If you obsess over online discourse policing, you’re probably a capitalist

Twitter is an online platform that has been engineered to amplify our capacity for socialization almost infinitely. It takes advantage of telecommunications to allow people to communicate with each other instantly over vast distances. It allows us to do this with an essentially infinite number of people by creating massive and infinitely scalable “follower” networks. It centralizes and organizes this communication through carefully designed news feeds, and cleverly places a 140 character limit on message packets to enhance communication efficiency. It provides multiple tools for signal-boosting particular messages, such as RTing, embedding, linking, and so on, as a way to create “viral” dissemination patterns that expand exponentially. All of this is 100% deliberate, embedded into Twitter’s business model and central to its value for its users.

The necessary and utterly predictable outcomes of this system: to create runaway viral dissemination patterns for tweets, and to facilitate and encourage interaction among massive groups of people connected only by follower networks. More often than not, these are exactly the outcomes we want. People use Twitter to expand the reach of their content and to interact with a much larger audience than would ever be possible otherwise.
Occasionally – and again, utterly predictably – this system creates outcomes that we frown upon. A message disseminates virally that we think probably shouldn’t have got so much attention. The audience we interact with is one we don’t want to interact with. Someone gets criticized, shamed, or dogpiled well out of proportion to what we think was appropriate.
How Dog Piling Works
As you can see, it started with a tweet from Adam Johnson NYC calling out Robert Caruso’s article. That tweet was retweeted many times, finally picked up by wikileaks.  Then people started to tweet at Robert Caruso.
(If you look at any other dog piling, the same exact thing happens over and over.  It’s literally the same graph. Feel free to play with it using other trends)
Individualizing a systematic problem
About Carl Beijer 12 Articles
Carl Beijer is a writer who focuses on the Left, linguistics, and international affairs.