Media Non-Fiction

Twitter, Speech, and Flame War

Lately, as many of you who follow me on the Facebox are aware, I have been spending a lot of time with the alt right on Twitter. I made an alt account just to chill with them for awhile and see what the what is. I’m learning a lot, but one of the things I’m learning that is unrelated to political content is that Twitter is actually design for flame wars more than anything else.

In the first place, they don’t ban IP addresses. One user I came across is on his 245th (yeah, two hundred and fourty fifth) account because he doxes people (in retaliation, he claims).

In the second place, it’s possible to read the tweets of someone you blocked. That is, you can block a particular user and still follow them, but only by visiting their personal twitter timeline (not on your feed). I imagine Twitter’s line of thought was if, say, you’re being doxed or otherwise harassed, you might want to block the person but still be able to see what they’re planning/doing for safety purposes. But this lends itself perfectly to spying and it can turn into an obsession pretty easily if you’re at all fragile, which we must assume that people blocking other people already might be.

In the third place, Twitter instituted a 12 hour suspension rule, where it tells you that you have a have a 12 hour countdown which will beginĀ after you delete the tweets it points out to you as violating policy. This rule is designed for people who break Twitter’s posting policy with one or two tweets but not as an account generally. However, the paternalistic ritual of making users delete their tweets is bound to humiliate a statistically significant percentage of folks and they’ll come back 12 hours later angrier than they left.

In the fourth place, and maybe this is so obvious, it gets overlooked: when you limit a post to 140 characters, you limit the possible depth of the conversation.

The combination of these things: permabans that can be gotten around easily, blocks that aren’t two-way, hand slapping with temporary suspensions, and the extreme limit on length makes it perfect for jabbing, and provides the incentive to jab, too.

It’s the perfect flame war machine. It’s beautiful in a sadistic way.