Sunday, February 14, 2016

Is Twitter's New "Trust and Safety Council" Censorship?

Not in the legal sense, but there's enough valid criticism. Twitter is a private company. They can set rules for how people use the platform however they see fit, but that doesn't mean  people can't -- or shouldn't -- complain, and there are many valid criticisms of the new program. A big one is whose "safety" it's supposed to protect. Brendan O'Neill is suspicious:
Given the censorious instinct of some of the group’s Twitter has entrusted to devise its safety policy — the Internet Watch Foundation; the Safer Internet Centre; Feminist Frequency, which campaigns against rough, sexist speech online — we can be sure the final policy won’t be to allow people on Twitter to say whatever the hell they want and everyone else to engage with, ignore or block them as they see fit. No, we’re likely to see the development of tools that allow for the flagging and maybe even squishing of dodgy or just unpopular viewpoints.
Daniel Payne in the Federalist agrees that it sends a message that certain viewpoints will be unwelcome:
If Twitter is thus allowing liberal organizations to shape its “safety” policy with no conservative input whatsoever, we can expect the platform to become even less welcoming to conservatives. It is entirely conceivable that, within a few years’ time, Twitter will censure or block conservative voices while alleging they have made other users feel “unsafe.” This is already standard operating procedure on college campuses across the country, after all—and you can be sure that many graduates of those colleges will soon be working at Twitter.
I'm a liberal, and I agree with him. Frankly, I think liberals should agree that Twitter's new safety council could have dangerous consequences in the long run. And as a woman, I certainly don't feel safe when I have vet my own thoughts for ideological purity. There are enough places I no longer visit online because the rules are too strident, making carrying on an actual discussion stifling.