I was driving home from work the other week listening to BBC Radio 4 when I heard an excerpt from a forthcoming television documentary. The excerpt featured the agent of a woman who is infamous in the UK for being controversial, and that seems to be her main talent. The excerpt had a point that was rather sad, the agent admitted that his client deliberately targets Twitter trolls by spelling words incorrectly on purpose or making outrageous comments. He admitted that without the Twitter trolls, his client would not be so successful.
At this point it is worth noting that picking someone up on their spelling isn’t exactly trolling, but the concept that people deliberately court controversy and know that this will work on Twitter to generate revenue, is rather depressing.
Twitter continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons but those of us who have been in Second Life for a number of years know that those headlines can be very misleading. Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has an article about Twitter : Twitter CEO Basically Admits Pseudonym Policy a Disaster. That headline itself is a tad misleading as I can’t see anything from Twitter CEO Dick Costlolo that suggests that. However Hamlet’s article links to another article on The Verge : Twitter CEO: ‘We suck at dealing with abuse’. In that article Dick Costolo is quoted as saying :
“We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”
I use Twitter, I’ve seen the trolls in action, I’ve seen the heinous abuse but if Twitter was as bad as some folk make out, I would not be on Twitter. The problem with Twitter is not pseudonyms. Over time, even with a pseudonym, you build up a reputation of sorts, you own your words. The problem with Twitter isn’t accounts who don’t say much but use a pseudonym either. Whereas people can demonstrate horror stories from Twitter to try and claim pseudonyms are a problem, the same thing can be done on Facebook with people using their real names. Names aren’t the issue here, people are and more to the point, the way we interact online.
Online communications are largely faceless. We don’t see the person we’re talking to, we lose the tips that guide us in a face to face conversation. We lose sight of emotion, intent and humour and we focus on the words. On a platform such as Twitter where you’re restricted to 140 characters, this doesn’t make for a healthy meeting of minds when it comes to debate.