A tweet can throw the world into chaos these days. The president is infamous for using the platform to prematurely announce controversial policies; boast about the nuclear arsenal at his disposal; and belittle his opponents, members of his cabinet, and even his own constituents.
The president’s behavior on Twitter isn’t an isolated case. For years now, many have criticized Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and other senior executives for their inability to handle the constant abuse that their users face on a day-to-day basis. They’ve been forced to issue multiple apologies and amendments to their guidelines over the years, yet the abuse continues to be rampant.
A certain segment of the Twitter-verse — some of whom are actually Russian trolls and bots pretending to be Americans — have found the platform to be a safe space for their racist, homophobic, misogynist, and fact-averse world views. If “the medium is the message” as Marshall McLuhan famously stated, then Twitter’s message is that it’s best to throw around insults rather than engage in a thoughtful dialogue lest you run out of characters to tweet. Plus, there are little to no consequences for the abuse you hurl.
The constitutional right to free speech is not an excuse to be indecent or uncivil, but the anonymity that Twitter provides permits that sort of behavior to fester. A community in which the users remain anonymous to each other lack the ability to properly empathize with each other.
Vox and Carlos Maza reckon with the issues of free speech, censorship, and harassment in the video above.