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Is Twitter uglier in 2021?

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There is so much unkindness on Twitter.

A couple of days ago, a friend who works in a field that specialises in a comprehensive and data-based study of national, regional and international issues and formation of game-changing narratives and trends commented, “Lately, Twitter has become such an ugly place.” And while I still believe in the power of goodness to be of more potency than negativity, most of the time, his comment made me retake a look at Pakistan’s Twitter.

What I found in abundance: the dominant texture of the majority’s partisan posts, the overwhelming rudeness, the blatant whataboutery, the gratuitous cruelty that any person who still holds the values of decency and niceness as sublime human traits find increasingly difficult to ignore. Twitter is full of sweetness and warmth and encouragement and solidarity, but the most noticeable aspect of today’s Twitter, in Pakistan, in the region, and globally, is its stifling toxicity.

What is of unquantifiable significance: Twitter highlights many serious issues ignored by the traditional media. Injustices, major and minor, are mainstreamed. The voiceless gets an unfiltered platform. And that is when the real problem starts. Self-serving agendas trump the earnest quest for justice. Point scoring and finger pointing replace the sincerity to seek the truth. Vested interests push the real victims to a side. The fight for justice becomes a personal and/or political bout of mud wrestling.

My Twitter woes are aplenty but the reason why I am writing today is not to indulge in self-pity. It is not that I have developed what the wise say is an essential item for continuous existence on Twitter: a thick skin. Invariably, people’s awful comments bother me, unkindness saddens me, vicious attacks make me wonder why so many people have a simmering darkness covered under a tissue paper thin façade of civility. The attacks on me are unvarying despite my absolute adherence to certain rules: never use bad language, never attack anyone’s faith or ethnicity or nationality, never become personal in my criticism of someone’s political or any other view, never use derogatory words for even those whose views I find personally loathsome.

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Because of my unwavering support of Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf since 2012, hating me is a favourite pastime of countless people who happen to be the supporters of other political parties or who simply hate Imran Khan. I get trolled for the most innocuous of posts. If I were to say my name is Mehr, there would be an ad hominem attack on my character, integrity, credentials, the colour of the sky that day, the dog I love, the font I use.

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But I digress. The hate I get is virtual. In comparison to the endless warmth that is sent to me by complete strangers, the wonderful friendships that I have formed via Twitter, and the daily positivity that my Twitter buddies and followers send me more than make up for the toxicity in my notifications. One of the most recent examples of Twitter’s sweetness was the outpouring of love and prayers from Pakistanis and Indians when I posted a wish for my son on his 21st birthday on January 26. Deeply moved, once again I was reminded of the beautiful positivity of the social media in its universality of emotions that unite us despite our differences.

And I digress again. Two days ago, my friend commented on a recent incident of a video of two female employers’ language-shaming of an employee going viral in Pakistan. The immediate backlash was expected. Mockery of a person weaker in any form is terrible and unkind, and making a video of that even more so. The outrage on the awfulness should have remained focused on the incident, making it an example for all of us not to be cruel on or off camera. But like many other things on Twitter, it soon mushroomed into something larger. And darker.

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Thousands of posts against the two women appeared on Twitter and other social media platforms. TV channels picked it up. Hashtags to ban their restaurant gained traction. An Urdu mushaira was held outside the venue where the “elitist” video had been made. Everyone became the judge of morality and equality and pride in national language. For days, the two women–who should have never mocked an employee and then uploaded the video on social media (immediately removed)–were the sole topic of censure on the Twitter of a country where bigger and graver issues affect the lives of millions of people on a minute-to-minute basis.

Raising your voice against an awful act is commendable, and so is the demand for an apology or/and verbal or other reparation. What is unacceptable is to take a horrid action and turn it into an intensive campaign to cast ironclad aspersions on the personal and professional ethos of people you have never had a real interaction with. That is going much too far. And unkind.

The examples of unkindness abound. One of the worst demonstrations a few weeks ago was the creation and viralling of the two trends against the leader, female of course, of a political party and Pakistan’s first lady. The sheer viciousness of the misogyny of the hashtags, used, enabled and promoted by both male and female supporters of the two sides, unleashed the lack of forbearance that has become the hallmark of political discourses in the age of social media.

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It is baffling. The same people who on Twitter take pride in the use of abusive language to make a point, who slut-shame to silence a female whose ideas they find disagreeable, who tweet-lynch a person for a post against the leader of the party they support are perfectly normal off Twitter. So much anger and ugliness and noxiousness in tweets that it makes you wonder what happened to them that made them so dark in their 280-lettered articulation on a medium whose raison d’etre is unification of humanity in its most positive forms.

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Follow news and opinions; virtual interaction within and beyond borders; follow the work of leaders, organisations and/or people you admire; and formation of virtual bonds and real friendships, Twitter is that and much more. Twitter is also a platform on which you make a fundamental agreement with yourself to agree to disagree. Without the use of bad language. Without unkindness. Without making basic kindness a shibboleth.

There is so much to say, some other time. Twitter that is exploited for dissemination of fake news and propaganda, where sensationalism pushes the truth off the podium, in which false narratives are constructed to destroy reputations, lives, political parties, countries, peace of mind, destinies, dreams.

Mehr Tarar, Special to Gulf News-1592296810288

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Elon Musk Says He’ll Pay $11 Billion in Taxes in 2021 But Twitter Wants ‘Proof’

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Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify once and for all that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes this year.

If the number of times Elon Musk could count when someone has asked him to pay the full taxes, he would be a very rich..wait, never mind. The Tesla boss is rich beyond any private individual has been in history, reports said.

Musk has increasingly been facing criticism from many politicians and many others who insist he has not been paying taxes as compared to the profits his companies have been making. On Sunday, the SpaceX CEO took to Twitter to share that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes.

For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2021

But some of the questions did not stop. One person tweeted how they needed to see Musk’s tax returns while yet another asked how much percentage was that of his total income.

A few were, however scathing of the government who thought they will add that amount to their pockets rather than using it for some proper development.

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Wow that’s enough to give each person in the world almost $2 million but instead the government will just stick it in their pockets— greg (@greg16676935420) December 20, 2021

Why not $200 billion? Asking for a Senator— litquidity (@litcapital) December 20, 2021

Earlier this week, Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren has tweeted to say that Musk should pay taxes and stop “freeloading off everyone else” after Time magazine named him its “person of the year”.

In response, Musk shot four tweets in which he said that the senator reminded him of a friend’s angry mom who yelled at everybody. He tweeted, ““And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year.” “Don’t spend it all at once … oh wait you did already.”

He added further, “You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend’s angry Mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason.”

Musk responded by saying that he “will pay more taxes than any American in history this year”. This Twitter exchange left netizens divided as even though many supported Warren and agreed that Musk should pay more taxes, others felt that he was already doing enough.

Musk’s Tesla is worth about $1 trillion. Over the last few weeks, he has sold nearly $14 billion worth of Tesla shares.

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The Tesla boss has been pushing for his colonize Mars agenda for years now, and has made it very clear in some occasions that he would rather spend the money on putting humanity on the red planet, than pay his taxes. “My plan,” the SpaceX founder tweeted about his fortune, “is to use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

See also  UP Police books Twitter, journalists for circulating video, says tried to provoke communal unrest

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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