Platforms such as Twitter have clearly realized that if they don’t begin to self-correct, the government is going to do it for them through regulations that may not be as gentle as those they would impose on themselves. And in the long run, the flaws in their systems represent an existential threat worth getting ahead of. Being seen as a destroyer of democracy and a net negative to public trust isn’t exactly great branding. A short-term cure, if painful, might offer the inoculation that platforms such as Twitter need for long-term survival.
After all, Twitter has been plagued by bots, trolls, misinformation and harassment for several years, and was a major front in the election interference campaign that started in 2016. Its troubles have continued since — there are currently a large number of accounts still confidently tweeting that the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was a false flag , and that student-activist David Hogg is a “crisis actor.” Here, we might extend a special thank-you to Russia, which saw that we had the beginnings of a conversational cold and proceeded to give us the equivalent of partisan food poisoning to go along with it. But that country’s ability to do so was in large part because of social media’s unsalutary influence.