Twitter has long been a lauded as an immensely powerful tool in the battle against censorship and the battle for greater transparency of information, but it is also a tool that needs to be regulated.
The paradox of Twitter is that what makes it so revolutionary – its lack of censorship and regulation – is what makes it so enticing and potentially powerful to those individuals with ulterior motives.
In a recent interview co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams admitted that nobody moderates tweets on the site, but that they would ban tweets with specific violent threats, links to child pornography, and copyrighted content for which they receive take-down orders.
The questions of protecting children on Twitter acutely came into focus yesterday (for me at least anyway) after Lily Allen launched a foul-mouth tirade on the social networking site and popular ex-cricketer turned pundit David Lloyd was abused by two tweeters.
Responding to an article a journalist had written about her Allen said:
Now Allen might be completely justified in her attack on Nichol, the latter may well have written an article that was completely unsubstantiated, but what Allen must recognise is that she is a role model in the public eye and so can’t use language like this.
How many of Allen’s 2,503,418 followers are likely to be young fans whose parents would certainly not want their children exposed to such language?
Lloyd meanwhile reacted angrily and temporarily announced his retirement from the Twittersphere after being attacked by two tweeters.
What unites these two incidents (apart from the fact they happened within 24 hours of each other) is that they show how easily offensive material can be accessed and spread across Twitter – if you don’t believe me use the hashtag #sex and see the results.
One way is to protect young children from such offensive language and material is to outlaw it and then ban those that fail to abide by the rules from the site – something that former England captain Michael Vaughan yesterday suggested.
What Twitter really needs is something akin to Facebook’s report abuse button to ensure that its immense social power isn’t abused by unscrupulous individuals.
Now I’m no computer genius but I’m pretty sure without regulation it is fairly straight forward for even the most dim-witted of individuals to promote a specific agenda. For savvier individual’s who better understand the mechanics of Twitter the potential is endless. As long as they load their tweets with the correct words and present themselves in an appropriate manner (by this I mean they don’t start ranting and raving so obviously that they cause a backlash from the Twittersphere) then they have a ready-made platform to reach countless like-minded people.
Twitter is a truly remarkable tool that has revolutionised the social and media landscapes, but the company’s decision-makers need to realise that actually some regulation would benefit all. Regulation would help make Twitter a safer, cleaner, and more reputable space and surely this can only be a good thing – if only to protect young children from offensive material?