What was once a ‘cute’ way to talk back and forth to people, even famous ones, using Twitter and being a Tweeter, has risen to the national level with the POTUS tweeting his thoughts on a daily basis. This new way of the president relaying his feelings has brought about a barrage of attacks from frustrated constituents directed at the president and other government officials with language you typically find in a locker room. Twitter has long touted itself as the place of free speech and rarely put anybody in a ‘timeout’ where only your followers could receive your tweets. However, with the language being used in some recent tweets directed at famous people/politicians, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is implementing new protocols to help protect its users.
One example of Twitter’s new crackdown as reported in The Verge comes from developer Victoria Fierce. She was upset at the Vice President’s speech concerning the transgender population’s use of bathrooms when she tweeted: “Fuck you. I gotta piss, and you’re putting me — an American — in danger of assault by your white supremacist brothers.” She was immediately notified that her account was put in a 12-hour timeout so only her followers could see her posts – she lost the ability to lash out at Pence or other officials. She told The Verge that was not the first time she told officials what she thought of them but was never disciplined in the past. While Twitter would not give any specifics concerning their policies, a company spokesperson did say that they do not look at specific words to make their determination, but the accounts overall behavior – they look for a pattern of abuse.
While an average person should not be subjected to abusive tweets, what about a public official? Part of our free speech process is speaking your mind and holding officials accountable for their words and actions. People tend to get very passionate about their political views, and the language may become heated at times. A Twitter spokesperson said that content filters are in a continual state of change and they are “thinking a lot about” the language used when it comes to free political speech. Fierce believes the new protocols are letting everybody know that all forms of abuse are equal, whether it is to an individual, group of people or the famous.