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Twitter has been under a lot of fire recently, so it only makes sense that Jack Dorsey & Co. are doing everything they can to control the message about Twitter. Amidst a firestorm of controversy about censorship, hate speech and fake news, Twitter is doing everything it can to tell people that it is still a warm, cuddly social network where bots don’t exist, hate speech has been carefully filtered away, and shadow banning has never even been contemplated. Twitter has been posted a helpful page called “Debunking Twitter Myths,” in which it attempts to put its own PR spin on some of the more negative aspects of Twitter.
Censorship and shadow banning
Not surprisingly, the #1 “myth” about Twitter is that it shadow bans. Twitter is quick to point out, of course, that, “We don’t shadow ban.” But we all know the truth – ever since the 2020 election season kicked into full gear, Twitter has been a giant cesspool of censorship and shadow banning. It’s not just that Twitter has made it harder to see updates from some of your favorite voices, it’s that it has eliminated some of these voices from the platform entirely, as part of a coordinated purge with other social media platforms. So this so-called “myth” would hardly seem to be a myth. You might quibble over the semantics of what “shadow banning” really is, but the truth here is that voices are being silenced and even eliminated.
Again, Twitter refers to hate speech on the platform as simply being a “myth.” As Twitter sees it, it is constantly updating its rules on hateful conduct, and is even deploying more and more human editors (not just bots) to make sure that nothing truly hateful ever makes it to the platform. While this much is true, it is also a reality that Twitter is a remarkably effective platform for bullying, hate speech and intimidation. Things are so bad that even some of the biggest social media and pop culture stars are abandoning Twitter in waves, simply because they can’t stand being subjected to vile comments and nasty trolling every time they post something online.
Finally, there’s the whole fake news problem, which Twitter also claims is just a myth. While Twitter admits that it can sometimes be hard to know what to trust on Twitter, there are plenty of useful tools and tips to make your Twitter newsfeed 100% full of “true” news (i.e. news that is part of the official mainstream news narrative…) Twitter also claims that it is clamping down on bots and fake accounts, all of which are known to propagate fake news and disinformation. But clearly, things are not working. Every step that Twitter takes to shut down fake news – such as posting “warning labels” next to content that it doesn’t approve of – seems to be heavy-handed and biased. Getting rid of fake news just seems like more censorship.
At the end of the day, Twitter is facing some real problems. If nothing else, 2020 has brought all of those problems into the open. The combination of a pandemic and a contentious election campaign has resulted in a world in which nobody really trusts anything – they certainly don’t trust government, they don’t trust the big corporations that seem to be profiting from the pandemic lockdown, and they are apprehensive about Hollywood elites. Twitter may claim that it is still a free, open marketplace of ideas, but the reality seems to be much different. Censorship, hate speech and fake news have potentially ruined what was once of the most successful social media networks in the world.