Twitter Spaces are a damn mess

Every day, thousands of twitter users gather to spread bigoted ideas with impunity

Katelyn Burns

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Twitter Screengrab

Twelve thousand people talking about how gross trans women are, a few thousand people discussing whether Black women should be allowed in public, and an AMA for white nationalists. These are just a few things you might find in Twitter’s relatively new voice chat feature Spaces.

Originally launched to compete with voice chat site Clubhouse, Spaces recently opened up to all users after initially being limited to only to users with 600 or more followers.

I took part in my first spaces when I joined Imara Jones from TranSlash media to discuss the Virginia governor’s election results and a friend of mine has found traction by hosting spaces after UMass (my alma mater) sporting events.

The promise of Spaces comes from exciting possibilities, as do most new major social media functions. In a world committed to furthering the exchange of information, Spaces could feel revolutionary.

Unfortunately we live in reality, where people are more driven towards affirming their own preconceived attitudes and judgements. That’s how you end up with a stadium’s worth of people discussing whether trans women are women, or a Space about whether racism is good, actually.

Certainly, a great number of Spaces have already violated Twitter’s TOS, and it is possible to report a Space, or the speakers in a space, but it’s not apparent whether Twitter is capable of acting on a Spaces report before the space is over.

Moderating live content is a whole different ballgame from the largely automated moderation Twitter has long depended on for protecting its users. Automated moderation, it should be noted, that is easily gamed and weaponized against marginalized users through mass reporting campaigns. But live audio events require active, engaged moderation, which is likely too expensive to work on Twitter’s profit margins.

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Katelyn Burns

Political journalist. The first openly trans Capitol Hill reporter in US history. Writing about more than just trans issues. Follow her on Twitter @transscribe