wrong reasons.

  • Toxic people waste your time — Toxic people ask you to do stuff for them while providing nothing in return. Even if you do spend the time providing what they request…
  • Toxic people always criticize you — Wasting time on someone toxic, they will turn that wasted time against you by arguing and criticizing what what you provided was not what they requested.
  • Toxic people spread negativity — Even after trying to talk to them to convince them, they will still turn it back around on you as a negative, as though you did something wrong. You didn’t.
  • Toxic people are jealous — The most likely reason they interacted with you in the first place is that they are jealous of what you have. In order to make themselves feel better, they will argue and downplay over whatever they are jealous… or they will try to make you feel jealous by claiming they have something that they don’t actually have.
  • Toxic people play the victim — Instead of accepting their own faults and failings, it’s always someone else who is to blame for them. If you happen to get in their way, you will become the victim over their having been victimized by you. That goes back to being jealous. If they are jealous over something, they will blame you for their being victimized by their own jealousy.
  • Toxic people are self-centered — This is a form of narcissism. How bad the narcissism is depends on them, not you. This means that not only are they likely to blame you for them being a victim, it all revolves around them, never around you. These people never see you as anything more than a punching bag to inflate their own ego.
  • Toxic people really don’t care — In other words, they argue with you because it inflates their ego, but honestly they don’t care about you or how you feel as long as it makes them feel better. It’s a form of manipulation.
  • Toxic people will manipulate you — This is another form of narcissism. It all ends up revolving around them. Most toxic people don’t care about your feelings at all. All they care about is getting whatever they want out of you. If that’s money or a ride or food, they’ll do or say whatever makes that a reality. On Twitter, you have to be cautious as money is really the only motivating factor. If Twitter enables money transfers, expect these toxic people to turn into scam artists.

Twitter currently enables, facilitates and now condones these toxic types of people on Twitter. Not only will they waste your time, they will attempt to play the victim game as though you caused them to be the victim. They will always claim that you are the one who is wrong and they are the one who is right. There is no middle ground, concession or compromise with toxic people. It’s always them and no one else.

If you feed into their garbage, you are likely the one to be harmed by them. Don’t allow it. As soon as you see someone like this, block them instantly. Don’t interact with them. If Twitter isn’t willing to handle toxic people, you have two choices, block and hope they don’t come back using another account or stop using Twitter.

Leaving Twitter

What Twitter currently means for sincere AUP-abiding content creators is increased effort to block toxic people, which actually does little to stop that user’s toxicity. They simply move to other victims to vomit their toxic rhetoric, with those users being forced to block them also. In other words, there’s nothing at all a standard user or content creator can do to stop toxic people from being toxic on Twitter (other than blocking that person for themselves). The best a legitimate person can do is block these toxic people for themselves alone, but that doesn’t make any impact on that toxic user’s account. Even reporting such an account today is likely to go ignored by Twitter. Musk appears to have no interest in holding rule breakers accountable.

A trust system would change this game. Meaning, users who insist on being toxic get to share in their consequences of being toxic. The more toxic they become, the more their account gets moved to the bottom. When the account gets down to a certain threshold, this allows Twitter to review these accounts for being a problem… thus requiring far less staff.

Unfortunately, Twitter has now placed this time suck burden onto each user to block, mute and dump users and to clean up the mess after. I don’t have time for that. Not only is that a complete waste of my time, I’m not being paid by Twitter to do it. It also means Twitter is not a safe or welcoming space. Spending my time managing my account only affects my account alone. It doesn’t in any way stop those toxic bad seeds from laying siege to other users on the platform. Since Twitter has no staff to manage these toxic bad seeds, Twitter is simply a chaotic cesspool of the lowest social media dregs all running amok in a quagmire of chaos. No one is safe from these toxic people.

If you’re looking for a safe and trusting space where you can feel like the social media site is looking out for you and your best interests, Twitter is not that place. Twitter has now become literally the worst, most toxic environment you could join right now, second up only to Facebook. Twitter doesn’t care about trust or safety or protecting you. They’re only interested in letting toxic social media users run roughshod all over everyone else.

For the reason of toxic users and Twitter actively choosing to be unsafe, I am off of Twitter. I simply cannot condone using a platform where the management is more interested in allowing chaos to rule over offering up appropriate safety measures for its users to use against toxic people.

Twitter’s Safety Rating

Safety: 1 out of 10
Toxicity: 10 out of 10
Recommendation: Avoid until Twitter closes or Musk figures it out

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