Published On: Sun, Mar 11th, 2018

Some harsh truths about Twitter’s health crisis


It is a demonstration of how crazy and hermetically controlled the criticism of the technology industry that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, came out without screenplays in front of his branded livestreaming service this week, inviting users to launch embarrassing questions at him for the first time.

It is also a testament to how many problems there are in social media. As I wrote previously, “fake news” is an existential crisis for platforms whose business model requires blocking large amounts of unverified content uploaded, at best, with poor user verification.

No content, no dice, so to speak. But things get a lot more complicated when you have to consider what the content is actually; who wrote it; whether it’s true or not; and what your messages might be to your users, to others, and to society in general.

As an important study of MIT examining tenths of a decade – and published this week too – he emphasizes: Information does not spread in the same way.

More specifically, the verified information about the fact that they have been classified as truthful seems to be less shareable than the verified information on the facts that have been classified as false. Or to put it more clearly: the novel / outrageous content is more viral.

This is not surprising at all. As Jonathan Swift reported back in the 1700s: “Falsehood flies, and Truth is hobbled after it.” New research, old truth.

What is also true is that, as the main social media platforms are downsized, even the problems launched through their megaphones have become a mainstream vision.

Concerns swelled up. Now we are at a structural level, discussing the foundations of society such as cohesion, civilization, democracy. Also, you could argue, comparing humanity itself. The platform as a term has always had a dehumanizing ring. Perhaps this is also their basic truth.

Dorsey says the “health” of the conversations on his platform is now the “number one priority” of the company – more than a decade after typing that first poisonous tweet, “just installed my twttr”, when he presumably had no idea of ​​everything horrible things that humans would end up using their technology.

But it is also at least a decade after the warnings that trolls and bots were unleashed on the Twitter platform.

It turns out that the future will come to you eventually. Even if he stubbornly refuses to listen as an alarm after the alarm is sounded. “Do not ever send to know who rings the bell, play for you”, wrote John Donne, meditating on society and on the individual, back in 1624.

A # 280 evaluation of what Dorsey, a fashionable, bearded and caring person, now claims to consider as the main problem of Twitter and therefore the priority is reduced to something like this …

We know that our platform is being used negatively, people are bad and public conversation is damaged. But we do not know how to solve it because we do not understand how to measure the individual and social impact of our technology. We think that more technology can help. Pls help us

What the Twitter crisis tells us is that technology companies are terrible listeners. Although those of us outside the engineering room already knew it.

It is certainly no surprise that the techies aspire to listening when they sit inside their hermetically sealed containers thinking that it is their special gift and the libertarian right to control the levers that influence the lives of others while they channel the spices and the dollars.

So it’s a good sign, even if horribly late, to see a seemingly nervous Dorsey and apparently annoyed at the users’ opinion – for about 50 minutes rough and unpublished.

We hope that this performance – which he said will be repeated regularly, from now on – signals an absolute conversion to the reform. An awareness that social media platforms can not engage social responsibility. That listening and understanding is absolutely their day job.

Head-in-the-sand-ism will reach you eventually. Just while playing fast and free he finally overtook the founder of Uber and landed his company in all sorts of legal hot water.

So, how did Dorsey and select the members of his security team in their first “embarrassing questions” Periscope?

Fair to media, it’s my rating. It is clear that they do not yet know how to fix the disorder they are in. So Twitter solicits proposals from the public. But admitting that they do not know what to do and seek help is an important and important step.

To put it in a colloquial way, they have realized the shit they are in. And the shit that’s at stake. Hashtag #changeforreal

Dorsey seemed visibly uncomfortable with the Periscope trial, which again testifies to how closed a box and a Twitter store were. He has not always been CEO but he’s a founder, so he’s absolutely in love with it.

And the Twitter bunker mentality has clearly exacerbated its problems in identifying and responding to the problems of the contents that were previously inflamed on its platform and then raged. Shoveling that will not be easy.

In fact, he has said repeatedly that the changes he wants to happen “will not happen overnight”. That change of Twitter will require a lot of work.

He also admitted that the company has “many historical divisions” and said that it has not always been as collaborative as it could have been. Inside Twitter there are a lot of other bunkers – that really sounds like a cultural nightmare.

So when he talked about the hard work coming up, I do not think Dorsey just wanted to redesign a lot of systems and make more user surveys. Because changing a rooted culture and its processes is a beast. This is why it is much better to start from a place of illumination. But hello, silver lining, finally, finally, Twitter, admits to have messed up and want to start over.

At least now he is saying that he wants his product to have a holistic and healthy impact on the world. Who wants to try to restore the coarseness of the public discourse that social media have made. Surely it is a mission statement more evolved than the previous one – which was basically: “Eat our freedom of speech”.

That said, Dorsey’s focus on a new type of measurement – this idea of ​​a “health metric” – as the solution to toxic content seems problematic to me. Almost, one could say, as the triggering response of an engineer who is confronted for the first time with a textbook on ethics.

Because Twitter’s problems are really reduced to Twitter without being able to enforce the standards of the community it already owns. Which in turn is a failure of leadership, as I have previously argued.

A good current example is that it has an ad policy that prohibits “deceptive and deceptive” ads. Yet it continues to accept advertising money from unregulated entities that drive dubiously obscure cryptographic exchanges and whip sales of wildly risky pawns.

Twitter does not really need to wait for a new metric to understand that the right thing to do here is to remove the Crypto / ICO ads from its platform right now.

Shucks, even Facebook did this.

Yet Dorsey and his team failed to mention the advertisements when they were asked to cryptographers during the Periscope. They have just talked about what they are doing to confront Twitter users who try to tweet-cheat others to send some encryption.

Continuing to accept advertising money connected to what is still a substantially unregulated space, when there are so many visible and public concerns because the scams are really part of the furniture, it is really indefensible. Banning these ads is both common sense and the right thing to do.

So if Twitter needs to wait for someone else to invent some kind of holistic wellness metrics to bring down that Satoshi at low altitude, then his cultural change will be much harder and far more painful than Dorsey imagined.

The obsession with measurement and the search for a universal problem-solving metric – to try to quantify “health, openness and civilization of public conversation”, as Twitter says – is also very similar to a strategy to save time.

Eventually it could also prove to be a bad direction; an attempt to divert the blame and divert criticism through solutioneering.

By outsourcing a challenge and trying to co-opt the energy and ideas of third parties, Twitter is also reformulating what is broken in a way that begins to spread responsibility for the problems that its platform is causing. (Perhaps a leaf was taken from the Facebook notebook on that one.)

Content moderation is certainly a difficult problem if you go down to your destination. But if you use enough human help from the machines to apply the standards of your community correctly, you can reduce the problem of toxic contents.

It throws up enough resources and content issues can become incredibly small, even insignificant. This is known as community management.

Yes, there are countermeasures. Especially if, like Twitter, you have historically been advertised as a wing of the freedom of speech of the party of vocal freedom.

But if you’re having trouble drawing red service lines around, for example, the well-known neo-Nazis, for whom hate speech and the fight for violence are a way of life, then undertake a long and tortuous search to deconstruct the ‘anatomy of the company in the hopes of finally being able to build algorithms that do a better job to keep the toxic content away from your platform, well, that probably is not the fundamental solution you should look for.

The problem now is that Twitter does not have the courage – or, heck, the imagination – to impose its own community guidelines.

Although the hard truth may be that he can not afford it. That the business model has never accumulated. Not if you have to calculate the cost of the personnel up to correctly moderate all the shit that is loaded and generated.

Meanwhile, the costs of toxic, hate and incite messages that blitzkrieging public conversation via the megaphone amplifier of social media continue to grow …

In his Periscope help request, Dorsey also said he wants Twitter to be “one of the most reliable services in the world”. But if he believes he can build a technopea for the all-in which the liberals coexist peacefully alongside neo-Nazis – thanks to a new series of augmented reality controls that vanish from the opposite view – he’s still thinking fatally inside the black box of the technological sector.

Social media is always offline. His wounds, like his users, are human. Its modeling impacts are felt by people and society.

Another old truth: you can not please all people, all times. So if Dorsey thinks he can find a technological solution for that old challenge, he will waste a lot more money and a lot more time – while the rest of us are bleeding.

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