Twitter has been a ground breaking social media platform that has enabled millions of average citizens to have a platform on which to share ideas on a global scale. It has leveled the communication playing field so that celebrities, elites, and average citizens can express their points of view with the potential of a large scale audience. Despite this great benefit to the proliferation of worldwide free speech, Twitter has been struggling to gain new users and maintain current consumer levels.
There are three ways that Twitter can work to broaden its audience and gain more users than it loses. First of all, Twitter should make the idea of freedom of speech its foundational principle as a business. In recent months, Twitter has been actively censoring people who post opinions that the safety council disagrees with (Prestigiacomo, 2016), rather than merely content that could lead to violence. While the 1st Amendment cannot be enforced on private corporations or individuals, this is a big deterrent to people who may want to use Twitter but have either left or have been forced to leave because they express opinions that the powers that be at Twitter do not approve of. By loosening such bigoted restrictions, Twitter can expand its base to a greater audience and show that it is welcoming to alternative opinions being expressed which will ultimately attract more users.
Secondly, Twitter should work to simplify its user platform. Twitter is often considered an escape from the more bogged down, overly ad saturated, and content controlled social media outlets such as FaceBook. When Twitter announced changes that would make its platform operate more like FaceBook it caused such a backlash that the hashtag #RIPTwitter started trending, causing the company to ultimately walk back these changes to some degree (Kharpal, 2016). Since it is clear that a simplified platform is one of the most attractive features of Twitter, the company should work to maintain and even further simplify their platform by keeping ads minimal and allowing user controlled content rather than content controlled by algorithms.
Finally, Twitter should allow more mixed media posts. The 140 character limit to each post has been one of Twitter’s most winning features; however I and other colleagues that use Twitter have complained that links to outside sources often take up too much of our character limit. We end up having to choose between text, links, gifs, pictures, or videos, and it is often difficult to come up with a combination that expresses our message while still fitting within the length requirements. Twitter should consider opening up its limit for content posting to be 140 characters of text in addition to a picture, link, or video to stimulate further use and discussion. By making the above changes that I have suggested, Twitter will have made a bold move let go of its restrictive trend and embrace both new users and better ways of sharing a diverse selection of ideas.
Kharpal, A. (2016, February 8). #RIPTwitter: User outrage over changes to tweets. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/08/twitter-users-decry-reported-plan-to-prioritize-tweets.html
Levin, J. (2016, February 20). Is Twitter Silencing Conservatives. Retrieved from http://legalinsurrection.com/2016/02/is-twitter-silencing-conservatives/
Prestigiacomo, A. (2016, January 11). Twitter Tried To Hurt Gay Conservative Milo Yiannopoulos. It Really, REALLY Backfired. Retrieved from http://www.dailywire.com/news/2509/twitter-tried-hurt-gay-conservative-milo-amanda-prestigiacomo
I had the unique opportunity to interview Mark Schierbecker over the weekend regarding his viral Melissa Click video from the November protests at the University of Missouri and her recent termination from the college. Schierbecker’s video culminated the outrage built up over the span of several months, resulting in protests and in some cases violence.
“This was the intersection of a lot of social movements on campus,” Schierbecker stated, citing the loss of graduate student healthcare coverage, the Michael Brown incident, the close proximity of the Ferguson protests, and various other allegedly racial incidents. According to Schierbecker, it wasn’t until the football team got involved that the administration started to give in to protester demands.
Protesters were camped out on the campus lawn for days, but the volatility didn’t escalate to its peak until the day the university president announced his resignation. Schierbecker said professor Melissa Click, whom he did not know at the time, was seen in an altercation at the protest with another reporter grabbing his camera prior to the incident we see in his viral video. “I got there at a pretty timely moment,” Schierbecker said, having gotten involved with the incident merely as a bystander trying to capture video footage.
ESPN freelancer Tim Tai was being pushed out of the public area by protesters who demanded that the media “respect their privacy.” “I went over for his safety,” said Schierbecker, assuming that the video camera would influence the crowd to behave in a more civilized manner. In his footage of the incident, Tai can be seen ultimately being pushed out of the protest areas however Schierbecker was ignored and able to cross the barrier of students between him and the protest area.
Having seen Melissa Click in an altercation with the media before, Schierbecker approached her nearby the tent area of the protests. “I found who I had wanted to talk to […] I basically just wanted to know […] why do you feel the media doesn’t have a right to cover your story?” As seen in the video, Click told Schierbecker that he needed to “get out” and that she needed “muscle” to throw him out. “It ended up getting physical,” said Schierbecker, “I eventually relent […] I draw the line right at before I get physically punched.”
When asked about the outlook of free speech on college campuses, Schierbecker gave a rather negative perspective. “I think students now are more sensitive than they’ve ever been […] obviously I have a problem with the methods the protesters are using.” Particularly with regards to race relations in the country which has spurred much of the civil unrest that has led up to these protests, Schierbecker was equally grim. “I wish I had a prescription or a diagnosis to the problem, but I really don’t.”
Follow Mark Schierbecker @Schierbecker on Twitter. Watch the full interview here.