The Washington Post reports that Twitter is considering adding features to report “fake news” and “offensive” tweets. It has led to concerns that the tools could be used to censor free speech and target conservatives in particular. Facebook has faced these exact charges from users after instituting similar measures this year.
If you ask some people, however, conservative censorship on Twitter has already begun.
Twitter recently refused to allow pro-life groups to advertise on its platform, even while allowing Planned Parenthood to purchase ads.
Former Breitbart reporter Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned over some grossly insensitive tweets about actress Leslie Jones, a rare move for any sort of offensive tweeter. It led some to speculate that Milo’s connection to Breitbart played a part in the permanent ban.
A new reporting tool, it is feared, could limit conservative speech even more.
Twitter is exploring adding a feature that would let users flag tweets that contain misleading, false or harmful information, according to two people familiar with the company’s projects.
The feature, which is still in a prototype phase and may never be released, is part of the company’s uphill battle against rampant abuse on its platform. It could look like a tiny tab appearing in a drop-down menu alongside tweets, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the effort.
These long-standing problems gained new urgency in the aftermath of the presidential election, when critics and researchers pointed to the toxic effect of social media on the public debate. Two-thirds of American adults say fabricated news stories that spread on social media have caused a “great deal of confusion” about basic facts and public events, according to a December poll from Pew Research Center. One estimate from the service Twitter Audit found that 59 percent of President Trump’s followers are bots or fake accounts, while Hillary Clinton’s are 66 percent bots. (Twitter does not comment on third-party estimates.)
Twitter spokeswoman Emily Horne said the company had “no current plans to launch” the feature but said she would not comment on whether it was being tested. “There are no current plans to launch any type of product along these lines,” she said.
The reporting tool could make a bad situation for conservatives even worse. Charlie Nash of Breitbart reported on what appears to be direct conservative censorship of some accounts, and a marginalization of others.
The Breitbart story outlined what happened after the UK pressured Twitter to do something about “hate speech.”
In the same month, popular pro-Trump comedy account and Breitbart News contributor “PizzaPartyBen” was permanently suspended from the platform without warning or an explanation for the ban.
It was discovered in March that the Drudge Report was being hidden behind a “sensitive content” filter, while Twitter searches for “racist” and “Hitler” started to return President Trump’s profile.
In May, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams criticized the concept of free speech.
“I think the internet is broken,” claimed Williams. “And it’s a lot more obvious to a lot of people that it’s broken.”
“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place… I was wrong about that,” he continued.
In addition, many conservative bloggers complain that they are often placed in “Twitter jail” for unspecified reasons, a punishment rarely seen applied to liberal bloggers. That accusation, however, is based on perception, as no official numbers or data is available.
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