Twitter users abuse free speech to attack others

By Adrian Keeney
December 8, 2017

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claimed that Twitter is going to take a more aggressive stance against harassment on the site. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Twitter is the ultimate embodiment of free speech in today’s world.

Users are free to post their thoughts and feelings on almost any issue they desire, whether it be their opinion on the latest political controversy or what they are having for lunch.

However, in giving users such freedom to post as they please, Twitter has inadvertently become a platform for bullying, harassment and hate-speech. In the recent political and social climate these days, these forms of injustice have become almost mainstream.

In many cases, Twitter has failed to step up to the plate when dealing with harassment cases. This is not a new problem. In fact, so much pressure has been put on Twitter’s abuse policy that the company had no choice but to change its stance on free speech.

It created a Trust and Safety Council in order to ensure users can express themselves freely and safely. Twitter has also introduced new interfaces to mute conversations, filter words in tweets and report hateful comments.

That’s great. The only problem is that it’s still not working.

There are countless examples of Twitter repeatedly failing to take action against accounts that clearly have abused other users.

According to the New York Times, transgender writer Thorne N. Melcher was a victim of harassment after tweeting about guns and the transgender community. After days of other users tweeting slurs and insults at Melcher, Twitter finally responded.

Twitter responded by suspending Melcher’s account.

This is the case in many instances that involve abuse reports on Twitter. Twitter has no effective course of action to stop harassment from happening against transgender individuals, along with many other minorities.

If Twitter suspends an account, the suspended user can simply create another to continue their hate. Oftentimes, Twitter sees nothing wrong with tweets that are clearly in violation of their abuse policy.

Instead of defending someone who was being abused, Twitter reacted in the entirely wrong way. This is reflective of the society we live in. We reject those whose ideals aren’t the same as our own and, instead of helping victims, we blame them.

Free speech is important. It allows us to ensure our democracy is working. This is why it is important to defend the person that tries to express his or her opinions, not the hate-speech enthusiasts trying to undermine someone else’s free speech while using their own as a defense. Hate speech is not free speech.

As a white, cisgender male, I did not realize this was a problem. It has never affected me personally. If it did, I would certainly be angry, to say the least.

I don’t have the answers to provide an algorithm that disable’s all accounts that harass others; however, I do know that this is not another problem that can we can sweep under the rug, shrug our shoulders and say there is “no way to prevent this.”

Adrian Keeney

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