St. Albert’s porn problem

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It’s time for Twitter to do a better job of filtering out offensive content. Offensive content in this case doesn’t mean strong political viewpoints or annoying online quizzes. This time, it’s the barrage of pornographic images and solicitation invitations flooding the #StAlbert hashtag on Twitter that is the culprit.

In recent weeks, the popular community hashtag has been invaded by images of women’s anatomy and invitations to chat rooms or to watch webcams. This content should not be inflicted on Twitter users involuntarily, nor is it content that parents want children to see.

Twitter hashtags are a sorting mechanism used to cut through the daily cacophony of tweets to see posts labelled with a topic of interest. The porn invasion has become an X-rated eyesore for #StAlbert users, who want to post more innocent, community-based fare.

Twitter has not addressed the problem, despite several conscientious tweet-happy St. Albertans taking the time to report the issue to Twitter. It’s left the Twitterati of St. Albert frustrated. Some people avoid using the hashtag because of the pornographic content.

This is a shame because hashtags and Twitter can be used to disseminate information in a timely fashion, be it a disaster, like the recent fires in Fort McMurray, or politics, like the popular #ableg tag for provincial politics. For news junkies, it’s often the fastest way to surf headlines while waiting for more information.

The porn problem is not a new one. Spam bots, especially porn bots, have been hanging around almost as long as Twitter has been publicly available. Porn is also a problem across many other social media platforms.

Porn bots, while problematic, are not the only concern Twitter has had lately as it continues to come under fire for not cracking down on other abuse.

Most recently Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the rebooted Ghostbusters, found herself on the receiving end of an unending barrage of racist screed and abuse via tweets. Harassment is not a new issue, but the publicity around Jones’ plight actually made Twitter ban some of the worst offenders.

Some might think abandoning the platform is the answer to #StAlbert’s porn problem. But Twitter has become an important public gathering space for modern society. Rather than forcing people to abandon the platform, Twitter should be more proactive in addressing issues like the porn bots and harassment.

If good old fashioned civic pride isn’t enough of a reason, ­Twitter should be concerned that harassment and porn may make some users abandon the platform. It’s harder to make a profit when you’re losing users.

Already faced with a declining user base you’d think Twitter would be more responsive. If Twitter is unable or unwilling to address these issues someone else will and that won’t end well.

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.