Star Wars Twitter is a lake of hot dog water set on fire. The platform, more contentious as ever, is riddled with the intense, organized efforts of a very vocal minority determined to bring down the new era of Star Wars. Of course, I’m a bit focused here as our entire world is currently one shit-filled paper bag engulfed in flames. But what is happening in Star Wars Twitter-this collection of magnetized devout fans that love our saga, is happening in every other corner of social media. Whether is sports Twitter, political Twitter or ceramic kitten collecting Twitter, the infusion of haters hiding behind anonymous accounts is a significant problem requiring a solution.
As an engineer, I have always believed in the power of technology to solve problems. This escalating asshattery and dangerous behavior by online trolls, white-supremacy groups and state-sponsored propaganda bots- determined to destroy democracy, are one of humanity’s most significant issues. What is happening in Star Wars Twitter didn’t organically rise in the space. It came in as rushing lahar, full of racists, fanboy manbabies, white-nationalists and bots overrunning its banks and pulling in everyone into the flow and destroying the landscape. A cascade of shit that originated with the election of Donald Trump and his blaring dog whistle to enable the worst to crawl out of the cracks and behave badly. The problem is easy enough to identify, however, a solution to stopping this behavior, while protecting free speech isn’t easy. There is, however, one solution that can curtail this behavior and maybe save not only Star Wars Twitter but Democracy as well – Twitter verification.
For a long time, Twitter has established its Verify system for celebrities, scientists, writers, etc. to validate their personas on the platform. This way, people can trust what they read from that individual is real and on the record. It’s an essential and vital tool, that’s more evident than ever, with a President speaking about us to an entire world, while sitting on the toilet every morning.
The verify system is closed off for the masses, due to the steep requirements for the blue verification seal. There are many folks in the Star Wars Twitterverse that ask for the seal because it’s an essential way for content creators to validate themselves to their readers and viewers. It’s a courageous step using your real name on social media sites, blogs, and YouTube. We put ourselves out there because for you to trust our words, you must see our faces and the names given to them. It’s a relationship, and for those willing to do so, it’s a powerful way to connect, openly and nakedly with each other.
When you use your real name in the public space, you tend to behave yourself. How many times, have you as a viewer not responded to a blog or news site that required a Facebook login? For most, even if you were going to lay your opinion positively, you were hesitant about using your real name. That is the wild nature of self-preservation of your namesake and reputation. Even now in this modern age, your name and how you behave matters. Many of us don’t live in small towns, where your behavior ties to your name and reputation in a quick and easy way. Screw up at the Kiwanis picnic, and everyone in town will know by sundown.
In the modern space, our name reputation is just as important as it was a two hundred years ago. One false move on the internet and you could be recorded forever and labeled in a bad light. It makes us even more cautious and aware of what we say and how we carry ourselves.
Sometimes that pendulum swing goes too far, and people get taken away by the decency mob, a seemingly harmless joke, being big enough to be burned at the stake. That also will settle in time, as the pendulum will inevitably swing back to a more reasonable position when everyone improves the way they communicate. The decency mob has it’s right and place in this time as a consequence of the immoral, indecent and tone-deaf behavior of all of us in decades past. It’s an organic wonder class of a movement – human engineering meant to educate and make us aware of people’s feelings and improve how we relate to each other. They’re not this ridiculous label of Social Justice Warriors coming down from the hillside swinging kale at your head to destroy you. They are principled people with heart, trying to educate and improve how you can communicate better in a world chock-full of diversity. It’s tough-love, meant to squander insensibilities and challenge it head-on.
Technology exists to solve problems, and this swamp of hate and organized attacks on Twitter is an issue that can be resolved. For Twitter, the first part of the solution is already there, with the Verify system. The second part, however, is a logistical and cyber-security challenge of the decade. How to verify millions, based on government-issued documentation and the securitization of that data?
This endeavor for a technology-based solution for decency and decorum on Twitter will fix many other issues as well. From fake news posts on Facebook to bots sabotaging ratings for films on Rotten Tomatoes, to despicable people sabotaging book reviews on Amazon. By validating individuals, you would not only relieve the problem of threatening uncivil conversation but also the vile act of targeted attacks on works of art and reality-based news. Once in place, the public would demand it everywhere. Twitter can innovate and lead not only to their platform but as a service to the world. Whether its a spin-off company in the business of verifying and providing tokens to other social media platforms, or just merely for Twitter itself, being a model for the world.
Twitter would undoubtedly have to go to extraordinary lengths, in safeguarding private information to secure the people’s trust. The data, safely locked away should never be sold to advertisers or be given access to any third party. A cyber vault akin to Fort Knox to safeguard and verify data and nothing more. As a Cyber-Security SME (subject matter expert), this work is a worthy challenge, which fruits could be replicated throughout the private and government spaces. The grand nature of this undertaking would spark interest from the leading minds in cyber-security and the innovation it would spawn. Throw up the challenge, and we will elevate ourselves to meet it.
Verification is only the first step for this solution. The second step is the ability for users to filter their timelines for verified people only. The ability to define your waterfall of information based on identifiable people is the pure genius of this solution. If this ever came to fruition, we would see an online communication warehouse, where everything on the shelf is real and identifiable. The bots would disappear, the organized threatening and despicable behavior will be toned down dramatically. Fake news articles would disappear and user ratings for films to merchandise would be reliable.
There is still a need for Anynonmous behavior on Twitter and its existence for Democracy. We have seen in recent history with civil unrest in places like Turkey and Ukraine how vital anonymous communication can be. Those under the hammer of fascism and tyranny, need a place to shout injustice to the world. That, of course, will not go away, as the verify system is optional for those who want to participate in it. Those shouting from dangerous places, during horrific events will still get their message out for mainstream media outlets to pick up. Those media outlets will do what they always do- fact check, dig deeper and report for all of us.
The entire point of the internet is to communicate and share. It’s time for the internet to grow up and use technology to identify people, openly and honestly for better communication. Twitter can lead this effort and clean-up its own space for the betterment and safeguarding of Democracy from Russian bots, fake news and for my comfy area on Star Wars Twitter.
If you agree, then please retweet this story with the #StopHateOpenVerify.