It appears that social media, or at least Twitter, is about to change. CEO Jack Dorsey announced in a series of tweets that following sustained pressure culminating in the #womanboycotttwitter protest, Twitter would be introducing more stringent policies on a number of content factors including hate speech, unwanted nudity and symbols of hate.
The #womanboycotttwitter protest was taken up by a number of high-profile celebrities following Twitter shutting down actress Rose McGowan’s account after she had spent a couple of days discussing the Harvey Weinstein scandal, of which she is an alleged victim.
Twitter responded by saying that McGowan’s account was shut down because she breached Twitter’s policy by sharing a private phone number, but the damage had already been done. News outlets were quick to notice the account had been suspended, especially because most were watching closely to see if any new allegations were forthcoming. Many celebrities were also paying close attention as some were also alleged victims of Weinstein. It was these women that championed the protest, calling on people around the world to stop using Twitter for a single day in an effort to tell social media companies that shaming the victim is not acceptable, and to encourage the types of controls that will now be introduced at Twitter.
This is not the first time that the social network has been used to troll high profile people. Unbelievably, Robin Williams’ daughter was attacked mercilessly following his death, and there have been many other instances of the platform being used as a tool for revenge porn, and the spreading of innuendo and lies.
The flipside, of course, is freedom of speech. Many are arguing the dangers of introducing tighter controls in any supposedly public forum and the potential for political manipulation in the spirit of “social safety.”
Dorsey and other Twitter executives will have to walk a fine line between censorship and running a platform that doesn’t discourage antisocial behaviour.