19 October 2014

Twitter, Capitalism, Hate, #gamergate

Note: I'm not going to go into the whole history of #gamergate. I'm going to assume you're already paying attention.

In many ways we should be glad that this whole fucking mess has happened. It's shining a bright light into some very dark corners of our society and we're seeing some ugly, ugly shit that we need to fix.

But while I would be proud to be called a Social Justice Warrior, I don't have a lick of credibility on the subject (being a highly privileged straight, white, upper middle class, educated male working in tech and all). So I'll leave that to the folks in the trenches like Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu and Laurie Penny.

I do, however, have some credibility when it comes to tech - and in particular to the role that Twitter has played here.

Let me be very clear here....

Without Twitter's indulgence and implicit permission there would be no Gamergate. 

For many of us, Twitter is a service and a utility. The fact that Twitter is also a publicly traded commercial entity is of little to no interest. The problem is that Twitter the company is an unprofitable publicly traded commercial entity that is currently valued at at something like 130x next year's projected earnings.

As you can imagine, running business stuff at Twitter right now is probably highly stressful.

Twitter, the company, has been getting beat up for a while now about some of its metrics. In particular, investors are worried about their MAU (Monthly Active Users) count. More critically, investors are also worried about their Engagement Rates.

So right now those in charge of Twitter are highly, highly motivated to do things that will increase user activity and engagement - and are even more highly motivated to not do anything that would decrease these metrics.

As you can imagine, the whole misogynistic cesspool that is gamergate has almost certainly been a huge win for Twitter when it comes to these core business metrics. Four related hashtags have been top trending terms and I'm confident Twitter's TLV/MAU (their core Engagement KPI) has improved materially.

This is why a publicly traded utility is a terrible idea.

Twitter is putting the best interests of their shareholders ahead of the best interests of their users - and of society. Twitter is, in fact, doing harm to many users (and thus to society) through their inaction.

Without Twitter's enablement, the couple dozen core gamergate douchebags would still just be sitting around writing one-handed rape fantasies on some forum that no-one ever sees.