Too Sensitive for Twitter

Twitter announced about a week ago that they are testing a way to flag links within tweets as being “potentially sensitive.”  Currently, the feature is under development and likely will not be fully functional for at least a few months.

Here’s my question: how much does the ability to censor tweets actually prevent children from seeing them? The internet is a Medusa of bad content: one wrong glance, and it could turn you to stone. Prevention and content-flagging is only a partial solution to this problem.

Twitter bird

Censor the birdie

I get frustrated when people discuss shielding the bad parts of the internet from kids without teaching them how to understand navigating it for themselves. It’s not the collective responsibility of internet users to shield children (there’s a great article I’ve linked at the end espousing this point), but rather the responsibility of parents to educate their children on how to analyze and filter content. From my experience on Twitter, it’s pretty easy to tell which links may be shady once you know the signs. TwitterBots that follow you without posting anything or context-less links that random Twitter users tweet at you should raise red flags (more tips on identifying Twitter spam linked below).

Granted, young kids cannot be expected to filter and identify bad content this easily, but then again, neither can adults. I’m pretty convinced that people are still falling for Nigerian email scams and clicking through the links about the Facebook Killer being in their town. Clearly, this is larger problem than just censoring sensitive information. Our collective internet intelligence is extremely low.

Twitter can crowd-source flagging of sensitive material, but it doesn’t substitute for internet intelligence education.

Now, to figure out how to solve that problem…


Additional Links

Mashable: Twitter To Add Parental Controls

Social Media Daily: Your Children Are Not My Responsibility on Twitter

All Twitter: 5 Clues That You’re Reading Twitter Spam


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Are you internet intelligent? How would you teach others about being internet intelligent? Let me know in the comments.


2 Comments on “Too Sensitive for Twitter”

  1. Joe R says:

    Great post! I agree with you that we need more internet intelligence! However my parents couldn’t help me identify harmful content because the internet was such a foreign concept to people in their generation and I ended up learning how to navigate through it on my own. Parental computer/internet literacy shouldn’t be taken as a given, even today!

    I actually think that there is some collective responsibility to protect children as internet users, though. The anonymity of the internet is really unique and great, but it creates a self-perpetuating culture of detachment from responsibility in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable in real world interactions. I don’t think anyone disagrees that the internet has opened up many new channels for people to systematically target children–whether it’s sex trafficking or child pornography. There’s definitely a difference between violence against children and happening upon a funky link on twitter, but arguments like “there is no collective responsibility” obscures it and encourages complacency in situations where it may be obvious that certain protected groups are being exploited. But maybe that’s the government’s job to go after that.

    Also, the SocialMediaToday article bothers me a bit in that it equates an open forum of ideas and freedom of speech with a free market.

    • Madeline says:

      Joe, I definitely agree with you that there’s collective responsibility to protect children from the X-rated parts of the internet, particularly because there is no internet regulation.

      User-flagging of sensitive material isn’t enough to solve the problem though. Obviously, your parents didn’t know enough about the internet to help you out, so perhaps it becomes the burden of our educational systems to teach kids about internet security. Talk about skills for an increasingly interconnected world…

      Didn’t notice that comparison on the SocialMediaToday article until you mentioned it, but I agree, that’s a dangerous analogy.

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