Twitter Ethics: The Dilemma Of The Asshole Tweeter

Behold the tweet sequence above from the Twitter user who calls himself “BullshitSquared,” who is all in a huff because Twitter’s bots flagged a content-free ad hominem joke tweet and he hasn’t had his privileges restored for a month. Now he’s quitting the platform. Good.

Musk has to somehow stop Twitter from becoming such a cesspool of obscenity, racism, sexism, homophobia, stupid comments and useless invective that nobody serious wants to hang out there. At the same time, he needs to avoid censoring content—actual opinions, facts, assertions and ideas. This sounds easy, but it is very hard. It might be impossible.

BullshitSqaured has signaled his proclivities with his vulgar handle, and his “Clinton is white trash” tweet is the epitome of a message without redeeming social value. I’m guessing the bots flagged “white trash,” and that needs to be addressed, but I couldn’t care less that this creep’s tweets are under fire or that he’s suffered a suspension that should teach him to watch his metaphorical mouth, but won’t. His tastelessness and determination to be uncivil just to be uncivil is one of the reasons social media is in the dilemma it is, and why the free flow of ideas and information online is in peril.

Now he’s waving the First Amendment, when he is the one abusing his First Amendment rights. Twitter shouldn’t protect users from being offended, but as a viable business, it has to protect itself from people like BullshitSquared who are determined to make the environs so ugly that the platform is no longer a useful and attractive marketplace of ideas.

12 thoughts on “Twitter Ethics: The Dilemma Of The Asshole Tweeter

  1. It seems to me that individuals have the ability to technically shun people like this guy. I don’t think it is necessary for he firm to block his comments through suspension. Instead, I would recommend that such tweets be responded to using the language you used above and warning readers that comments such as these do not foster quality dialogue or learning through debate.
    I believe there are two types of people who resort to such behavior; those who are capable of quality debate but too lazy to do the work and those who are ignorant of the facts and rely on the invective to score points they are otherwise unable to achieve.
    Maybe, the strategy is to tactfully but forcefully respond to such tweets by exposing and highlighting the ill considered behavior.

    • If Twitter can program for a blue check mark or a warning for graphic content why could it not program for triggering a statement about the expected quality of the discourse. That would free speech as well.

      The best way to deal with speech you don’t like is with more speech.

  2. Twitter shouldn’t protect users from being offended, but as a viable business, it has to protect itself from people like BullshitSquared who are determined to make the environs so ugly that the platform is no longer a useful and attractive marketplace of ideas.

    Exactly right, but the problem is, as you say, that is very difficult to do programmatically. But realistically, that isn’t the real problem.

    The real problem is us. We have become, apparently, so thin-skinned and sensitive that we simply cannot allow people who write offensive comments to exist. We refuse to go into places where our opinions might not be embraced, or heaven forfend, might actually be attacked. The horror!

    That it appears necessary for Twitter to take out the metaphorical trash rather than asking Twitter’s users to take the apparently burdensome action of blocking offensive content from the tweets they view is instructive. It demonstrates how weak in mind the people of this country have become. Individual resilience, toughness, and integrity have been replaced by fecklessness and lack of resolve.

    The real tragedy here is that Twitter has to deal with this at all, and it says nothing good about our culture. No matter what the Constitution says, it is clear that we no longer believe in free speech. We give it lip-service, but when push comes to shove, removing speakers that offend us is always where we wind up.

    I don’t care what this idiot or any of his ilk say. On Twitter, nobody has to read tweets from people that they don’t want to read! How tragic is it that a service most of us use for free must spend additional money making the place attractive for the weak-minded milquetoasts among us who might inadvertently wander in and allow themselves to be offended?

    Twitter should give us the opportunity to reject those who speak like BullshitSquared, and it does. I frankly think that’s enough. Abuse of free speech is not, and should not be, a license to forbid it. A platform dedicated to free speech should be able to tolerate morons like that. “Canceling” BullshitSquared and his ilk are how we got into the current mess.

  3. As I read that, he’s referencing James Carville referring to republicans in congress as white trash, so the question is whether or not Carville’s account was also suspended.

    I’d wager not.

    Twitter already is a cesspool, the question is whether or not it will be a one-sided cesspool now that Musk owns it.

    Everybody is going to complain about what steps he takes. If there’s a way to make a viable business of it, he’s the one guy I’d say can, but this is a leaning curve for him since the product talks back.

    Like it or not, there’s a segment of the population that will use vulgarity, and their opinions may well be good – hell, his Twitter handle is an accurate commentary on the state of it. Even under Musk unless treatment of accounts can or will be equitably applied.

    • Twitter can legitimately argue that Carville’s line, while vulgar and uncivil, nonetheless expresses a substantive opinion, namely that Republicans are acting out of old style racial bias and the values associated with poor Southern whites. In other words, there is content there in spite of the slur. “BullshitSquared”‘s tweet has no content at all, just the insult.

      • Like those who ruled Arkansas. Wasn’t it Carville who said something about dragging a dollar through the trailer park where one of Bill’s victims lived. I must assume that Bill feels right at home in their company.

        I don’t find Carville’s tweet any more substantive than the other. The only difference is that he is a pundit that opines on political matters. Both were equally unnecessary and neither added to quality political discourse.

        • I think the status of the tweeter matters, though, just as you don’t ban the President of the United States the same way you ban Bullshit. Carville is a political player and commentator, so what he opines is important because he says it. (I haven’t confirmed that Carville tweeted the white trash line—I think it was just a quote.)

          • Isn’t allowing Carville some grace for what he is a variant of an appeal to authority or kings pass?

            It strikes me that a person of significant influence should be held to a higher standard than some no-name tweeter.

            Carville’s words are far more influential than the average American so they need to be more measured.

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