Twitter has been doing quite a lot to engage users on its platform, but it has struggled to control the issue of fakes and trolls. Trolls, parody accounts, and other means of mocking a firm or individual have been stable on Twitter since the platform was established.
In an unprecedented move, Twitter gave a state university access to a student's parody account after it complained that he was mocking the school https://t.co/RXgzQsYWxE
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) January 31, 2020
Overstepping Its Bounds?
SUNY Geneseso, a liberal arts college located in upstate New York, has been dealing with a parody Twitter account for a while now.
Sophomore Isaiah Kelly created the account, and it goes out of its way to ridicule the school. As Business Insider reports, however, Twitter was able to grant control of the account to the school, thus helping them to rid themselves of its offensive tweets.
The account was created last month to troll the college. Jelly told reporters that he started the account as a joke between friends, and as it started to catch on, he started to make fun of official school tweets and other policies and events announced by the school’s actual account.
ooh i’m HEATED. pic.twitter.com/V2LkAjIhCx
— ɪsᴀɪᴀʜ ❆ (@izayakelly) January 29, 2020
While the closure of the account was in the best interest of the school, Twitter themselves also claimed that granting unsolicited access to the account was an error on their part. Aly Pavela, a spokesperson for the social media giant, explained in a tweet that the firm erred in giving out the details of the account to the wrong entity. Of course, given that it was an account that would have shared some similarities with the original one, it’s easy to see how they could have made such a mistake.
Pavela explained that Twitter has a strong policy against parody accounts, as the firm’s policy on impersonation clearly reads that any account that portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner” could be immediately suspended. However, while their policy against these accounts is ironclad, there’s nothing that says they should be the ones to grant access to such accounts to someone else.
Twitter Tries to Address Issues with Decentralization
Twitter has often been in the storm concerning free speech and user privacy. As with other networks, the firm maintains a strong policy against offensive content, but it also ensures that any action taken against any account is restricted to the account and its administrator alone.
Parody is protected by the US Constitution. Twitter may take down parody accounts, but the police will not. We need to defend and expand our freedoms, not attack free expression.
— Liam O'Mara for Congress (@LiamOMaraIV) February 2, 2020
The push for user freedom was one of the reasons why the firm decided to launch Blue Sky- a decentralized social media platform- last month. In a tweet announcing the project, Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey explained that the company has seen a need to move into a more decentralized ecosystem, where things like information and content moderation aren’t controlled by a single entity.
Bold as the initiative might be, it could just lead to move parody accounts that can’t be controlled. Surely, the team must have thought this through.
Images are courtesy of Twitter, Shutterstock, Pixabay.