Twitter Rolls Out Feature to Report Bots, Also Anyone You Think Is a Bot

Illustration for article titled Twitter Rolls Out Feature to Report Bots, Also Anyone You Think Is a Bot
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Twitter has rolled out another feature intended to cut down on spam and misinformation efforts—adding suspected bots, malicious links, and spammy hashtags to the “suspicious or spam” category users can choose when reporting violations of its terms of service.

Advertisement

Twitter’s official Safety account posted news of the feature early on Wednesday afternoon:

“The new reporting flow will allow us to collect more detailed information so we can identify and remove spam more effectively,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Verge. “With more details to review, we’ll be adding more resources to our review processes.”

This is a positive, if overdue, change. It’s undoubtable automated bot accounts play a role in amplifying some of the worst behavior on the site—just look at the sprawling, semi-fake controversy that played out on the site over Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

However, it’s far from clear that bots play anywhere near as important a role in the site’s self-admitted dysfunction as opposed to, say, its well-documented reluctance to enforce its own policies against harassment and hate speech. And anyone who has spent more than even a brief period of time on the site can confirm that certain users fling accusations that anyone who disagrees with them is a “bot” back and forth ad nauseam. (i.e., “You’re a bot.” “No, you’re a bot!” “No, YOU’RE a bot!” “Blocked and reported, bot.” “Oh look, the bot blocked me.”) So this will likely amount to a drop in the bucket, whether or not Twitter suddenly becomes more diligent with its moderation in the future.

In any case, Twitter has long tried to control the beast raging inside its platform by making minor adjustments around the margins like this, while more dramatic changes its management has floated like getting rid of likes have remained elusive. At least for today, this is what you get. You bot, you.

Advertisement

[The Verge]

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post

DISCUSSION

makerofthegames
makerofthegames

The problem isn’t just bots - the problem is that Twitter’s format pushes people to act like bots. Facebook, too, but especially Twitter.

It pushes you to see posts from as many people as possible, with stuff like Trending, and replies to people you follow. The short message format encourages bad discourse - you don’t have space to cite your sources, really explain your logic, or even give verbal concessions. You can’t say “I believe X is the best choice, based on factors Y and Z. Here’s a link explaining more.”, you just say “X is right!”. Note that this is bad discourse even if X is demonstrably right! If I go on Twitter, see #FlatEarth is trending, and go reply to someone spreading it with “No the Earth is round. Look at the shadow during an eclipse. We’ve known this for like three thousand years. Stop being a fool.”, that’s still not good discourse, even though that’s right.

How can you tell a bot, a paid Russian shill, or an opinionated jerk from Cousinfuck, Alabama apart when they all appear to you as a small avatar image and “Thank Lord Jesus for the tax cuts #MAGA #ObamaSecretMuslim #HillaryEmails”? The answer is that you can’t - and that it doesn’t really matter if you could.

Really, this is the downfall of almost any social media site that tries to be The Social Media Site. We need our social bubbles to exist - we need to leave them every so often and come back, to keep them from stagnating, but we still need them to exist. We have groups of friends or family, we have clubs and churches and D&D parties and amateur sports teams.

Social media needs separate public and private spaces - but nobody’s building private spaces into The Next Big Social Media Site. After all, the promise of the Web was to connect everybody to everybody, why would you ever want to not connect to somebody?