Image by Tero Vesalainen
Twitter now has 280 characters. Viva la twitterlución! If you don’t know about this, you either don’t have a Twitter or…well, the only way you won’t know is if you don’t have a Twitter account. Everyone is talking about it. The people who got the 280-character count months ago aren’t, but the rest of Twitter is now in on the act. Instead of the number countdown, we now have a little circle that shows you how many characters you have left. Some people have been using it for good:
but others not been very happy at all, to say the least. It goes from the overly nostalgic:
to the hatefully furious:
Get the gist of it? A fair amount of people think Twitter has a “hate”—or, to be more precise—a “Nazi” problem. If Twitter can increase the character count, something that doesn’t take much effort, why can’t they eradicate the site of Nazis, which is clearly a much harder task? There are two problems with what these people are saying. One: They are misusing the word “Nazi” to fit their own preconceived biases, hence trivializing the meaning of the word. Two: Even if Twitter was filled with Nazis or white supremacists, it’s clearly much harder to flush the site of these pieces of excrement than the relative simplicity of increasing a word count. Do these people have even the most basic understanding of programming and the internet?
This same issue is prevalent on all parts of the internet. Take, for example, game developers. Making a game is a long, arduous process, and if you want things to be done relatively quickly, you’re gonna need a lot of code monkeys to get it done. That doesn’t stop players furious, for example, that The Sims 4 doesn’t have its expansion packs completed a week after the base game has come out. While the publisher of The Sims, EA Games, is widely known as a below-average company, it is simply absurd to ask them to make major changes to their games in under an hour. Just like with Twitter users, they seem to think major changes can be made to a system with one quick click. If a code monkey at EA Games clicks the “open world” button, then voila, The Sims 4 will have a beautiful, open world sandbox, free for you to download a couple of seconds later.
In the case of Twitter, adding an edit button or increasing the word count to 280 characters is not a simple task. However, these two examples are not as challenging as, say, removing the site of thousands of people you disagree with. When someone like Charles Clymer (above) says Twitter is full of “Literal Nazis…threatening people”, he doesn’t mean literal Nazis, because they do not have anywhere near a big enough presence on Twitter. What they mean is this: Someone I disagree with politically. Some of these people may be shitposters and trolls (attention seekers), conspiracy theorists (Paul Joseph Watson), Trump supporters (half the people on Fox News’s comments section), and actual white supremacists (Richard Spencer), but none of these count as Nazis, and saying so trivializes the meaning of the word. Twitter does care about removing these sorts of people, as evidenced by the permanent suspension of people like Milo Yiannopoulos, Sargon of Akkad (neither of whom are Nazis) and the parody account Godfrey Elfwick, as well as the majority of people who legitimately harass notable Left-leaning or feminist figures.
Twitter seems to be doing an acceptable job of removing those they deem harassers off their site. Whether we agree with it or not, it’s their choice who they permanently suspend. The same people accusing the site of teeming with harassment are the same people who have harassed users off Twitter (such as Zoe Quinn; for all the harassment she has received, seems to be able to dish it out twice as roughly). They are also generally supported by Twitter. Twitter co-founders like Jack and Biz are on your side! They want to remove their site of those they deem hateful. There are many people—regardless of where they lie on the political spectrum—who face harassment and have been ignored.
However, the problem of harassment on Twitter has nothing to do with Twitter increasing its word count or potentially adding an Edit button to tweets. One is clearly much simpler to implement (increasing character counts) while the other is a problem that cannot be solved with a simple click of the button (eradicating harassment). It is simply incomparable.
Twitter does have a problem with hateful people on its site. While some of them may have fascistic tendencies, the sheer majority appear to be trolls who aim to get a rise out of anyone they deem disagreeable. It is not as simple to eradicate these people off Twitter as it is to increase a character count or delete the President’s Twitter. Though one must ask why someone like Clementine Ford (below) can send out so much vitriol and only face a temporary ban? If we are serious about eliminating harassment and hate speech off Twitter, it shouldn’t matter which side of the political spectrum the harasser lies on. Chuck ’em all out!
By the way, there’s no problem with 280 characters. Though, while we’re on the topic of Twitter nostalgia, @Jack, what on earth possessed you to replace background images with cover photos all those years back? Not the smartest move, mate.