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

↩︎

Is the Demise of Twitter imminent?

Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on November 20, 2022

red blue and yellow textile

With Elon Musk’s $44 billion hostile takeover of Twitter now closed, it’s clear that Musk is way out of his depth operating this social media platform and with that inexperience, this platform is very likely to die. Note, this is an unfolding story. Please check back for new updates to this article over Twitter’s latest blunders. Let’s explore.

Twitter as a Microblogging Platform

The rise of Jack Dorsey’s Twitter was rather unexpected considering its severe limits, such as its initial 140 character limit which was later doubled to 280 characters. Small messages are akin to SMS messages and I suppose that’s why so many people readily adopted this character limit.

Twitter has gained a lot of “people”, but unfortunately has also gained a lot of “bots”… which at this moment appear to far outnumber actual live people.

Blogging platforms, like WordPress.com on which this article is hosted, allows users to mostly say whatever they like. However, saying things isn’t without problems. Sure, free speech is important on blogging platforms, but what can be said isn’t without bounds. There are, in fact, TOS limits that prevent certain types of speech. For example, there are rules against hate speech, perpetuation of misinformation and disinformation and there are even laws against certain types of speech like “fighting words” and “defamation”. Free speech most definitely has its limits. Free speech is also not without consequences.

Freedom of speech is not truly “free” in the sense that you are free to say whatever pops into your head. You do have to consider the ramifications of what you say to those around you. One classic example is yelling, “Fire” in a crowded theater. That’s a form of trolling. It is most definitely not protected speech and could see the perpetrator fined and/or jailed for performing such reckless activities. Yes, freedom of speech has limits.

Those limits can be defined both by laws and by Terms of Service agreements. If you sign up for a service, you must read the Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policies carefully to determine where the boundaries begin and end. Running afoul of Terms of Service rules can see your account restricted, suspended, banned or deleted. Such suspensions and bans can be limited to a few days or the action could be permanent. It might even see your account removed from the platform depending on the egregiousness of the action.

Suffice it to say that Free Speech, as I reiterate again, has limits and boundaries. You are not allowed to say whatever you want when using private company services. Other violating examples include such speech as death threats, threats of self-harm or of harm to other people, bullying, harassing others, inciting people into violence, stalking others or any other activities which are considered illegal or condone violence upon others.

Freedom of Speech

Many people hold up the first amendment as though it’s some sort of shield when using platforms like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. The First Amendment is not a shield! Let’s examine the text of the First Amendment to better understand where and how it applies:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Let’s break it down. “Congress shall make no law” firmly states that the limits of the First Amendment are strictly on the Congress and, by that same extension, all Government entities. The Constitution strictly governs how the U.S. Government operates. It does not cover protection of speech for private businesses at all. Thus, the text of this amendment does not apply to how Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site operates unless that service is wholly or partially owned by the Government. How the First Amendment applies is by preventing Government workers, including any branch of the government, from abridging speech either written (press) or verbal (protests).

For example, using sites operated by the U.S. Government, such as the FTC’s call for comments area, the First Amendment fully applies. If you say something that may become publicly visible on such Government web sites, your speech is protected by the First Amendment. However, if you say something on Twitter, a site not owned or operated by the U.S. Government (or any government), your speech is not protected by the First Amendment, but instead is governed by Twitter’s Terms of Service agreement and/or any other associated agreement(s).

Too many people believe that First Amendment free speech rights apply to private enterprise, but it does not. While most speech is allowed on these platforms, some speech forms are not and those that are not are clearly written into the Terms and Conditions to which you must agree by opening an account.

For example, Twitter only allows impersonation of accounts as parody when the parody accounts are clearly labeled in specific ways. This Twitter rule restricts your freedom of speech in very specific ways. Meaning, you are not allowed to impersonate an account in a way that makes it appear as if you are genuinely the person you are attempting to impersonate. If you don’t label your account according to Twitter’s rules, your account is considered in violation and will be disciplined accordingly.

The First Amendment doesn’t restrict this type of impersonation activity, however. Other state or local laws might restrict such impersonation activities, but the First Amendment does not. However, Twitter does restrict this activity via its rules to which you must agree as part of using its services. There are other such activities which are also considered in violation of Twitter’s rules which can also become apparent after you violate them.

In other words, Free Speech on Twitter is firmly at the whims and rules of those who operate Twitter… rules that can be changed at a moment’s notice.

Twitter as a Viable Platform

Prior to Elon Musk’s takeover, Jack Dorsey (and his successor team) operated the platform in a way that many political pundits believed to be unfair to certain parts of the political spectrum. Politics are generally divisive. After all, there are two parties and each party believes they are superior to the other. I won’t get into who’s right or who’s wrong politically, but suffice it to say that the rules must apply to political activists in the same way as any other person using the platform.

Unfortunately, Musk is now seeking to shield political activists from Twitter’s rules. Instead, choosing to not hold any political activists accountable to Twitter’s established rules.

For example, Musk has recently chosen to reinstate Donald Trump’s account to Twitter. Donald Trump intentionally and willfully violated Twitter’s rules in the past. Yet, because Musk now owns Twitter, he has forgiven Donald Trump those past transgressions and has reinstated his account. This is a very clear example of how Musk chooses to break Twitter’s own rules at Musk’s own whim.

“Rules are made to be Broken”

This is an old saying, but it’s one that has no place in Social Media. If rules only govern some people, but not others, then there can be no ethics or justice. Rules must apply to all or they apply to none. Selective rule application is the basis for no rules at all. That’s how law works. If law enforcement fails to enforce laws on some criminals, then laws mean nothing. Likewise, if rule breakers can get away with breaking rules, then rules mean nothing.

Twitter has firmly moved into ethically questionable territory. If Musk thinks that selective application of rules to some people, but not others, is a recipe for success, then Twitter is truly no platform anyone should be using. It’s part of the reason I am no longer using Twitter. I have walked away from the platform and will not return. Here’s another example of Musk applying selective rules.

Musk’s Selective Rules and Instant Rule Changes

With Kathy Griffin’s suspension, Musk has made it clear that Musk makes the rules and no one else. This means that if someone does something that Musk doesn’t like, he’ll instantly rewrite the rules to satisfy his own whims. That’s actually called a moving target. Any user who ends up rubbing Musk the wrong way might end up with a suspension simply because Musk decides he doesn’t like whatever it was and he’ll then rewrite the rules instantly to make that activity against Twitter’s terms.

He did that with Kathy Griffin. She parodied Musk in a way that Musk didn’t like, then Musk retaliated by strictly applying Twitter’s terms, but more than this, he also rewrote Twitter’s rules by not giving her the 3 required warnings. Instead, he gave her zero warnings and instant suspension. Twitter’s rules about warnings are clear. You’re supposed to get at least 1 warning in advance of suspension. Kathy Griffin didn’t get that. She got the boot from Musk without any warnings at all.

Again, that’s a moving target. If you don’t know what the full rules are, you can’t abide by them. Sure, Kathy should have read the terms of impersonation more closely to prevent even getting warned. However, Musk should have read Twitter’s terms and upheld those rules by warning her before suspension, not change the rules on a whim. Both Musk and Griffin are guilty of not following the rules.

For Twitter users, it means Musk can instantly rewrite Twitter’s rules without warning and then suddenly a user is in violation. That’s no way to run a site. The rules are written in advance so we all understand them and have a fair chance at abiding by them. Instant changes mean there’s no way to comply with randomly changing rules simply because you can’t know what they are or what they could become if Musk gets triggered.

App Store and Twitter about to Square Off

[Update 11/25/2022] Twitter’s new “freer speech” rules combined with its lack of enough staff to manage the deluge of hate speech on Twitter is leading Twitter down many wrong paths. In addition, Elon Musk is also complaining about losing between 15% to 30% of its $8/mo subscription fees to Apple and Google when purchased in-app.

Because Apple is also now investigating Twitter’s latest “freer speech” maneuvers, Twitter is poised to potentially lose its app listing in the Apple Store over Twitter’s own inability to abide by its App Store agreements with Apple. Apple is already investigating if this is the case now. If Apple shuts Twitter out of the app store, Google is likely to follow suit for similar reasons. That leaves Twitter with no new users. Existing Twitter app owners can continue to use the Twitter app, but new users will be shut out. That means new users will be forced to use a browser to consume Twitter.

An app store removal is an even bigger blow to Twitter than the mere loss of 15-30% to Apple’s and Google’s in-app purchase fees. Elon Musk is playing with fire by not honoring its own Terms of Service agreements against both previous and current violators, a fact that could lead to an app store removal. Instead, Twitter is also giving former violating accounts “amnesty” allowing them to be reinstated. App store agreements require that apps providing services must adhere to Apple’s app store has rules against apps which don’t properly handle hate speech and other objectionable content.

With Twitter’s more lax rules around objectionable content and reduced “freer speech” filtering, Twitter is very likely now in violation of Apple’s developer rules. Such an app store removal would have a devastating effect on Twitter’s bottom line, especially after advertisers have begun abandoning the platform. When even Apple staffers are abandoning Twitter, that doesn’t say good things for Twitter’s longevity:

Over the weekend, Phil Schiller, the former head Apple marketing executive who still oversees the App Store, apparently deleted his widely-followed Twitter account with hundreds of thousands of followers. —cnbc.com

[↩︎]

Twitter’s Demise

wrong-wayIn addition to all of the above, Musk has saddled Twitter with mountains of debt numbered in the billions of dollars. Some people speculate that it’s $13 billion because that’s what banks have issued Musk in loans. However, that doesn’t take into account the “investors” who Musk didn’t pay out or private investor loans from people who aren’t banks. Twitter’s debt is likely well higher than $13 billion, it’s just that $13 billion is what we can visibly see. Since Twitter is now private, Musk is not obligated to report anything to anyone about the Twitter’s total debt burden or any of its other finances.

One thing is certain, Twitter (and by extension, Musk) was required to pay out all shareholders to take Twitter private. That payout delisted Twitter’s stock and made Twitter a private company. If Twitter was in debt at around $1 billion prior to the takeover, Twitter is likely carrying at least 20-30x more debt now. If Twitter couldn’t make ends meet prior to Twitter’s takeover, there’s absolutely no way Twitter has any hope of doing that under Musk’s “leadership” (and I use this term quite loosely).

When attempting to reduce expenses in any company rapidly, there are only so many places to begin. The first place is in staffing. Staff reduction is low hanging fruit and it’s relatively easy to let staff go to stop at least that cash hemorrhaging quickly. It’s also the first place where Musk chose to begin. Nine days after taking over Twitter, Musk let half of Twitter’s staff go. But that’s not where the staff changes end. That’s just the beginning. In amongst Musk’s crass jokes and public displays about these staff reductions on Twitter, Musk continues to reduce staff every single day. There’s no way to know when Musk will be satisfied with the staff reductions. In fact, he could eliminate every single staffer and still not reduce expenses enough to keep Twitter from running out of money.

Other places to reduce after the above low hanging fruit include real estate (i.e., leases), employee perks and travel expenses.

Employee Perks

Musk has also taken aim at employee perks. Musk has claimed that it cost Twitter upward of $400 to feed each employee per day at the Twitter’s onsite employee cafeteria. While that claim is bold, it’s not really backed up with actual information. Though, Musk has claimed that less than 10% of the company participates in that free food program. If that’s true, then…

My assumption is that the cafeteria continues to buy enough food to feed an overly large lunch crowd every day, yet much of that food goes to waste as employees don’t show up. That’s really a food expense and food prediction problem.

If you want to operate a cafeteria, you have to buy enough food to handle future crowds. You can’t buy only enough food to handle 10% of the employees because then you’ll run out of food when 20% of the employees show up. The first option for this free food perk is to shut it down. If you don’t want to pay for the food expenses of a cafeteria, then you don’t run a cafeteria or you run it more intelligently.

For an example of a more intelligently run cafeteria, the cafeteria could publish its menu a week in advance. Employees who wish to order a meal for any given day submit their orders early. The orders would be accepted up to two days before to prevent people ordering a week’s worth of food in advance, but never show up to eat it. They also can’t order the “day of” because a cafeteria can’t operate that way without over ordering. This then allows the cafeteria to know a few days in advance how much food to order to handle that day’s lunch orders. This limits the food order costs to only those who order meals and only to the amount foods needed to create those ordered meals.

The cafeteria could add on a limited number of extra meals beyond those that were ordered to handle a limited number of walk-ins as well as replacement meals, just in case.

Alternatively, Twitter could contract with a meal provider like Eat Club, which essentially does the same as what I describe above. You order your meal up to a couple of days in advance. This allows Eat Club to only need food enough to cover the meals ordered. It also means that Musk doesn’t need to operate a cafeteria at all, removing food costs and all cafeteria staff.

Beyond smartening up food costs of a cafeteria, other perks may also be targeted for removal, such as child care, reimbursement of certain types of expenses and other employee benefits which are costly. The public may never know about the other perks that get eliminated unless Musk states them publicly or employees speak up, but that’s unlikely because Musk has likely required an NDA for all employees.

Moving Twitter’s HQ

To reduce yet more expenses, the next place for a CEO to look is to expensive office leases. Twitter operates in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the nation, San Francisco, California. Worse, Twitter operates in San Francisco city proper. While San Francisco has, at least in the past, been amenable to offering tax incentives and subsidies to companies willing to remain in San Francisco, there’s no way to know if Twitter benefits from those.

Unfortunately, San Francisco does not extend those tax breaks and incentives to individuals who work in the city. San Francisco is one of THE most expensive places in the nation to live and work. That’s why so many people commute into San Francisco rather than actually living there… that and the crime rate in SF is astonishing. If you work in San Francisco and commute there, expect to spend at least $340 per month simply for a parking space every day. And no, most companies operating in San Francisco won’t pay parking expenses for employees. That’s simply a pay cut you deal with when working at San Francisco companies. The same lack of reimbursement goes for gas expenses or choosing to ride BART or Caltrain every day.

What this expensive lease means for Twitter staffers is that eventually Musk is likely to move Twitter’s HQ to Texas along side Tesla’s HQ. That means that staffers will eventually be forced make the decision to move to Texas or find a different job in California. This mandate has not yet come down from Musk, but looking ahead to the future, this is very likely Musk’s trajectory. That all assumes Twitter doesn’t fail long before a move.

Bankruptcy

Twitter may not quite yet be on the verge of bankruptcy, but only because Musk apparently still seems to have some liquid cash stashed somewhere to pay Twitter’s bills. He may even be using some of his own personal cash to prop Twitter up at this point. Considering that many advertisers have left Twitter, which is made worse because the previous management team failed to secure pre-buys for advertising in 2023, Twitter is about to come into a cash crunch very soon. No advertisers means no ad revenue. For this reason, Musk has his hands tied trying to keep Twitter from running out of cash. Hence, Musk’s $8/mo plan to try and keep Twitter afloat. If Twitter runs out of cash, it’s all over.

There are very likely no banks willing to extend Twitter yet more loans amid the billions that Twitter has already leveraged in Musk’s ill advised buyout. Musk knows this. That’s throwing good money after bad.

Once Twitter’s liquid cash runs out, there’s no way to pay the server bills or staff or electric bills or any other bills. Considering how drastically and rapidly Musk is cutting, Twitter’s cash flow situation must be relatively dire.

What that all means is that Twitter is very likely just weeks away from bankruptcy, which is dependent on Twitter’s cash burn rate. As I said above, Musk may be dipping into his own personal wallet to fund Twitter at this point. If so, it’s understandable why Musk is cutting so deeply and so rapidly. Who wants to prop up millions in cash burn every day? Musk is wealthy, but that’s not a smart way to use (or rather, lose) money.

[UPDATE] It looks increasingly likely that Twitter will need to file bankruptcy. This New York Times article explains that some of Twitter’s bills are now going unpaid. That’s the first step toward not being able to pay any bills.

But once Mr. Musk took over the company, he refused to reimburse travel vendors for those bills, current and former Twitter employees said. Mr. Musk’s staff said the services were authorized by the company’s former management and not by him. His staff have since avoided the calls of the travel vendors, the people said….

Twitter’s spending has dropped, but the moves have spurred complaints from insiders — as well as from some vendors who are owed millions of dollars in back payments. —New York Times

Yeah, this is a bad sign. If vendors are now going unpaid, that indicates lawsuits from just about every angle are imminent against Twitter. It’s also a matter of time before Musk stops paying other critical bills.

Check Mark for $8/mo

yellow dead end sign during day time

One additional thing that Musk has banked on to increase revenues over Twitter’s loss of advertising revenue is to charge users $8/mo for Twitter. Not only was Twitter free to use in the past, the compensation for using Twitter was Twitter’s free access to the IP content generated by its users.

Instead, Musk has forgotten and ignored that gentleman’s agreement between Twitter users and Twitter, instead choosing to try to make money off the backs of its content creators. That would be tantamount to YouTube charging its content creators monthly for the privilege of creating content for YouTube. It’s a ridiculous ask.

The Check Mark verification system originally instituted by Twitter was intended to prove that those with a check mark are who they say they are. Unfortunately, by reducing this feature to an $8/mo plan and because more than half of Twitter employees have been sacked, there’s effectively no one left at Twitter who can actually verify someone who buys the $8/mo plan.

That fact was born out when Musk released the not-ready-for-primetime feature to the public before it was ready, let alone tested. A bunch of bad actors all paid $8 and then began impersonating nearly every celebrity that you could possibly think of. This then forced Musk to halt the program, but not before much damage had been done to the platform and the reputation of the “new” Check Mark program.

Musk was forced to shut down the subscription plan in an attempt to revamp it. So far, the fixed plan has not been released. Those who purchased and who played games were left holding the bag when they were unable to change their usernames back. Irony shines hard on bad actors for being bad actors. Anyway, Musk is a loose cannon and this is clear example of that. Musk was so desperate to make revenue, he was willing to release an unfinished feature that was easily gamed by the bad actors on Twitter.

Worse, it has brought even more bad actors to the platform and those are now beginning their own tirades. Yet, Twitter is now so understaffed and because the bad actors know this, they are running rampant all over the platform harassing, trolling, spewing hate speech and there’s no one there watching or enforcing. Twitter is literally a cesspool. If we thought Twitter was bad under Dorsey, it’s 1000 times worse under Musk… and Musk literally doesn’t care.

Above all of this, Musk plans to prioritize tweets for those who pay and de-prioritize tweets for those who don’t. Meaning, if you pay, you get placement and visibility. If you don’t, your tweets don’t get seen. More than this, Musk even admitted to hiding tweets that he doesn’t like. I’ve even seen this behavior. Hidden tweets are not new. Thread creators can hide tweets of those they don’t like. This goes one step beyond hidden tweets. This allows Twitter to hide tweets silently. No one knows tweets have been hidden unless you go check. Even then, you can’t know it’s been hidden unless you see certain behaviors within Twitter’s UI. Your tweet could be visible one moment and invisible the next, with no notification.

This behavior goes way beyond benign and lands well into nefarious territory. There is zero difference between suspending people over bad tweets and hiding people’s tweets from view without warning or notification. They’re both forms of oppression and speech suppression by an overly wealthy man-boy who simply becomes triggered too easily. This cliché comes to mind, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire!” Which leads to…

The Rise of Oligarchy in Journalism

Make no mistake, even 280 characters is considered a form of journalism. However, because users aren’t journalists, they aren’t bound by journalistic ethics. Meaning, bad actors believe they can say anything they wish, sometimes even doing so willfully to test the boundaries for how far they can take their speech.

Regardless, wealthy individuals are beginning to buy up these large platforms for their own egocentric interests. For example, Rupert Murdoch purchased Fox News (and other similar news outfits) to push his own personal political agendas. Later, after Warner Brothers Discovery purchased CNN, we’ve come to find that billionaire John Malone is a large stakeholder in this new CNN acquired outfit. The latest, of course, is billionaire Elon Musk who has now purchased Twitter, yet another more or less news outfit. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has his own biases which get injected into Facebook’s operation… and yes, Zuckerberg is also considered a media influencing oligarch.

Oligarchy is now firmly entrenched in our media sources in ways that are not amenable to providing unbiased news sources. With Fox News’ right leaning bent at the hand of Rupert Murdoch and now CNN’s more-or-less right leaning bent with John Malone and Musk’s somewhat right leaning bent with Twitter, more and more news organizations are becoming right wing news sources because of these right wing billionaires.

Yet, the government is doing nothing to halt or stymie this harm to consumers. Overall, right wing propaganda is getting more and more intense, with these right wing news organizations spewing false propaganda claiming it is the left who is doing the damage? It’s not left wing billionaires buying up news sources. Note, there is another blog article here yet to be written which is born out of this section, look for it soon.

I’m not saying that left wing or right wing political slants are at all good business for media. However, it appears that the vast majority of false disinformation is coming from right wing media. False information that is perpetrated as truth, particularly about left wing politics.

I’m not here to get into who’s right and who’s wrong. I’m simply disclosing that the political discourse in many media platforms are now being swayed by right wing billionaires. This is to the loss of professional unbiased journalism. It will have to fall to small blog article sites, like WordPress, that are independently run not by right or left wing billionaires where news can be had in unbiased ways. That assumes that right wing billionaires don’t buy up these blogging sites, too. Unfortunately, too many people are willing to listen to these biased news organizations thinking they are both unbiased and purport truth when, in fact, they do neither the vast majority of the time.

Alternative Platforms

While there isn’t a clear winner for a Twitter replacement, some are in the works while others are trying. For example, both Tribel and Mastodon are giving it a good college try and likely have seen an influx of traffic since Twitter’s wobbly last few weeks.

One might also consider Truth Social were it not simply a playground for Donald Trump’s exceedingly fragile ego. If you go over to Truth Social, expect to be barraged by ads. Also, don’t expect to be able to say anything negative about Trump or any of his sycophants or you’ll be banned. Freedom of speech is most definitely not alive and well at Truth Social.

As for Tribel and Mastodon, read their terms and conditions closely before opening an account. Tribel, for example, requires you to agree to hand over all rights to any Intellectual Property (IP) that you upload into Tribel. You forfeit all rights for anything you submit to Tribel. Twitter’s terms allow you to retain ownership, but give Twitter rights to use it. However, with Musk’s haphazard behavior, anything is now possible. I simply can’t trust that Twitter is a safe space any longer.

One possibility is waiting for Jack Dorsey’s BlueSky social which is based on a decentralized system like Mastodon. However, there’s no way to know if Dorsey’s BlueSky will become the defacto Social Media site like Twitter was. However, it may be worth waiting for BlueSky to see if it can become a sufficient replacement for Twitter.

For now, there’s no real leader in social media… unless you trust Facebook and its ilk completely (i.e., Instagram and WhatsApp), which I personally do not. Facebook, or more specifically Meta, has proven itself time and again to be a completely untrustworthy organization. And now, Twitter has fallen into this same trap of being entirely untrustworthy.

Overall

Twitter is a train wreck unfolding right before our eyes. Musk says he wants Twitter to succeed, but his actions say the opposite. From his lackadaisical application of Terms and Conditions to random suspensions to sacking half of Twitter’s staff without understanding that there’s no one there to moderate the platform.

Because of all of these factors, Twitter has effectively become a free for all for bad actors. By ‘Bad Actors’, I mean people who are intent on causing mischief, trolling, attacking people and being general nuisances all without any supervision. In effect, the crazies are running the show at Twitter and Musk clearly doesn’t care.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the hours needed to spend babysitting Twitter trolls. Prior to Musk, at least 50% of the time you could have civilized discourse between various people. Now, there’s almost no one willing or able to have civilized discourse on Twitter, instead choosing to attack, troll or vomit random memes in hopes of solely getting a rise out of someone… simply to pick a fight.

I don’t have time to become a babysitter for Twitter babies. That’s Twitter’s job, not mine… and Twitter is not doing it. Twitter doesn’t pay me to do that work, yet I’m expected to deal with it? No.

As long as Twitter can’t get their shit together, I’m out. I simply can’t spend hours babysitting a Twitter account to continually mute, block and report thousands of users for inappropriate behavior. I don’t even want to think about what celebrities are going through right now with perhaps tens of thousands or millions of followers. Twitter is simply a disaster.

One thing is certain, there will be a dedicated chapter written over “How not to run a business” in business school textbooks for Musk’s incredibly shitty handling of Twitter.

Once Twitter folds, the best thing I can say about it is, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” I’ll also say that, for the record, it does appear that Twitter is on the brink of collapse. Clearly, Musk didn’t perform his fiduciary responsibility to ensure Twitter’s books were solid before making an offer to purchase. Instead, he harped only on the excessive number of bots on the platform. If Twitter was in this dire of a financial situation prior to the purchase, that should have been enough for Musk to squash the purchase contract. Who agrees to buy a financially insolvent company?

Musk, if you’re reading… finger-512.


If you enjoy reading Randocity, I urge you to click the follow button to continue to get notifications for all new content.

↩︎

How does Twitter Philanthropy work?

Posted in advice, philanthropy, scams by commorancy on April 23, 2020

blur cash close up dollars

How does all of this Twitter philanthropy actually work? Let’s explore the seedier side of it.

Twitter Philanthropy Exposed

I won’t name any specific accounts simply because there are too many of these accounts preying on people’s needs, but let me expose how these accounts REALLY work. There is one on top of this pile, but I will let you find it yourself. If you search Google for the key words “Twitter Philanthropy“, you will find this specific Twitter account within the first 10 search results. But, don’t go run over there just yet to follow it before reading this article.

Twitter Impersonation

Let’s start this out by explaining how these accounts operate. While some of these large Twitter philanthropy accounts purport to be operated by a single individual, they are not. Instead, they are operated by a team of individuals who have access to this single Twitter account so named for a single person. In fact, this situation is in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service rules of impersonation.

Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand, or organization in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under Twitter’s impersonation policy.

By operating an account as a team, rather than by the single individual named on the account, this is definitely impersonation… regardless of whether the single individual has authorized that “team” for that purpose.

If you are interacting with a Twitter account who appears to be a single person, but unbeknownst to you there are actually multiple people who are not the named individual operating that account, this is entirely deceptive and misleading… and the very definition of impersonation. You are not dealing with the person you think you are. This is in violation of Twitter’s rules. Whether Twitter sees it that way is entirely subjective and based on Twitter’s whims, unfortunately.

Team Accounts

There are many team operated accounts on Twitter. Many celebrities operate such accounts. Since the celeb can’t be at the account 24/7 to answer responses, they hire staff to manage these tweets. Most times, these celebrities are represented fairly and appropriately by their hired staff, mostly because the staffers remain in close contact with the celebrity to make sure the tweets are appropriate to the celebrity’s brand.

With these philanthropy accounts, it seems these are much more loosely operated. The team is made up of people around Twitter who manage this account and have Twitter accounts of their own. They don’t always seem to have direct approval of the account owner. If you read through some of these philanthropic account tweets, they seem to show random and incoherent tweet-to-tweet messaging, espousing differing and hypocritical ideals. Why? Because different people are posting these tweets to that single account under the guise of impersonating a single person.

Philanthropy Exposed

While these accounts may have started out as genuine philanthropy, they have degraded into an odd scam that takes advantage of people’s needs… and mostly exist as ways of gaining followers. Worse, these accounts breed even more scam artists. Scam artists who WILL take advantage of you and scam you in the process. I’ll talk about the scammers at the end and how those work. Let’s focus on the actual purported philanthropy accounts first.

Why a team?

Good question and one that you’ll understand once I explain it. Basically, when more team staffers are attempting to locate money from other contributors, that means more money to share in the guise of philanthropy under that single Twitter account. Looking for contributions isn’t the problem here, though. It’s the scammy WAY that this team goes about looking for contribution money. If this single aspect doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, keep following along as it gets so much worse.

The team that makes up the single top Twitter philanthropy account uses Twitter (and sites like GoFundMe) to gain money first. Instead of actually giving out money from the purported account owner, the team actually solicits money contributions from random people using dubious methods including begging, groveling and outright scamming using sites like GoFundMe. These team members are then adding their ill-gotten money into that Twitter account’s philanthropy fund for giveaways.

Here’s where the deceptive part comes in. This team of people collect these monies using their own personal accounts, accounts not associated with that Twitter philanthropy account. This makes it difficult to trace where that philanthropy money actually came from. Deceptive and a form of money laundering. Dirty. When other people contribute their money to one of these outside accounts for some possibly even fake purported need, this is a huge problem for these larger philanthropist accounts. Any money given out by a philanthropist shouldn’t have been obtained by using a scam. Yet, here we are.

Yes, this means this team is not actually giving out the philanthropy account owner’s money, as is implied by the account owner’s statements. Instead, that team is raising funds using outside means, possibly using deceptive means (claiming to be raising money on behalf of a veteran or claiming to have a high electric bill). Then, they take that money that has been raised and give it out on Twitter. Do they give out 100% of that contributed money? Do they use the money towards the claimed need? My guess to both of these questions is no. These philanthropy accounts might be keeping as much as 50% or more of the money they collect and, in turn, only give out 50% or less of those ill-gotten contributed funds.

It’s one thing to solicit money for an intended purpose and use it for that purpose. It’s entirely another to solicit money for a purpose, not use it for that purpose and give it away to someone on Twitter. Full disclosure here? Yeah, no. Not to mention the tax ramifications of such a setup.

Giving Money Away

While giving away money might seem a good thing, this action actually preys on people in need. Worse, the way these accounts are being managed is dubious at best. Yes, it gets even worse. These accounts have so many followers that they can’t possibly manage what gets written into their Tweets. What you’ll find in most of the Tweet replies consist of people claiming to also give away money. I’d bet that at least 99.9% of these people dropping in Tweet replies are scammers looking to part you from your money. It might even be some of the team running that same philanthropy account looking for money for their next “giveaway”.

This is why this situation is a double whammy for those in need. Not only is there so little money given away from these top Twitter philanthropy accounts (they can only raise a couple hundred dollars at a time usually), the Tweet replies are chock full of scam artists willing to take advantage of you.

The act of giving away this money on Twitter might seem altruistic, but I guarantee you that it is not. There is no altruism going on here. It’s all about gaining followers on Twitter and making it SEEM like the account is altruistic. It’s just a show. The reality is, it’s a business that follows the following formula:

  • Team hides behind Philanthropy account (unbeknownst to Twitter followers)
  • Team is tasked to raise money (using whatever dubious means necessary) from random individuals, each team member raising money separately using their own individual accounts
  • Team places raised money into Twitter account fund for “giveaways”
  • Team likely keeps much of that money for themselves as “payment”
  • Twitter Philanthropy occasionally awards random folks for random reasons

What if I win?

If you are one of the very few who manage to get picked to receive money from a philanthropic Twitter account, don’t think it’s all roses. To receive any money, you are required to jump through legal hoops before that money is deposited into your account.

“What legal hoops?”, you ask. Good question. You are required to agree to a long, stringent set of terms and conditions before you are awarded any money. These conditions allow this Twitter philanthropy account to do whatever they want with your win while restricting you. What document would I sign? You will need to read and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and return it to the team operating the philanthropic account before you can take possession of that $20 or whatever small amount they are willing to give you. This is the very definition of victimizing someone in need. Someone in desperate need of money would be willing to sign just about ANYTHING to get that “free” money.

Once you agree to their restrictive terms and conditions, they will send you that money via CashApp or whatever other agreed upon payment system. If you violate these terms, they will sue you.

This is not a no-strings-attached way to get money. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that some of these “charity acts” might actually be loans which must be repaid at some point in the future. In other words, be very, very careful if you choose to attempt to get money out of these philanthropic accounts. They may screw you on the way in and on the way out… and perhaps even later in the future.

Twitter’s Response

Unfortunately, Twitter (the company) doesn’t monitor or manage any of these philanthropy accounts. They allow them to operate with impunity. Because it seems that these philanthropic accounts “appear” (it’s all about appearances) to be doing good for the community, Twitter (the company run by Jack Dorsey) turns a blind eye and allows this bad situation to continue and fester. Few people actually get anything good out of these accounts. Even more are getting scammed from the tweet replies claiming to also give away money for following and retweeting. Don’t fall for any tweet replies. They’re almost certainly a scam.

Essentially, Twitter is turning a blind eye to these accounts which, in fact, do not perform a “good service” for Twitter. In fact, there are likely more people being scammed out of their money than ever receive money from any Twitter philanthropy. On Twitter, it’s not okay to write about certain controversial topics, but it’s perfectly acceptable to take advantage of people in need and scam them out of even more money? Thanks for looking out for us, Jack!

Scams and Philanthropy

bollinger wine bottle on boat

As I stated earlier about Tweet replies in the article, let’s now understand how you can get scammed through fake philanthropy on Twitter. There’s actually more fake philanthropy going on Twitter than there is genuine philanthropy.

In fact, it’s very easy to get scammed out of money on Twitter. This specific scam isn’t what the top philanthropy accounts are using, however. Instead, they use the model described above, which is nearly as seedy. With that, let’s look at how fake philanthropy accounts on Twitter attempt to part you from your money so they can sip champagne on a beach.

This next philanthropy scam is bait and switch and it’s the primary way they scam you. How this one works is that you’ll see someone Tweet replying they’re willing to give you money and all they need is your CashApp tag sent to them over a direct message (DM). You then give it to them. Seems harmless enough, right?

The Scam Begins

Over the DM area, they’ll start by asking you a lot of seemingly personal questions. If you pass all of these probing questions, they’ll explain to you that their CashApp app is broken and that they can’t use it. They’ll tell you they need to switch to using PayPal. Here’s where the scam actually begins. Any philanthropy person who switches the payment method sets up a HUGE RED 🚩. Don’t fall for this. If the person can’t use CashApp, which enticed you in, to send you the money, walk away. CashApp can be used by anyone and it can be set up quickly. Any excuse someone gives for not using CashApp is fake.

When they switch to using PayPal, they can then claim to need you to send them money to cover fees or other such nonsense to complete the PayPal cash transfer. In that goal, they’ll issue you an invoice to pay. This is the scam. First, PayPal doesn’t need money to complete a cash transfer. Anyone making this claim is scamming you. Second, you shouldn’t need to pay any money to get money. If they can legitimately pay you, they will pay you no strings attached. Third, remember that they roped you in by offering the use of CashApp, then inexplicably switched to PayPal (bait and switch).

Anyone who can legitimately pay you money can do so using CashApp. There is no need to switch to another service. You can read more about PayPal scams here, and there are plenty more just like this one.

Screenshots

To attempt to trick you further by making themselves seem legit, they will send over a screenshot showing that they paid someone else money. A screen shot is EASILY faked, let alone found on the Internet. There’s no way to verify that any screenshot they send you is in any way linked to them (or even legitimate). In other words, screenshots are not proof of anything, let alone of being charitable.

If the person is legitimate, they will send you the money without asking you for anything in return. If they ask for anything in return, it’s a scam.

Uncomfortable Questions

Other behaviors they might exhibit is asking a series of deep probing questions you might not feel comfortable answering. Specifically, question like what bank you are using, what credit card companies you have, and so on. That’s none of their business. If they’re willing to send you money under philanthropy, they don’t need any of this information. If they begin asking probing questions like social security numbers, birth dates, actual account numbers or any other deep personal information, this has the hallmark of scam all over it. Remind them that the CashApp tag is all they need to send over money. If they can’t do this simple one thing, then they’re not legitimate.

Philanthropy should be about the good in giving, not finding out as many personal details about a person as possible. If someone begins asking very deep diving personal questions about you, your location and your finances, walk away. Explain to them that they don’t need that information to be charitable. If their charity relies on this information, they can find someone else.

Chances are, the reason they are asking these personal questions is to not only scam you, but take the rest of your accounts for a ride.

The Dark Side of Twitter Philanthropy

photo of guy fawkes mask with red flower on top on hand

Yes, there is actually an extremely dark side to Twitter philanthropy which has now been exposed showing just how dark it can get. No, Twitter philanthropy is not all roses, as some adamantly claim.

For a moment, let’s suppose you do win the philanthropy lottery. Let me ask you this simple question. As a recipient of that supposed good will money, do you really want to accept that money not really knowing if someone behind that philanthropy account scammed another to give you that money?

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to either. Money can be helpful, but not at the cost of someone else being scammed out of it. Be careful and tread lightly when following any Twitter philanthropy accounts. Keep your guard up and watch out for people on Twitter claiming to be altrustic do-gooders. In these especially hard times, don’t fall for fake altruism. If you are really in need of money, head over to GoFundMe and plead your own case with your money raising efforts. The money you raise at GoFundMe will be yours without such underlying strings. If you’re putting your hand out towards someone else’s wallet, particularly on Twitter, expect the worst in people.

In fact, let me point you to this exposé article describing one particular philanthropy account on Twitter. This article is a bit disjointed of a read, but if you can follow it, you will better understand this very dark and seedy side of Twitter Philanthropy in excruciating detail.

↩︎

Rant Time: Apple Music vs Twitter

Posted in Apple, botch, business, california by commorancy on September 12, 2018

apple-cracked-3.0-noderivsI know I’ve been on a tirade with the number of rants recently, but here we are. I rant when there’s something to rant about. This time it’s about sharing Apple Music playlists on Twitter… and just how badly this feature is broken. Worse, just how Apple itself is broken. Let’s explore.

Twitter Cards

Twitter has a feature they call Twitter cards. It’s well documented and requires a number of meta tags to be present in an HTML page. When the page is shared via Twitter, Twitter goes looking at the HTML for its respective Twitter meta tags to generate a Twitter card.

A Twitter card comes in two sizes and looks something like this:

Small Twitter Card

Twitter Card Small 2

Large Twitter Card

Large Twitter Card

What determines the size of the Twitter card seems to be the size and ratio of the image. If the image is square in size (144×144 or larger), Twitter creates a small card as shown at the top. If the image ratio is not square and larger than 144×144, Twitter produces a large Twitter card. The difference between the cards is obvious:

  • Small card has an image to the left and text to the right
  • Large card has image above and text below

It’s up to the person sharing on Twitter to decide which size is most appropriate. Personally, I prefer the larger size because it allows for a much larger image.

Apple Music Playlist Sharing

Here’s where the RANT begins… hang onto your hat’s folks. Apple’s engineering team doesn’t get Twitter cards…. AT. ALL! Let me give an example of this. Here’s a playlist I shared on Twitter:

Apple Music Playlist Twitter Card

What’s wrong with this Twitter card? If you guessed the image is way too tiny, you’d win. Apple doesn’t understand the concept of producing a 144×144 image properly. Here’s the fundamental problem. In iTunes, my playlist image is uploaded with a 1200×1200 size image. This image is well large enough for any use on the net. Here’s how it looks in iTunes, albeit scaled somewhat small:

iTunes Playlist Image

Note, iTunes retains the full image size, but scales the image as needed. If you look at the playlist on the web, it looks like this with a much larger scaled image:

Apple Playlist Web

As you can see, the image scales properly and still looks good even larger. Yes, even large enough to produce a 144×144 image on a Twitter card.

Here’s the Twitter card metadata on that Apple Music Preview page:

meta id="1" name="twitter:title" content="‎AstroWorld Pioneer by Klearnote" class="ember-view"

meta id="2" name="twitter:description" content="‎Playlist · 22 Songs" class="ember-view"

meta id="3" name="twitter:site" content="@appleMusic" class="ember-view">

meta id="4" name="twitter:domain" content="Apple Music" class="ember-view">

meta id="5" name="twitter:image" 
content="https://is5-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/SG-S3-US-Std-Image-000001/v4/a2/c6/6f/a2c66fc6-a63b-f590-c6db-e41aebfc327c/image/600x600wp.png" 
class="ember-view"

meta id="6" name="twitter:card" content="summary" class="ember-view"

You’ll notice that the text in red above is the piece that is relevant. Let’s look at that image now…

600x600wp

Scaled. Click to see 600×600 image

You’ll notice that the playlist image content is centered at 213×213 pixels in size centered in a light grey box that’s 600×600. Yes, that thick light grey border is part of the image. This is actually how the image is being produced by Apple on their servers. That would be okay if the image were scaled to the full 600×600 pixels. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Twitter will scale any image to its preferred size of 144×144 pixels for small Twitter cards. Here’s what a 144×144 image looks like when scaled by WordPress:

600x600wp

Small, but reasonably clear. Here’s Twitter’s crap scaled and unreadable version:

twitter-144x144

I have no idea what Twitter is using to scale its images, but it looks like absolute trash. The bigger problem isn’t that Twitter has scaled this image down, it’s that Apple has provided Twitter with such an already small and crap looking playlist image. Why have a 144×144 image if you’re only going to use 1/9th of the entire space? Apple, why wouldn’t you not want to use the entire 144×144 image space to make the image look like this:

pioneer-1200x1200

That sized image would make the Twitter card look like this…

TwitterCardFixed

… instead of this absolute shit looking card…

TwitterCardBroken

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Apple used to be a well respected company who always prided itself on doing things correctly and producing high quality products. Today, they’re a shadow of their former selves. Producing products as crap as this only serves as a detriment to all of the other products they now offer. It’s clear, Apple Music is an afterthought and Apple seems to have only one engineer assigned to this software product… maybe none.

It’s also clear, Apple doesn’t respect the standards of anyone, not even themselves. I consider this absolute crap attention to detail. Seriously, who wants their images to be scaled to the point of being unreadable? No one!

Yet, when I called Apple Support to report this issue, I was told, “This is expected behavior”. Expected by whom? Who would ever expect an image to be scaled the point of nonrecognition? No one. If this is the level of software development effort we’re now seeing from Apple, then I don’t even want to think what corners are being cut on their hardware products.

What’s next? Apple watches catching on fire and exploding on people’s wrists? Phones taking out people’s ears? If I can no longer trust Apple to uphold the standards of high quality, then the mighty have truly fallen. There is no hope for Apple no matter how much crap they try to peddle.

Apple, Hear Me!

If you are serious about your business, then you need to be serious about all aspects including offering high quality products, services and features. This goes all the way to playlist sharing on Twitter. My experience with dealing with Apple in this matter was so amateur, including the way Apple Music itself is being handled, why should I continue to use your products? Give me a reason to pay you $99 for such shit service! Seriously, in addition to the above, I’m also finding what appear to be bootlegged music products on Apple Music and yet you’re pawning it off as official releases?

And as suggested by your representative, why should I contact Twitter for this issue? Twitter’s features work properly when provided with the correct information. As has been stated for years in software engineering, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. It is you, Apple, who are providing Twitter with garbage information. It’s not a Twitter problem, it’s an Apple problem. Also, because this is an Apple engineering problem to solve, why should I contact Twitter on Apple’s behalf? I don’t work for you. You need to have YOUR engineering team contact Twitter and have them explain to you the errors of your ways.

This is just the tip of the iceberg here. There’s so much wrong at Apple, if you continue to entrust your family’s safety into Apple’s products, you may find one of your family members injured or dead. Apple, wake up and learn to take quality seriously.

The next time you are shopping for a computer or a watch device, you need to ask yourself, “Do I really trust Apple to provide safe choices for me or my family?”

Apple has now officially and truly reached the level of shit!

Broken Apple Image credit: The King of The Vikings via DeviantArt

↩︎

Rant Time: The problem with Twitter

Posted in botch, business, social media by commorancy on August 27, 2018

Twitter-smTwitter began as a lofty idea for small text social conversation. For many of its early years, it managed to keep some semblance of order and decency. As of 2018, the platform has devolved into something far less useful and more problematic. Let’s explore.

Primary Twitter Topics

Today, Twitter is primarily dominated by breaking news, gun control and political rhetoric, sometimes all three at the same time. While these topics do have a place, reading these dominant conversations every moment of every day is tiring. It also goes against the diversity of what the platform is intended to offer. While these topics have a place, they don’t really have a place as the dominant force on Twitter. They exist simply to clog up each Twitter user’s feed.

Twitter’s Failings and Slow Development

When Twitter began back in 2006, it offered a fairly limited social conversation platform with its 140 character limit. In fact, that limit wasn’t raised until early 2018, 12 years later… when the limit went up to 280 characters. Talk about slow development! This 140 character limit was a holdover from SMS days which still to this day hold this limit. I do not know why Twitter chose this arbitrarily small amount of text for a social conversation platform. It had no relation to SMS and couldn’t send SMS messages, so it never made sense.

Twitter has also firmly embraced the “no edit” mantra to the chagrin of many. To modify a tweet, you must delete it, then recreate it. This is a cumbersome hassle. It also means that any feedback you had on that tweet must be forfeit. There’s a real incentive to get the tweet right the first time. For a conversation platform in 2018, this limitation on a text discussion platform is completely ludicrous. Clarification of thought is extremely important in all text mediums. The only way to ensure clarify of thought is via editing. We all make mistakes when typing, such as their for there or they’re. These are extremely common typing mistakes. Sometimes it’s the accidental misuse of homonyms. There are plenty of other types of common mistakes. There is also rewording. Yet, here we are… 12 years after Twitter’s inception and we STILL can’t edit a tweet. What the hell is going on over there at Twitter, Jack Dorsey?

While Twitter has grown little since 2006, only offering better privacy, limited feed customization, an ad platform and some UI improvements, it really has done next to nothing to improve the user functionality since 2006. I’ve worked at companies where the product has almost completely performed a 180º turn in product features in only 1-2 years. Twitter has remained nearly stagnant, feature wise and has implemented clamored features at an absolute snail’s pace (read, it hasn’t implemented them) in its 12 years of existence.

Censorship

As we all should understand, the first amendment free speech protections do not apply to private corporations. This ultimately means that there can be no speech submitted on the Twitter platform that is protected. As much as people want to complain that some left or right winger has been suspended, banned or otherwise dismissed from Twitter, that is Twitter’s right. Twitter is not a government owned or operated corporation. Therefore, they can censor, delete, suspend or otherwise prevent a user or entity from putting any content onto their platform for any reason.

What this means is that Twitter can do whatever they wish and claim violations of ‘terms of service’. After all, Twitter writes the terms of service and can modify them at any time without notification to anyone. In fact, Twitter isn’t even required to have explicit terms listed and they can still delete or suspend anyone they wish, for any reason. As I said, free speech protections on Twitter do not apply.

Leadership Team

Jack Dorsey heads up the leadership team at Twitter as CEO. In the last 1-2 years, he’s spouted rhetoric about reduction of hate speech on Twitter. What that ultimately translates to, within Twitter’s current moderation tool limits, is deletion of selected speech or accounts, regardless whether it contains hate speech or not. If Twitter doesn’t like what you have to say, out you go.

Twitter SuspendedNo more evident is that in those users who have amassed 15k followers or more. One foible on one of these accounts and Twitter closes it. No no, can’t have a 15k or more followers seeing something that Twitter management doesn’t like. Even celebs aren’t immune to this. If you are reading the article and you have amassed more than 6000 followers, your account is a risk with each tweet you post, particularly if your speech primarily consists of political messages, controversial topics or divisive ideas (NRA vs Gun Control, Abortion vs Pro Life, Trump bashing, etc).

The current technical means at Twitter’s disposal to reduce this kind of speech consists of tweet deletion, account suspensions or bans. Twitter has no other means at its disposal. In reality, Twitter has dug the hole it is now in. Twitter has failed to foresee problems of user scale. Whenever the total user base grows, so are the problems amplified that go with that. Twitter should have initially implemented some level of moderation and anointed users to help moderate its platform in a similar fashion to both Wikipedia and Reddit. It didn’t.

Twitter is to Blame

Twitter has only itself to blame for not taking proactive action sooner and in failing to build more complete moderation tools sooner. Additionally, social platforms that have implemented self-moderation automated systems have done exceptionally well. When the community downvotes certain content at a certain level, then Twitter should not promote it into user’s feeds. In fact, Twitter’s continual promotion of tweets into people’s primary feeds has actually propagated hate and problematic speech. Instead, Twitter should have been building a self-policing platform from day one or at least within the first couple of years. They chose not to.

Even today, Twitter still hasn’t built a self-policing platform. I regularly find hate speech in my feed. Worse, while I can mark the stuff I like with a heart, I have no such action to force items out of my feed that I choose not to see. The best I can do is mute the user or mute the account. Why is that Twitter? Why can’t I mark individual types of tweets that I no longer want to see and have that content removed from my feed? Why do I have to trudge all the way into preferences and put in mute words or, even more sledgehammery, mute or block the user? Even then, that only affects my account. It doesn’t have any impact on the global Twitter.

Employing Social Moderation and Tweet Grading

Using social moderation is both effective and necessary when you’re working with millions of users sending millions of messages per day. Twitter is a social platform. Let’s use that social interaction of those millions of people to bubble worthy messages to the top and sink crap messages so they never get seen. This is the ONLY way to effectively moderate at scale on a social platform. The value of each tweet is in its worth to viewers. Many viewers all marking tweets downward means less people see it. Many viewers marking tweets up means more people will see it. I can’t imagine that any sane person would choose to vote up hate speech, death threats or similar unacceptable or violent content.

I’m not saying that any one user should have undue influence over a tweet’s popularity. In fact, users will need to build their trust and reputation levels on the platform. For example, newly created accounts might not even be able to influence up or downward momentum of tweets right out of the gate. It might take 2-4 months of interactions on the platform before the user’s interactions begin to count. This way, users can’t go out and create 100 or more accounts in an attempt to get their tweet to the top of popularity. In fact, any tweet that ends up getting upvotes from too many newly created accounts without other upvotes should be marked as suspect and have their own trust levels locked or reduced.

Additionally, it should take interactions from many trusted accounts simultaneously to raise a tweet’s popularity substantially, particularly if those accounts have no relationship to one another (not following each other). This says that independent users have found a tweet’s content to be worthy of interaction by others.

This isn’t to say this is the only algorithm that could be built to handle social moderation, but it would definitely be a good start and a way to take this platform to the next level. Conversely, I will state that building an algorithm to scan and rate a tweet based solely on its textual content is next to impossible. Using the power of social interaction to grade a tweet and raise or lower its value is the best way to force those who want to game the system out of the platform.

Also, there should be no exemptions from the system. Not for CNN, not for Proctor and Gamble, not for any account. Social moderation needs to apply to all accounts or it’s worthless.

I’m not saying that social moderation is in any way a perfect solution. It isn’t. But, at least it can be fair when implemented properly. Can this kind of system be gamed? Probably. But, the engineers would need to watch for this eventuality and be ready to make change to prevent further gaming of the system. Eventually, the holes will be patched.

Multiple feeds and Topics

Here’s another area where Twitter has failed. As with any social platform, users have likes and dislikes and topic preferences they want to see. For example, I really don’t want to see political bashing. That’s not my thing. I’d prefer a feed that is politic free. My only interest in politics and political candidates is when there’s an imminent election. Otherwise, I want it out of my feed. Same for NRA / Gun control arguments. Same for Trump tweet bashing. Same for Pro Life vs Abortion. I don’t want to waste time with these types of divisive controversial topics in my feed. I have better uses for my time. If I want to see that content, I will explicitly go searching for it. I don’t want it to automatically appear in my feed.

Yet, Twitter has not implemented any customized feeds based on likes, hobbies or preferences of information (i.e., new technology). Instead, Twitter has based this part on following Twitter accounts that offer such information. The problem is, chasing down these accounts to follow. Even then, because those accounts might only post new on-topic information 20% of the time, the other 80% of the time I would see stuff I don’t want to see in my feed. Herein lies the problem with Twitter. It shouldn’t be based on following a user, it should be based on following conversation topics.

I’d prefer to customize my feeds (and have several feeds hooked to different topics) and subscribe to those feeds. I don’t need to follow any given account that’s talks about stuff I’m not interested in. Instead, by following topics, my feed gets interesting tweets. I can then discover new accounts to follow and also discover topics I’m interested in. This is the single important piece that Jack and team have sorely failed to address within the Twitter platform. To reiterate, I want to see stuff in my feeds that I am interested in, even if I don’t follow that account. I don’t want to see stuff I’m not interested in at all even if following an account that tweets about it. Following by topic is more important than following by user.

This is the power of social media. This is the power of Twitter. This is what is missing to make Twitter a complete platform… this, in addition to social moderation.

Twitter’s Hand Moderation

Instead of implementing a social moderation system or an interests based feed system, Twitter has spent its time hand moderating by suspending and banning accounts all in its stated goal of “reducing hate speech”. While deleting accounts may reduce that account’s ability to post hate speech, it doesn’t stop the user from creating a brand new account and starting it all over again. This is Twitter’s flaw in the user follow model.

Only the above two designs: 1) topic based multiple feeds and 2) social moderation will lead to lasting change within the Twitter platform. Nothing else will. Twitter’s hand moderation technique is merely a small bandaid with limited scope. It will never make a dent in reducing hate speech on Twitter. Lasting change only comes from innovating the platform in new and better ways to improve the end user experience and, at the same time, reducing the signal to noise ratio.

It’s time for Twitter to step up and actually begin innovating its platform in substantial new and meaningful ways… or it will perish.

↩︎

School bullying takes on new life on Internet

Posted in Health, peer pressure by commorancy on October 4, 2010

School bullying and peer pressure is something that each of us has to endure at some point in our lives. When attending grade school, we quickly learn about bullies and peer pressure. This life lesson happens very quickly. Perhaps even as early as kindergarten when another kid pushes you down because you wouldn’t give them the purple crayon. Whatever the reason, it starts early and only gets more and more problematic over the years.

By Middle and High School, these bullying tactics go from wanting your crayon to making the student feel like an outsider. Peer pressure comes in many forms, though. From the person who taunts merely to give the bully pleasure over someone else’s pain to the bully who uses others to get their schoolwork done or get money.  The pressure might even force you into trying drugs or smoking.  Whatever the reason, it is very hard and emotionally painful on the student being pressured.

Internet bullying

With the advent of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter, it’s now easier than ever for students to broadcast themselves on the Internet for all to see. The danger, of course, is that by participating in such public web sites, each person can easily make themselves into a local celebrity unintentionally. Worse, your ‘friends’ are also on these sites and subscribe and comment on your personal statuses and posts.

Unfortunately, these very public outlets are both used and abused by student bullies. So, hanging the laundry out for everyone to see invites other people around you to comment. Not all comments are nice. Some even take the form of using bullying tactics to make the other person feel unwanted.

Teen Suicides

In the last few weeks, there has been 5 to 6 publicized teen suicides that are apparently directly attributed to Internet bullying. That said, these seem to have begun with local school bullies using the Internet to harass and humiliate these students. Students still in the teen years don’t yet have enough life experience to understand that the bullying isn’t the end-all-be-all of their existence. There is more to life than school and classmates. In fact, once you get past school, it’s likely you’ll never see most of those people ever again.

College, unfortunately, does present itself with peer pressure as well, but not always the same as high school. It can present in the form of Greek hazings, school clubs and other forms of social interaction situations. As a student in College, I had chosen not to become involved in any of these organizations because I wanted to concentrate my efforts on my studies.

Unfortunately, there are still other situations that can become an issue. The dorms. Many Colleges and Universities require you to live in the dorms for at least one or two years (depending on school policy). When you are forced to live in the dorms, you may also be forced to room with someone.

College Life, Dorms and Roommates

Unfortunately, when you’re forced to room with someone, you have to take the good with the bad. In my college dorm life, I’ve had several different roommates. One would go out drinking the entire night and come back smelling up the entire room of sickening alcohol breath. He would do this nearly every night. I was literally getting sick from the smell, I had to leave the room to get fresh air. I asked for a new roommate as I couldn’t sleep with that going on. The next roommate was a severe asthmatic who required breathing treatments every night using a loud machine.  The treatments lasted anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour.  I didn’t mind that he needed the treatments, I minded when he chose to do the treatments. He preferred to do this after 10PM and sometimes after midnight. That lasted about a semester.  I moved into a dorm without a roommate.  Unfortunately, even that situation wasn’t perfect as I had a suite-mate (we shared the bathroom).  In this situation, he was incessantly complaining about the bathroom.  After this, I moved into an apartment with another roommate and then later without one.

As a side note, if you sign a lease with a roommate (for whatever reason), be very careful.  If the roommate leaves and stops paying the rent, you are liable for the entire rent for the rest of the lease and all the utilities in your name.  So, be careful that you trust your roommate fully.  Also, sign small leases (6 months or less) and ask for an easy out should a roommate stop paying.  With cell phones, it’s easy to keep phone service separate now.  However, utilities like cable TV, internet service, water, gas and electricity can bite you.

Another side of this, with roommates, I would regularly find my stuff missing. Supplies and other items would inexplicably walk off. This would include pens, paper, books, CDs and personal items. I never knew exactly who was responsible, but I knew my roommate had let someone into the room. This is also part of college life. So, don’t bring valuables into a room with a roommate unless you really don’t treasure your belongings. Also, roommates do finger through everything you own, so be ready for this.  Finally, don’t allow your roommate to borrow or lend out your items to others.  You will never get them back.

Anyway, this basically means, you have no privacy in a dorm and roommate situation. This is also where bullying can start.

Social Clubs and Parties

In college, participating in the Greek system may seem to make you fit in, but it opens you up to social problems. Not only does it open you up to more peer pressure, it opens you up to hazing, Greek parties, binge drinking and other college party games. Greek parties are some of the strongest alcohol pressure zones you will ever find in college life. They can also become some of the most outlandish parties.

As a young person just having been turned loose in College, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and why you are there. After all, this is the first real taste of freedom most kids have in the world. Unfortunately, that freedom is just an illusion. No, you aren’t policed by the university to make classes. So, it is left up to you to get your butt out of bed and make it to class on time. It is also left up to you to get your school work completed. If you don’t do this, you can’t make the grade and you may be kicked out.  So, focus on the schoolwork and push everything else aside.

Schools choose to ignore bullying and peer pressure

Unfortunately, both high school and colleges are no better peer pressure situations. In fact, most schools look the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist. Bullying happens primarily because there’s something different that someone doesn’t like. Whether that’s because of the color of their skin, their religion, the classes being taken, their sexual orientation, the clothes they wear, the car they drive, the friends they have, the beliefs they hold, the music they like or whatever, it all begins with intolerance and hate.

This intolerance is usually passed along to their kids by parents. Kids learn what’s in their environment and expand on that as they grow. If parents have predjudice, these get passed onto their kids. The kids foster this all throughout school and lives which turns the kid either into a bully or the one being bullied.

Unfortunately, no matter the cause of bullying, intolerance and hate, schools ignore it. They don’t want to know it exists and they, instead, solely focus on the school as a money-making venture. In other words, schools really don’t take an interest in their student body’s health and welfare beyond simple measures (i.e. a school doctor). Schools ignore the bullying, hate and intolerance usually because those being bullied don’t say anything to anyone. Of course, when they do say something, the school may not do anything anyway. Schools tend to prefer status-quo over getting involved. Getting involved can also expose the school to legal issues and they prefer just to stay ignorant for their own legal betterment and financial gain. Also, if the school kicks out any student, that means they’ve lost the revenue from that student. So, there is a negative financial incentive to stepping into bullying situations and remove such students.  Unless the student clearly violate school policies definitively, they really don’t want to do anything.

The bullying persists

Because schools choose not to get involved, bullying persists and nothing gets done. This also leads students into taking matters into their own hands. In the suicide cases, these students felt their only recourse was suicide. Suicide is the flip side of the school massacres. Those prone to suicide are the people who tend to internalize their depression and take their own lives instead of being aggressive and taking the lives of others and then themselves. However, bullying can lead to either outcome depending on the type of person involved. Unfortunately, the other more violent outcome could just have easily have happened.

Whether suicide or a massacre, these issues usually stem from the same source: bullying, hatred and intolerance. With sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, students can now be more cruel and bullying than ever. Now these bullies can not only bully in person, but they can now find all of that person’s friend’s pages and leave hurtful, cruel and damaging comments on the Internet for everyone to see.  Or, in some of the cases, cruel videos of the students in private situations.

In the case of Tyler Clementi, he was apparently not openly gay. Yet, his roommate apparently choose to live stream video of a sexual relation on the Internet and Tweet about it. A camera that he had apparently been hidden before the relations started.

Lucky

Tyler’s roommate is lucky to be alive. If Tyler had been the personality type to explode, it’s possible that dorm or school could have ended up a massacre zone with many students and teachers dead or wounded. Instead, Tyler chose to end his own life by jumping from a bridge alone. Neither outcome is proper or necessary. But, Tyler thought so.

The reality is that schools need to wake up to peer pressure. It’s real and it is not going away. Students need a safe haven where they can go and openly discuss peer pressure situations where they will be taken seriously and investigated free from school penalties and consequences.  Diffusing peer pressure situations is actually important for schools to discuss because the outcome is quite clear should a bullied student take action.

Right now, there is no such place. Students would have to see their own independent psychological counselor to discuss these situations, but these counselors are powerless to do anything to resolve the situation. If schools want to stop the suicides and massacres, they need to set up a safe haven that has the power to stop peer pressure, bullying and other such stupid student tactics dead in its tracks. It’s really the only way. Unfortunately, such a program will cost real money to set up and universities won’t do this because they will lose some of their precious profits to manage such a program.  Public schools can’t do this with the severe funding shortages they are now incurring.  It’s a program whose time has come, but unfortunately, it’s going to take legislation to force schools into compliance.

%d bloggers like this: