Demand for socially sensitive social media rises

As social media continues to face the problem of online abuse, trolling and general antisocial behaviour, there is a clear market opportunity for more socially responsible social networks. Twitter is gradually looking to police its platform in fear of users departing from the service. Start-ups that are able to deliver a more harmonious experience are likely to attract great interest and clinch major financing or exits through business transfer agents.

Twitter’s law chief, Vijaya Gadde, said in a recent Washington Post article that the microblogging network has let internet abuse go “unchecked” due to a failure to recognise the scope and scale of the problem.  This follows on from comments from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo admitting that the caustic atmosphere on Twitter drives users away. “We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day” he is reported to have said in February.

Ms. Gadde admitted that Twitter had been ‘inexcusably slow’ in tackling online trolls who make the lives of others a misery but that the network had  tripled the size of team that deals with online abuse and has since found that it is responding to five times as many complaints about abuse. “Freedom of expression means little as our underlying philosophy if we continue to allow voices to be silenced because they are afraid to speak up. We need to do a better job combating abuse without chilling or silencing speech” she said, promising that Twitter is also making other changes “in ways that won’t be readily apparent” to ensure its 284 million users worldwide are safe.

Anti-bullying campaigners have long complained that Twitter is a sanctuary for trolls. On the same day mid-April day as Ms. Gadde’s comments were published, the results of a study of 134,000 abusive social media mentions showed that 88% of them occur on Twitter. The study from football’s equality and inclusion organisation, Kick It Out, of abusive social media mentions from football fans between August 2014 and March 2015 revealed, for instance, that Mario Balotelli, of Liverpool, was sent more than 8,000 discriminatory posts on social media, of which more than half were racist. It is felt that such trolls take advantage of the fact that Twitter lets users post anonymously, under fake names, without any built-in behaviour moderation.

However, the challenge of moderating social media is that it could further alienate young users. Younger consumers are already abandoning more established social networking sites in favour of more recent social media platforms as their parents spend more time online, with a third admitting to deleting social media accounts as their parents has become users of the same site.

A recently published Halifax Digital Home Index study found that 32% of 16- to 34-year-olds admitted deleting their own Facebook account, while 33% said they had deleted or blocked a family member. One in 10 younger people confessed they had switched to social media channels where their activities and comments cannot be seen by their family, such as microblogging site Twitter or photograph-sharing apps Snapchat and Instagram.


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