This time- Twitter went too far

Image Source: Hindustan Times

The ongoing tussle between the Modi government and the Twitter administration is common knowledge. Last month, Twitter marked a few of the posts made by BJP leaders against Congress as manipulated media. Then, Delhi police raided Twitter offices to probe.

Meanwhile, the government had also released a set of rules that IT giants need to follow with if they plan to be operational in India. Twitter is yet to comply with those rules.

Today, Twitter removed the official “blue tick” from the handles of various RSS members, including their chief, Mohan Bhagwat. To add to it, the blue tick was also removed from the personal handle of Vice President Venkaiah Naidu for a short period of time.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Twitter has picked a side- an ideology that it is actively promoting. This seems to be a self-goal. Twitter is fighting against the ruling government in a country that generates tremendous traffic for their company.

The idea of this post to fundamentally debate on where do we draw the line for tech giants to filter content. Who decides what content gets posted or what gets filtered? While there are specific objective policies against posts with nudity and violence, there are many rules in the grey area too- which Twitter seems to be exploiting.

For instance, Twitter often flags tweets and bans accounts based on “hateful content”. The problem is simple- who decides the definition of hateful content? Since there is no objective answer to it that cannot be algorithmically solved- this must be done manually. This means that the ideology of the person checking comes into the picture.

When social media platforms start filtering content based on their ideologies, it starts influencing people’s decisions. Twitter’s reach is massive and when only one side of the story appears, it becomes a propaganda engine rather than a platform to share opinions.

Twitter and other social media platforms want it both ways: They want to filter content that doesn’t fit their guidelines but at the same time do not want to take any responsibility for the content shared on their platforms. This way, they have the power to become decision-makers and start shopping opinions.

Moreover, in the case of Twitter, this fight doesn’t seem like a thought-through decision. It’s a diplomatic disaster. For instance, when Whatsapp had an issue with the government’s policy- they filed a case against the government. Twitter, on the other hand, is fighting a battle that it’ll lose. Sure, an eye for an eye feels good, but it isn’t always the right decision. It’s like celebrating Arnab’s arrest- it might have felt good, but it was always going to be short-lived. He came out a hero and his TRP is still very high.

The trend of “Felt cute, might delete later” doesn’t work in real-life instances.

Personally, I believe the end state here is simple. Twitter should make its algorithm to flag content open source. The government, the opposition, and Twitter should come to a common ground on what should and should not be a part of the algorithm. It sounds ambitious but that is the north start.

Twitter and other tech companies are social media platforms. They shouldn’t be playing the role of the judiciary.

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