Paul Singer, founder of Elliott Management and popularly known as a Republican “mega-donor,” has purchased a large stake in Twitter and may be seeking to push changes to the platform including the removal of Jack Dorsey himself. Full disclosure, this writer owns a single share of Twitter stock and expects to be included in the upcoming decisions. As Twitchy reported, there has been quite a lot of panic on the left speculating as to what will become of the platform. Namely, the concern seems to be that Twitter will become the MAGA version of what the progressive left has, itself, turned the platform into in the past few years.
Who owns and controls Twitter has long been a passionate source of controversy in the media. Back in 2015 when then CEO Dick Costolo apologized for Twitter’s failures to contain abuses on the platform, Anita Sarkeesian published a week of harassment she had received from Twitter users. It detailed all the ways these users wished her harm.
“You’ll have to scroll for awhile before you hit the end of tweets containing gendered insults, victim blaming, incitement to suicide, sexual violence, and rape and death threats,” The Verge lamented. Costolo famously said, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.” The overwhelming message from media and progressive activists was united in opposition to Twitter “allowing” trolls to spew hateful messages freely, which soon became accusations of “bots” and “Russian interference.”
The right has long complained in response to Twitter’s ever-growing speech regulation that conservatives have been specifically targeted by the various “safety” initiatives put into place. It went so far that Jack Dorsey, the current CEO of Twitter and one of its founders, testified before Congress on the matter. Despite Dorsey’s insistence of Twitter’s political neutrality, The Federalist’s Ben Domenech provided a compelling breakdown shortly after the hearing on how Dorsey lied. Now, with the 2020 election speeding towards November, the cries of outrage will surely become louder and far more passionate.
Despite Twitter itself becoming a living illustration of our political and social competitiveness for dominance and our mutual distrust for one another, there is a light of hope at the end of this tunnel. Twitter evolved into a reflection of leftwing ideological control and over the years has shown us exactly what progressivism looks like. But with a competing interest legitimately gaining authority within the organization, what balance could we find?
Twitter began simply enough as a platform of free-flowing thoughts one could follow, engage with or share. Its popularity grew because unlike any other platform on the internet it offered a truly level playing field. A person on their first day of Twitter could send a fan tweet to Lady Gaga and there was every chance in the world Gaga would see it and reply with a thank you. This unprecedented access to celebrity, media and journalism launched Twitter into a singular source of collective experience and awareness of the world. That is what is amazing about the platform. But it cannot be micromanaged.
Every effort to control speech has only rebuilt the wide and gated bridges separating the social elite from the everyday person and in doing so has tipped the scales of influence back to the elite. The most powerful thing Twitter could do is return balance to the conversation by removing these barriers. The narrative of abuse illustrated by Sarkeesian is one of power. Progressives do not appreciate critical feedback of their grand social ideas. But it also provided a look into the real dangers Twitter has long ignored.
For Twitter to focus on the safety of its users, the constantly growing options of reporting other users for abuse should be reduced to addressing the most simple and severe of concerns. Twitter has long been accused of arbitrarily ruling on its own vague standards of conduct. A person should not be afraid for their personal safety or the safety of their loved ones because of a disgruntled user’s choice to post private information for the sake of harassment or intimidation. “Death Threats” should be reported to the police directly. Illegal behavior should be as well. That alone is all the content authority Twitter should self-impose.
Twitter could make an incredible statement by revoking all previous bans and giving users their accounts back. Imagine a single violation, years ago, permanently barring participation in all future social and global interaction. So too, the act of permanently banning should be far rarer and carefully considered. Twitter should return control back to the user for their feeds, removing algorithms and attempts to artificially force “healthy” conversations. There should no longer be an effort to “protect” users from what is arbitrarily defined as “hate.”
The app should no longer be the exclusive political platform of the most extreme voices of the far left. Balance, it seems, would be better reflected in the lack of intervention from Twitter altogether. If Singer can influence anything, it should not be to tip the scales to the right, but to simply allow users to freely determine what Twitter looks like to them. The opportunity here, it should be hoped, is for more diverse interests to own the platform together and open it up for a more organic experience. Micromanaging, regardless of intention, only restricts possibly the freest and largest sharing of ideas in human history. Maybe Singer’s influence will finally remove some of the barriers to this unique marketplace of ideas.