Freedom of Speech or Abuse???

In the past few weeks, I’ve been reading about all kinds of problems arising on Twitter, not the least of which resulted in an actual arrest. It raises a number of questions, including when does free speech morph into abuse that warrants corrective action? And what responsibility do social media companies and brands have to their users in general?

A couple of weeks ago a disturbing event occurred on Twitter.

A feminist journalist campaigning to include more female figures (think, Jane Austin) on UK currency received over 50 rape threats in one hour.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a Member of Parliament was then also threatened with rape for defending the feminist!

Thankfully, as I mentioned above, one of the biggest offenders was arrested and users have now succeeded in convincing Twitter to simplify the process through which users can report abuse.

Another example of Twitter misconduct involves Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic who received abusive and threatening tweets due to her campaign to see women treated fairly in video games.

According to Sarkeesian’s feed, Twitter’s initial response to her reports of abuse was to state that “The account is currently not in violation of the Twitter Rules.”

Clearly, not what you want to hear when your life (or safety) is being called into question.

So, I ask, doesn’t Twitter have a responsibility to protect their users against communications of this kind?

Some would argue that this is freedom of speech, protected by our own First Amendment but I don’t think that I agree.

And then the question is raised as to where the line is drawn.

Obviously, most people would argue that rape and/or death threats in any form of communication are not OK and should be addressed.

But is it OK for Twitter to attribute quotes to users when those users did not, in fact, make those quotes?

Is it OK for a company to fake a hack (and potentially raise user concern regarding account security) to gain awareness and buzz?

In the first example, said users got angry and Twitter apologized.

Chipotle Grill, on the other hand, felt that the well “thought out” tactic was successful in generated attention.

But at what cost?

One of the biggest benefits to social media is being able to communicate directly with your followers and fans.

Deceiving them does not necessarily do anything to further those communications or garner their trust.

And shouldn’t Twitter take a stronger stand against these kinds of duplicitous actions in general?

Tell us what you think in the Comments below…

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