Twitter announced, August 18th, they are providing filters to limit who you see on the platform. This will give users more control over who they interact with. Subsequently, it empowers you to express an opinion without being inundated with mean-spirited responses. Or, in the case of Lena Dunham, a way to stop hearing negative comments when she does or says something controversial. Regardless, is this a good thing?
The Echo Chamber
Social media works hard to bring you only the posts, images, and videos you are most likely to engage with. For example, on Facebook, the more you like, share, or comment on pro-gun rights posts, the more you see pro-gun rights and stereotypical right-wing subject matter. The end results is an echo chamber constantly reinforcing a person’s point of view and favorite narratives. The new Twitter quality filter adds to this problem.
Consider for a moment the movement college campuses transforming into “safe spaces.” In concept, a safe space allows for discussions without harsh judgments. In practice, it shuts down debate and muzzles free speech. In this world, almost everything is an act of aggression. Susan Milligan of U.S. News reports that the problem is so bad that college professors have started limiting what they teach to avoid causing any real or manufactured offense.
The Twitter Quality Filter
Regardless, the Twitter quality filter is another Facebook-like feature from the social media platform, using a monkey-see-monkey-do methodology. Twitter is struggling to attract new users and has been imitating some of Facebook’s features, like a timeline algorithm similar to the Facebook News Feed. Sequentially, each new change seals the user’s echo chamber tighter.
What we are creating is a population who suffers from group-think. Surrounded by only people who are “like-minded”, we now have very limited contact with those who think and believe differently. As a result, there is a growing unwillingness to accept a different conclusion can result from different people knowing the same facts.
Ultimately, the Twitter quality filter is not for protecting users from trolls or harassment. Twitter already has features to ignore or block those people. You can even make yourself private. On the other hand, the Twitter quality filter is only for the purpose of protecting users from opposing points of view. Nonetheless, my real concern is for Lena Dunham. How will she get media attention now?