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To tame the 'trolls'? Try Twitter I.D.
The Problem With Twitter, by Froma Harrop

Date published: 11/4/2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

--Jofi Joseph was a smart guy--up to a point. He rose smoothly through the foreign affairs establishment, boosted by a fancy fellowship and political connections. He ended up a staff member on the National Security Council.

But he led a second life on Twitter, using the handle @NatSecWonk to post snide comments about national security leaders. His droppings included such juvenile sexism as, "What's with the dominatrix-like black suit [national security adviser] Susan Rice is wearing at this announcement?" And sophomoric snark: "When was the last time [deputy national security adviser] Ben Rhodes said something not painfully banal and obvious?"

Joseph's Twitter alias provided only limited cover. After all, he was tweeting about things only insiders would know. He was eventually outed and fired.

As Twitter prepares to issue company stock to the public, investors are trying to size up its future in the social media universe. The microblogging site has a critical flaw anchoring its prospects. Unlike Facebook--which requires members to submit their real names and email addresses when joining--Twitter lets anonymous louts romp through otherwise intelligent conversations.

Thus, it's become a haven for "trolls" leaving false, nasty and/or moronic comments. Would advertisers want to go near an often-foul user experience?

On the plus side, Twitter offers a clever means of communicating. Members may post memos of up to 140 characters. Those wanting to see all of someone's thoughts can sign up as a "follower." To brighten up the product, Twitter recently added pictures to the user's feed, formerly only text.

None of this cleans up Twitter's growing reputation as a hideout for creeps, many specializing in hatred of females. In a celebrated case last summer, three British women--a classics professor, a member of Parliament, and a feminist advocate--came under primitive assault for urging the Bank of England to put the image of the mannerly writer Jane Austen on some bank notes.


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