Twitter are taking the reactionary step of introducing a ‘report abuse’ button and I don’t think this is a good thing.
The reason for putting the button in place is clear. People do use twitter to harass and threaten others – adding a button to report that abuse gives us a clear means to make that abuse clear to the team over at Twitter and get bigots and bullies removed from our collective space, right?
The Road to Hell is Paved with Liberal Intentions
The problem here is that we are not adding this feature into a “level playing field” in a “free market of ideas” where the best one’s float and the worst examples of hate and bullying will sink. We are introducing it into a site where minority groups already experience marginalisation and are victimised for expressing their views. This feature will be applauded by white, liberal, cis-gendered, able-bodied, middle-class users but does very little to prevent the harassment of those who find themselves on the intersections of several types of oppression and in the worst position at the moment.
If twitter were to release a document stating their principles (say, anti-racist, pro-sex workers rights, trans* inclusive, etc) and then had people who shared those principles as monitors of the service who entered into dialogue on their views and had some way to re-integrate those who made genuine changes in their behaviour then I’d have some faith in what was happening. However, this would be a labour intensive task (read costly), while the values of a purely capitalist endeavour are not what I want to see becoming the cultural norm. Overall I have little faith in a company like Twitter being able to implement this in any useful way.
The Grass is Covered in Turd on the Other Side
So, what do I expect from a button to report abuse on Twitter? Pretty much a copy of how the report feature works on Facebook. No live support, the removal of political content that goes against the mainstream narrative, and a system that favours sexists, racists, homophobes, anti-trans hate groups and the like ganging up to silence those on the margins in yet another forum.