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Audrey Watters

Twitter and an Infrastructure of Hate

2 min read

This is a comment I left on Sherri Spelic's blog post "Nobody's Version of Dumb"

I think there are massive problems with Twitter. It is, by design, a platform for harassment. Think, for example, of how easy it is to retweet something in order to create a “pile on.” @-mentions pile up. The app becomes unusable. And there is nothing in Twitter’s architecture or in its business model to stop you being DDOS’d like that. Twitter is a platform for anger. George is right about that.

But that does not mean that Twitter is a homogenous, “safe” space and we are only exposed to ideas we agree with. A great deal of what happens on Twitter is wildly unsafe because of vicious, vicious disagreement. We all experience that differently, of course, based on identity — race, gender, religion, and so on.

Twitter is also, by design, a platform of brevity. It’s so easy for 140 characters to be insufficient — even when threaded together into longer arguments. It’s so easy too for 140 characters to be taken out of context. Again, by design.

Twitter is also, by design, a platform of celebrity. If you have the blue checkmark, as celebrities and media personalities and whatnot do, you are granted a “quality filter.” I’m not sure what that entails — my god, what constitutes “quality” on Twitter?! Who decides?! But I gather it means you are less likely to see the things that the unverified masses (that you do not follow explicitly) tweet. Celebrities tend not to be part of communities. (They really can’t be, because people can be ridiculous.)

All this makes Twitter a terrible place for community, but humans’ desire for community and communication are much more powerful than that. In the face of all the infrastructure that encourages us to clap back, there is at the very same time (and often in the very same users) a strong incentive on Twitter to care.