Inside Twitter’s bot purge
Charles Duan, a free speech advocate and associate director of Technology and Innovation Policy at R Street Institute said that above all else, Twitter needs more proactive transparency.
While Twitter is a private company, unbeholden to the First Amendment, Duan believes it’s hypocritical for the company to hold itself up as a beacon of uncensored online discussion then make arbitrary changes or remove accounts with no explanation.
“There are situations where Twitter has taken advantage of its status as something of a public forum and I think that does give them a level of responsibility to think about their actions and internal motivations,” he said. “But ultimately it’s a matter of transparency. Private companies can act in the dark, but when they do that they’re rightfully criticized for not explaining their actions.”
Duan said that Twitter should announce things like mass bot deletion, but make a technical case for the change rather than trying to enforce guidelines around content.
For instance, he suggested that perhaps a blog post outlining how Twitter bots stress the company’s servers and cause technical difficulties might assuage user concerns without making them think that only bots with certain viewpoints were being attacked.
But even a thorough explanation of the actions the company is taking is unlikely to appease many on the right, who still feel like the company’s policies are being applied unfairly. And if this drama sounds familiar, it’s because it’s played out many times before.