Home » Twitter’s design sparked hostility and controversy, how it might change?

Twitter’s design sparked hostility and controversy, how it might change?

Twitter's design sparked hostility
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Ground Report | New Delhi: Twitter’s design sparked hostility; Twitter has come under public scrutiny for facilitating hostile communication online. While Twitter promotes itself as providing a “free” and “safe” place to talk, critics have highlighted the company’s inept response to repeated instances of trolling, harassment and abuse, The Conversation reported.

Our research into how people present themselves and manage their interactions with other users on Twitter suggests that case-by-case responses are inadequate. We found that Twitter’s design promotes avoidance as the easiest solution to hostility, without providing room for the kind of restorative activity that could lead to a more genuine resolution of conflict.

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Twitter’s design sparked hostility

Hostility on Twitter is disproportionately directed toward women, people of color and marginalized groups. For example, in 2016 American comedian Leslie Jones was flooded with racist tweets after the release of the movie Ghostbusters.

Black and Indigenous players like Adam Goodes, Glenn Kamara and Lewis Hamilton have also been subjected to racist abuse on Twitter and asked the platform to do more to respond to the situation.

Recently, racist tweets against black English footballers increased after the national team’s defeat to Italy in the UEFA European Football Championship.

In 2018, Amnesty International published a report detailing the extent of abuse directed at female users, describing Twitter as “a toxic place for women”. The report criticized Twitter for failing to respect women’s rights and for transparently responding to reports of violence.

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Twitter’s response: How platform design encourages hostile conversation
Part of the reason for the degree of animosity on Twitter is due to the way the platform was designed. Sociologist Ian Hutchby called this the “affordability” of technology: the physical possibilities that technology offers to its users, the types of actions it enables and inhibits.

Interact on site

Part of the reason for the degree of animosity on Twitter is due to the way the platform was designed. Sociologist Ian Hutchby called this the “affordability” of technology: the physical possibilities that technology offers to its users, the types of actions it enables and inhibits.

Twitter spends shapes how users interact on the site. This includes platform features (such as likes, retweets, and mentions), the account being public by default, and the ability for users to remain anonymous. The character limit of tweets also allows for short, impulsive, hostile exchanges.

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In 2017, the company introduced changes to reduce hostility on Twitter. Notable changes include doubling the length of tweets from 140 to 280 characters. Twitter also introduced “threads” for connecting a series of tweets to longer commentaries and provided the option to hide replies. The changes were an attempt to “help reduce unwanted replies and improve meaningful conversations” on the platform, but hostility on Twitter persists.

Two kinds of face-work

Face-work generally occurs in two ways. The first is avoidance, in which people try to avoid face-threatening information or prevent others from seeing it. The second is correction, where people make efforts to apologize for their own face-threatening actions.

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We can see an example of corrective face-work on Twitter below, where a person’s face is threatened, they attempt to correct the threatening information, and the conflict is resolved with an apology and acceptance.

Our findings suggest that Twitter users overuse defense practices as a defensive strategy to prevent hostility on the site. Specific techniques include

Blocking accounts

Protecting Tweets (making them unavailable to the public)

create multiple accounts

Self-censoring and avoiding certain topics.

Avoidance and correction are both important aspects of face-work under normal circumstances, but Twitter places an overwhelming emphasis on avoidance at the cost of the improvement.

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