back to article If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all: El Reg takes Twitter's anti-mean algorithm for a spin

In an attempt to make Twitter feel less like a small-town Wetherspoons at closing time, the company will start asking users to reconsider sending tweets its algorithms perceive to be mean. The next time you craft an acerbic reply to a stranger, the Twitter iOS and Android apps will ask: "Want to review this before tweeting?" …

  1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    Twitter is for Twits

    Try that one.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Twitter is for Twits

      Only block heads trust in blockchain!

      [Icon: roasted!]

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Twitter is for Twits

      That's stupidly unoriginal.

      You should be on Twatter!

  2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

    I think the filter is probably more to encourage people not to call their enemies twats rather than to ask them to tone it down when they ask allege that their foes bathroom is carpeted.

    It would take quite an AI to work out that "I bet you hoover your bathroom" is meant as an insult.

    1. BackToTheFuture

      I just knew that bathroom-cam was a mistake.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        You definitely need to lose a few pounds. ;-)

    2. Drew Scriver

      Old-fashioned gentleman-like insults will still be fine

      In the olden days (and even in today's British Parliament sessions) insults were (are) often masquerading as polite statements.

      "I would seem that the gentleman from Bath has not yet had sufficient time to fully study the entirety of the documents."

      Translation: "The guy from Bath just isn't smart enough to comprehend a simple statement."

      Don't count on AI to filter such insults any time soon.

      On the bright side, maybe society will swap the often crass and uncouth insults for polite put-downs.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Old-fashioned gentleman-like insults will still be fine

        On the bright side, maybe society will swap the often crass and uncouth insults for polite put-downs.

        Or fire up the Shakespearean insult generator, thou ruttish folly-fallen mangy-dog!

      2. Allan George Dyer

        Re: Old-fashioned gentleman-like insults will still be fine

        I thought the beauty of the British Parliamentary rules were that, if you uttered an insult, you would be asked to apologise. What an opportunity!

        "I apologise Mr. Speaker, I was quite wrong to say that the Prime Minister has half a brain."

    3. Rol

      Rules are for the plebs to follow, as they rarely have the capacity to foresee the downside of their thoughtless actions, and need well defined boundaries to keep them out of trouble.

      If you are gifted with the ability to think, then you know how to skirt around the rules and achieve the acerbic put-down you are grasping for, without stirring the moderating script from its slumber.

      It's all about stopping the infantile slaughter of common decency and respect. Keeping the school yard well and truly under the thumb.

      It would be nice if the moderating bot used the profanity laden missives to gauge the age of the writer, and then ban them for the time it would take them to reach 13 years old.

      1. Drew Scriver

        Why 13? The Cyber world might well be a better place if 'contributing' were limited to those of voting age...

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          And the real world would be better of voting age was lifted to 30.

          Lets raise them both to be safe.

  3. boblongii

    Are you sure you want to talk about Scunthorpe?

    Always a good test of any "clever" filter.

    1. don't you hate it when you lose your account

      Re: Are you sure you want to talk about Scunthorpe?

      Sunny Scuni. The holiday destinations to top them all ;)

  4. Lazlo Woodbine

    It can be hard work at times, but I find my sanity is impacted less if I just ignore the idiots on Twitter, just don't engage with any account that has more than 4 numbers in the @

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    So Twitter doesn't filter the truth?

    > I described PR people as "sociopaths" and "pointless".

    > The app said naught.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So Twitter doesn't filter the truth?

      > I described PR people as "sociopaths" and "pointless".

      > The app said naught.

      Isn't truth a defense against slander?

  6. grampafilbble

    I don't think that word means what you think it means

    Twitter said it will ask you to reconsider "mean" tweets. Their definition of "mean" is apparently different that yours.

    I think that twitter's definition of mean is "any political statement that we disagree with".

    You should try tweeting something pro Trump, or anti-covid vaccination, or that "biological men should not compete in women's sports".

    I suspect that you just haven't said anything then consider politically mean or harmful.

    Of course if you do tweet something like that, be prepared to be cancelled.

    1. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: I don't think that word means what you think it means

      Really? With the amount of anti-vax BS, senior politicians saying things that should result in resignations and tweets that get reported I really wonder about that.

      I mean, just look at Laurence Fox (Pox? Sox? Whatever his surname was). It's pretty much a rolling chain of insults with people that don't agree with him and yet he's still on twitter.

      Or is that the tame things they let onto the platform?

      I'm starting to wonder if infact these companies should be forced to moderate the dialogue (not unlike El Reg - Bring back the Moderatorix!).

      On second thoughts, maybe there should be a number of key commenters able to name and shame terrible comments? Force real world consequences for online misbehaviour?

      Gimp icon because you know there'd be some that enjoy it.

    2. Dimmer Bronze badge

      Re: I don't think that word means what you think it means

      I think it would be a fun test. Maybe we could start a competition to see who could provoke the AI into action.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: I don't think that word means what you think it means

        Inconceivable, but not as inconceivable as Matt Powell having an inflatable banana in his back yard that he calls Dr Peel. Or maybe something to do with never getting involved in a land war in Asia, would that trigger Twitter's filters instead?

  7. cookieMonster Silver badge

    Your mother .....

    Your Mother was A Hamster

    and your Father Smelled of elder berries

    1. [VtS]Alf

      Re: Your mother .....

      Go away! Before I shall taunt you a second time! *prepares a cow in a trebuchet*

    2. Roger Kynaston

      Re: Your mother .....

      But did you fart in his general direction?

      --> Friday

    3. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: Your mother .....

      I wonder how well it will cope with grammatical errors in the insult?

      Romanes eunt domus

      For instance...

    4. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Your mother .....

      According to my youngest son, this is a disguised medieval insult which means you mum is a whore (small mammals being highly sexually active) and your dad is a drunk (peasant wine in those days being made mainly of elderberries rather than grapes). He does have a degree in medieval history but he may equally be yanking my chain.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Your mother .....

      The 1970s called. It wants its Monty Python references back.

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: Your mother .....

        They were funny enough in the 70s, they are still more than funny enough now!

  8. Horst U Rodeinon

    Twitter: Where twits twaddle.

    I don't have a twitter account so I can't test it.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Twitter: Where twits twaddle.

      I do, but I only use it to point out errors, mistkaes, and inconsistencies of 'experts' in the tech field. I've probably made less than 20...

      1. [VtS]Alf

        Re: Twitter: Where twits twaddle.

        You only spotted 20 errors/inconsistencies in the tech field? On Twitter?

      2. Robert Grant

        Re: Twitter: Where twits twaddle.

        > I do, but I only use it to point out errors, mistkaes, and inconsistencies of 'experts' in the tech field. I've probably made less than 20...

        mistkaes, eh? Time to uncast those stones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Twitter: Where twits twaddle.

          It's fine, I tweeted at them.

  9. elregidente

    > Social media in general has a tendency to make strangers feel remote and abstract. They aren't people, but rather pixels on a screen, and thus it's easier to tweet things you wouldn't dare say to their faces.

    There are I think three core factors involved.

    1. In the physical presence of other people, we moderate our reactions, with the extent of the moderation being in relation to how well we know the people in our company; the more they are strangers, the more we moderate our reaction. We expect our friends, those who are close to us, to sympathize with our pain and so allow ourselves a greater expression of our feeling; but with strangers we know they will have little sympathy with us, and we look to moderate our reaction so it is fitting in their eyes.

    2. The man who lives alone feels emotion more strongly than anyone else; but there is a lack of appropriateness. Such a man might feel the greatest sympathy or sorrow or rage, but if he lived his life in the company of others, with friends, being social, he would have far more perspective and hardly care or notice things which being alone would dominate his mind.

    3. As our dear El Reggo opines, the physical absence of the target of our response removes (rather like #1) moderations which we would otherwise would impose upon our own behaviour, in part from consideration of how the other person will judge our reactions. We do not wish to look disproportionate, even in the eyes of the person with whom we have taken up an objection.

    We see then that the environment of posting upon on-line forums is actually the worst possible combination of all three factors. It is where we as humans are least able to moderate our conduct.

    1. tfewster

      Freedom of speech does not mean you are immune to the consequences of offending people.

      If FOIP (Fist over IP) was a thing, users of social media would behave much more like people in a pub. You can talk outrageous bollocks when drunk, but be prepared to be barred or beaten up if you go too far.

      1. quartzz

        freedom of speech... - - - freedom of broadcast

  10. elregidente

    New and unused Twitter account blocked for violation of rules - Twitter fishing for phone numbers?

    I recently made a Twitter account, for business (I do not myself keep social media accounts).

    I made the account but I've yet to use it, so it's been created but it's done nothing; no posts, no following, not been followed, nothing.

    I logged in occasionally to perform configuration work.

    Now and then when looking in I'm asked to complete a Google captcha - well, okay, shrug.

    Then a day or two ago, I was informed my actions has violated Twitters Rules (capital R) and my account had been locked, and I would need to pass a captcha *and provide my phone number*. I did not provide a phone number when making the account, and phone numbers are gold for data collation, which is central to the business model for Twitter, Facebook and the like.

    It has led me to speculate that Twitter is using security as a ruse to obtain phone numbers for data collation and so monetization.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Twitter fishing for phone numbers?

      I'm in the same boat. I created a Twitter account ages ago and never twitted or followed anybody. I eventually got suspended and to try and get it restored they wanted me to confirm I was human with a captcha, fine, confirm my email, if was my spam email address so fine, and give them my phone number, not at all fine.

      Even without the content, social media apps are becoming very antisocial.

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: New and unused Twitter account blocked for violation of rules - Twitter fishing for phone nbrs?

      I had the exact same experience with Instagram, so I would say yes, they're onto our phone numbers... and money is the only thing that makes their world go round

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Twitter fishing for phone numbers?

      Google+ asked for my driver's license to confirm I was using my real name. Plus my phone number.

      I never laughed so hard.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sarcasm not recommended...

    FB rather than twitter but some local halfwit posted on a local buy-and-sell "Somebody posted here selling duty free tobacco, is there any still available" to which I replied "yeah, right :-) and also has anyone got any weed?"

    Result: banned for 30 days for trying to buy drugs on FB. No appeal possible.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only a masochist has a Twitter account. I just do what Jaron Lanier says and delete all of your accounts

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    This is not a comment but ....

    "...If thou speak’st false, upon the next tree shall thou hang alive till famine cling thee." - Macbeth.

    See, we all think that the present is different from the past but it's still people running around "tweeting" so nothing has changed since 1606. Maybe El Reg should create a new icon with Shakespeare's face for insults posted in the future? My opinion is just that posting an insult tells the readers more about you than the original post.

  15. Blackjack Silver badge

    Eh, one the real world being nicer depends on where you live and two, I don't think the muddy bird is worse that a global plague.

  16. Winkypop Silver badge

    Social media sewer

    Sewers perform a serious function.

    Social media, not so much.

    I don’t hang around in either.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will they spot if I call someone...

    ...the south end of a north-bound horse?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will they spot if I call someone...

      Will they understand when I call people nonce?

  18. Edward Groenendaal

    Perhaps the algorithm is tuned more for aberrations in meanness from the norm for that user. Possibly it builds a baseline of meanness, and then applies a standard deviation and warns you if you are being unusually mean, or conversely too nice. If this is true (which it obviously isn't) then Matthew needs to get a lot meaner, or a nicer tester is required.

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