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Twitters "Ministry of Truth" Trust & Safety Council

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Offline kat

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Twitter has created a "Trust and Safety Council" to help it deal with the extensive abuse the platform apparently suffers (according to a number of the Councils own members). Given the lop-sided execution of Twitters current 'abuse' policies [2], the change has raised concerns [3] over the effects this will likely have squelching users ability to "express themselves freely and safely".
"To ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter, we must provide more tools and policies. With hundreds of millions of Tweets sent per day, the volume of content on Twitter is massive, which makes it extraordinarily complex to strike the right balance between fighting abuse and speaking truth to power. It requires a multi-layered approach where each of our 320 million users has a part to play, as do the community of experts working for safety and free expression". (Emphasis added).

It's not just Twitter as Facebook also recently announced, at the behest of the German Government, a partnership with the Berlin based Online Civil Courage Initiative, a similar collective of unaccountable NGO's and Think-Tank organisations[1] likewise tasked with "..combat[ing] online extremism and hate speech", ostensibly that targeted at the on-going refugees/economic migrant crisis in Europe/Germany.

The fact that much of the decision making process appears to be happening behind closed doors should give pause for thought because we  already live in an environment of subjective perception, where (ostensibly antonymous) words are considered "online violence", equally as harmful as, and equivalent to, physical violence, actual bodily harm. Where the recipient is able to entreat the heavy hand of supra-National Government intervention for a solution. If that can happen when the Organisations involved exercise token transparency, what is likely to happen where opacity and unaccountably is positively encouraged. How do users hold these thought-leaders to account when they won't make themselves accountable for fear of the very thing they're policing the user-based for (don't make themselves open to public scrutiny for sake of the criticism and abuse they may receive in doing so). References to Orwell don't seem wholly misplaced.

[1] "We are a partnership between the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), the Institute from Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, working together with Facebook. We seek to combine forces across politics, civil society, and academia. OCCI is a pan-European initiative that operates from Berlin, Germany, led by the ISD."

[2] those familiar with #gamergate will be aware of the abuse thrown around on all sides whilst only one appears to receive objectively fair treatment with respect to dealing with it, activities, or lack therein, over which Twitter has been increasingly criticised.

[3] The arguments are generally of the type that Twitter has; provided no information on just how the Council will operate; on just what qualifies them to act in the capacity they are; there appears to be no means of holding Council members to account; no statements or information available to the public on just how they decide what constitutes 'hate' and 'abuse'; there appears to be no legal oversight, just who is legally responsible for material consequences to Council action/implementations; there appear to be no mechanisms in place to help users challenge decisions (already poorly enacted); and many other questions as yet answered. Notwithstanding the effects 'Western' standards of free speech will have in other areas of the World that 'think' differently - exactly what qualifies the council to comment on, and take action against, parties that foment the next Arab Spring for example.