It has been declared that Twitter has an abuse problem. However, blaming Twitter is a narrow-minded argument and a misunderstanding of the true problem at hand.
By no means is Twitter faultless, as there is certainly room to grow by solidifying a stance between free speech and censorship. This is a difficult process that platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have gone through before, and still are experiencing. No network is immune, and no one has discovered the perfect balance, even if it existed.
Twitter did not give birth to cyberbullying, nor will they abolish it. Online abuse is omnipresent and not exclusive to one platform over another. It’s a behavior that starts with a mentality, not a platform. Attacking Twitter for its policing or lack thereof does not attack the root of the problem. Even if Twitter ceased to exist tomorrow, online harassment will not expire.
A bully is a bully and a troll is a troll, no matter where you go online. For as long as online mass communication has existed, from the early days of AOL chat rooms, online bullying has existed. So, in order to effectively address the issue of cyberbullying, one must not only question the environments that yield such behaviors, but examine how and why the behavior exists in the first place.
The ability to hide behind not only a screen, and often an unidentifiable name or avatar, unquestionably leaves online harassment to prevail. Whether one’s absolutely anonymous or not, the reduction of faceless communication disallows immediate, raw or physical reactions and consequences.
With this in mind, one possible counteraction to Twitter’s predicament would be to restore the faces from faceless communication. When verification and accountability exists, it can be presumed that harmful behaviors such as abuse and trolling will curb. However, is this a step in the right direction?
Twitter’s problem is very real indeed, but the implications and possible solutions for this platform are apart of a much larger discussion pertaining to all human-connected developments. Going forward, we need to ask which directions we’d first like to head in. In a context like Twitter’s, do we favor identifiable and culpable communication or anonymous and immune expression… even if that enables trolling and bullying?