Twitter’s Catch-22

Sorry for the lack of content. Busy time here at Casa de tsr. I’m getting to this like 3 days late. But just stay with me here.

In any case. Twitter has banned Milo (@Nero) [I cannot spell that last name so I won’t try.] Again.

Honestly I have no idea what he did. Something about him and Leslie Jones from the new Ghostbusters. (Update: reading an ace of spades post I guess he called her mannish?) I’m sure he was an ass. He usually is. But this highlight’s the intrinsic problem Twitter has. Leslie Jones is also an ass. Here is the case in point:

So why ban Milo alone? Twitter would probably give you some long drawn out answer about how Milo was worse, but really? (Interestingly “Whitebecky1776” has been suspended, Jones not so much.)

Let’s play a little moral theory game:

Jones RT’s some racist babble, her followers go after some 200 follower basement dweller. Twitter says “well, I mean he was a racist!” and we move on. Because “he deserved it” or something.

Next though, Jones says “Everyone who hates the new Ghostbusters is a racist woman-hater.” Someone responds “that’s a fairly ignorant statement.” A fairly justified response I might add.

Jones sicks her followers on that dude. Same action, only slightly different contexts, what’s twitter to do? My guess is they suspend the poor guy Jones went after.

But here’s the thing, in order to make the decision you have to engage in a value judgement of the actions. That’s the only thing that really separates these two cases (which have the same base fact patterns.)

Twitter is stuck: they’ve put themselves in a position where at this point they’re effectively making value judgements on who needs banning and who doesn’t. The end result is you’re pretty much going to upset half your user base every time.

And twitter isn’t the only internet company facing this problem. Via a meat space friend of mine I see Reddit is still a total fucking mess. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Reddit tried what twitter is doing, applying substantial value judgements to the speech taking place on their website. While they’re certainly entitled to this this, (after all it is their site) you have to be careful. There are, broadly speaking, values that are at least widely held enough that they won’t affect your bottom line. Most people don’t care about a site axing blatantly racist stuff, for example.* But if you step over that, you run the risk of alienating half your user base. And well…we’re going to see what happens in real time!

*Note: This is not a first amendment argument, nor is it a “free speech” argument broadly construed, I’m looking at this through the cynical lens of business. So yes, I know “free speech means protecting speech we don’t like.” But I also know it doesn’t guarantee you a platform either. That’s a discussion for a different day.