BP #5 Twitter: A Modern Ring of Gyges

Article Summary

In a New York Times article titled, “On Twitter, Hate Speech Bounded Only by a Character Limit,” author Jim Rutenberg discusses the seemingly uncontrollable amount of hateful Tweets pouring out of the social media site every day. The posts include as much racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism that 140 characters will allow: but in some cases, it doesn’t seem to be enough to get Twitter’s attention.

The first portion the article discusses famous cases of hateful “trolls” relentlessly attacking users. One recent incident was with SNL and “Ghostbusters” star, Leslie Jones, in which attackers filled the actors feed with racist remarks. The insults were largely ignored by Twitter and caused Jones to temporarily remove her account in disgust.

The rest of the article discussed the problem Twitter faces when it comes to these types of incidents. How do they create a system that bans hateful users, but still supports freedom of speech and avoids censorship?

“It’s so much easier to hurl bile while cowering behind anonymity.” – Jim Rutenberg

 Ethical Analysis

This article effortlessly ties in with the Ring of Gyges and the idea that people only do the right thing out of fear of consequences. Though it seems like a bleak outlook on life, Twitter and the internet in general have exemplified the idea time and time again. Charles C. Johnson, an investigative journalist seemed to share Glaucon’s view, based his quote in the article, “It might just be a human nature problem. Maybe we don’t like each other that much — and that’s what Twitter has revealed.” As awful as it sounds, Johnson may be right.

It’s a common phrase that cyberbullies “hide” behind the veil of the computer screen while hurling insults at others, but what they aren’t hiding are their true feelings. Creating a fake profile free of personal information gives the user a feeling of power and provides an “invisibility” from the public.  With the power of invisibility, the trolls are free to say and do whatever they want with minimal consequences. In most cases, like the ones discussed in the article, the moderators of the site may ignore or overlook the profile, whether by accident or by neglect. Even if action is taken, usually the consequence is shutting down the profile, but what is stopping these people from creating another profile under a new email address?


I believe the best way to diminish this trend is to make the internet a more regulated space. If enough people agree to give up some of their liberties in order to hold others accountable for their wrong-doings, the internet may become a less hateful place.


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