Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the 2016’s Ghostbusters quit twitter last week. She’d been harassed off the platform by trolls with hateful comments. This is not the first time this kind of thing has happened. So I’ve been thinking about how to fix it Twitter wants conversations to happen. They want everyone in the world to get on Twitter and post things, talk to each other, interact, share news, have a good time. Because of that, it needs to be easy to make a new account. Accounts, in turn need to offer a user as little or as much anonymity as the user wants.
When a troll wants to be a troll, they can create an account, troll around, and abandon the account. Twitter can block the account, but that doesn’t really accomplish anything because the trolling is already done. And if the trolling is not done the troll just goes and creates another account and continues trolling. Any account can @reply any other account. So the new troll account just starts @replying where the other one left off, or on a new tangent, whatever. So it’s a bit of a Catch-22. Twitter wants more people to join, so it’s easy to create accounts. Users on Twitter need to be able to have some amount of control over who can talk to them.
I don’t know if this would work, but I think it might. Twitter can give users a panel of sliders that represent thresholds. The sliders correlate with who can talk to you. You get one for “Number of days an account has existed”, one for “Number of posts this account has made”, and maybe one for “Number @replies this account has received” If things start to take a turn for the worse for some reason, pop open your settings and push the knobs up a little. Now when a troll creates an account to harass you, they can’t get to you because the threshold is too high. If they have an account that does beat that threshold, it can just be blocked or banned through the normal means – and most people who have invested time and energy into an account aren’t going to want to burn that account just to harass some one. The really exciting part of something like this though, is the predictive algorithms that would make adjustments for you automatically. Leslie Jones has been on Twitter for a long time though. I can’t speak to what else she’s gone through, but I do know that a lot of this came from this being the opening weekend for Ghostbusters, and the trolls were mad. What if you kept your account thresholds low most of the time, because you like chatting with people. But maybe on the opening weekend of your big movie, Twitter automatically nudges the threshold up 20%. Now it’s harder to harass you, and you can keep that value up as long as you want, but you didn’t really even have to think about it.
Sometimes the bad-actors aren’t just Trolls. Sometimes they’re big companies that don’t like bad publicity, they might be able to abuse this power by reducing the exposure negative tweets might get, however the price they pay is negative publicity. Anyway, if you have a suggestion why this may or may not work, please post a comment. If you think it’ll work please push it towards Twitter. Maybe somebody will pick it up. We could use a world where fewer people are exposed to hate and cruelty.