Regulating Twitter

Twitter Bird in Cage

Last week, Twitter applied a warning label (“Get the facts about mail-in ballots”) to two consecutive tweets by @realDonaldTrump, the personal Twitter account of the President of the United States. The warning label linked users to a fact-checking summary curated by Twitter. A day later, Twitter hid one of the President’s tweets behind a warning for violating its T&C regarding “glorifying violence.”

In response, the President issued an “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship” on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Those are the facts of the case. I do not wish to debate the veracity of the President’s tweets or Twitter’s response. Stay focused; this is not an “us against them” article. It’s not about politics. It’s about a very complex idea: the practical regulation of human communication.

Is Twitter a Publisher or a Platform?

I’m not sure this is the right question to ask. Instead, we should ask, “What can we do to protect our posterity from the ill-effects of social media?” That question is so hard that we are substituting the easier platform/publisher question to let us off the hook. We’re smarter than that, though, so let’s try reimagining Twitter and see how far we get.

Reimagining Twitter

Imagine a universe where Twitter is fully regulated, an alternative Twitterverse. This is not a place that will ever exist, but sometimes it’s helpful to simplify complex issues to help think them through. What would your perfect Twitterverse be like? What rules and regulations would have to exist? Would the world be a better place if your imaginary Twitterverse existed, or would it just present us with a different set of complex issues?

Let’s have a go at it. I’m going to make up my “perfect” imaginary Twitterverse. You should do the same. We’ll compare notes.


In my imaginary Twitterverse, everyone on Twitter would be verified. Not with a checkbox in a blue badge, but rather by supplying a credit card and two forms of photo identification. Everyone would be who they say they are. That means no more bots and no more unidentified trolls.

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Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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