Along with the oft-referred to Russian hackers, Twitter is becoming one of the most despised entities on the internet. The company has been accused of giving our current president a megaphone with which to blare his highly controversial and erratic tweets around the world. These 140-character syntax-free whoopers dominated headlines, enabling an irrational authoritarian to spew filter-free fallacies as if those fallacies were incontrovertible truths. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO asserts, “Twitter is not responsible for electing Trump, the American people are.” I can’t wholeheartedly concur. It’s not all Twitter’s fault, but they’re far from innocent here. We all know there is an orb of gray area the size of a narcissists’ ego surrounding this election—an election in which Twitter was a prominent feature. For their sake and ours, Twitter needs to be cleaned up.
As a company rooted in democracy, there is a major flaw on their interface: replies are powerless and essentially immeasurable. Those who disagree with a tweet are marginalized. Dissenting voices are corralled into back rooms. The “yay’s” get to celebrate in a landslide victory- while the “nay’s” have to sit back and hope that their replies are read. In the words of the Donald, “Not Fair!”
If users had been able to show their direct opposition to inflammatory tweets from the get go, would Trump’s campaign have been as successful? Would he have continued to run on the promise of bigotry and sexism? If this change was implemented now- could it subdue propaganda?
Following in the footsteps of Brian Chesky: what's the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017? #Twitter2017
— jack (@jack) December 29, 2016
Tell Twitter CEO and Co-Founder Jack Dorsey we have the right to dislike something that we don’t agree with or find troublesome. The right to say, “NO” and be heard.
We need a dislike button on Twitter.
Although we hear about Twitter just as many times a day as we do our problematic president, usership hasn’t increased all that much and advertisers are fleeing—people aren’t amped to spend money after visiting a churlish environment. As our nation struggles, so does the company’s stock. Since Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, Twitter’s revenue has been on a steep and steady decline. They have been asked several times to put Trump’s account on probation or ban him entirely for inciting violence and harassment. They refuse. And a ban isn’t the answer anyway.
Censuring users is something a company dedicated to promoting free speech can’t take lightly. While it would be ideal for all users to be held to the same level of accountability despite their social standing, what message would Twitter be sending to other world leaders? Or to all citizens for that matter? Suppressing The President of the United States is unquestionable for any business. Especially one with so much political and social clout. It’s dangerous for us to expect them to. It would be unwise for a company to commandeer a president’s message to the people—no matter how disagreeable that message is. This is the same line of thinking that has been gradually turning our country into a neo-liberalist oligarchy where lobbyists and big business buy our leaders and steal the people’s power. Twitter was created to embolden our voices not disenfranchise us further. Democracy has been given a golden ticket. Every American public official has a Twitter account. With a few key tweaks, strategic pressure on those in charge and active engagement, our voices will be heard and counted.
As Twiplomacy noted,
Twitter is the social media channel of choice for governments and foreign ministries judging by the number of governments on the platform. Burson-Marsteller’s research team identified 793 Twitter accounts belonging to heads of state and government in 173 countries, representing 90 percent of all UN member states, with a combined audience of 324 million followers.
Twitter is a neutral platform and a noble company. They’re not idealists. They are, however, a good-natured and well-intentioned organization. While Twitter has not done anything to address Trump specifically, they have made many improvements to eradicate abusive trolls. In addition, the company has a proud past of supporting democratic revolutions around the world and a history of making modifications upon users requests. Take the Arab Spring for example, when Twitter altered a much-needed maintenance window in response to protesters pleas to keep the site active during an essential time in their resistance.
Using the Polling Feature on Twitter, Congressmember Karen Bass shows us an example of true democracy: She made a decision based on the people’s vote.
I want to hear directly from my constituents! Do you guys think I should attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump?
— Congressmember Bass (@RepKarenBass) January 15, 2017
We deserve more of this kind of direct and open leadership. Twitter could be a vital platform for democratic engagement, but not with the way it currently functions. Trump is a man of numbers: crowd sizes and ratings are his heroin. He quantifies everything. He inflates numbers because it makes him feel better. Imagine if every time he tweeted out an evidence-free claim the dislikes outweighed the likes. I’m sure he’d say George Soros was paying for them, but who cares? Even if the numbers don’t destroy him, they’d still empower us.
As much as we need Twitter, they need us. If you support democracy and believe in the power of your own voice, send Jack Dorsey an important message and tell him how he can improve the twitter platform. Twitter wants to be an ally for the people—but it’s our job to communicate the changes we need.
And we need a dislike button.
— Allyson Gill (@lilAlly4All) March 4, 2017
By Allyson Gill
Allyson began leading social uprisings in the 2nd grade after discovering that her school principal was planning to remove all of the most liable playground equipment. She holds a self-curated degree from San Francisco State and California Institute of Integral Studies in Holistic Psychology and Epistemological Research. But everything she really knows, she’s learned from her developmentally disabled big sister who has shown her there are a myriad of lenses in which we can perceive the world, the importance of creativity, the strength found in persevering against struggle and the power of compassion.