Twitter launches 'Fleets' with 24-hour lifespan but it has bigger problems

Twitter's latest update sees them offer the function that Snapchat and Instagram Stories made so popular, but as to whether they'll really enhance the user experience is anyone's guess. Jennifer McShane wonders why the focus isn't on the platform's more pressing issue: excessive trolling 


Now you’ll be able to post stuff on Twitter without worrying that your spur-of-the-moment reactions and ripostes will come back to haunt you – or so the theory goes.

Twitter is launching Fleets — as in “fleeting thoughts” — to users globally starting this week. Fleets disappear from the platform after 24 hours. It’s already a time-tested concept in the social space: First launched by Snapchat Stories in 2013, the feature has been copied by other platforms including Instagram and Facebook. It's being slowly rolled out to select users first.

The goal, of course, is to encourage the amount of time users spend on the platform by making people comfortable with sharing content more spontaneously. Reports say the company has found many users, especially those new to the service, are fearful of posting permanent tweets and designers say they see many post tweets in drafts they never send.

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Tweets can linger in caches even when deleted and with a screenshot, one could argue no tweet or otherwise can ever really be erased once it's been sent.

The move, while on-trend with its competitors, on surface at least seems like it will gel well with the platform in its current iteration which is used to generate quick-fire content alongside debate and discussion with its 'thread' function. It might have originally started out as one solely used for quick-fire content, but we know that's not the case anymore – times have evolved. Just look at their coverage of the recent US election as a case on point. They may be a few years behind, but they have to be seen to be evolving.

The real issue 

As I researched the function, I saw the appeal and how engagement could be boosted, but I couldn't help but wonder why perhaps the company didn't put more creative energy into dealing with the Twitter bots, fake accounts and trolling which seems to be heightened since the pandemic began back in March.

Sure they are trying – just look at Donald Trump's Twitter feed – but in the past 3 months alone, I've been in touch with four women on the platform who have all been Catfished with Twitter refusing to delete the accounts as they didn't quite line up with the spam policy.

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"It's pointless anyhow," says *Sarah. "If they delete one profile, the troll can immediately set up another with no recourse taken. I've had to delete my account, put all my public social media accounts on private and generally have a non-existent presence online as a result of abuse via Twitter alone."  She says 10 accounts to her knowledge were set up under the guise of her name and some are still active. "It got worse with emails getting sent apparently from me to various companies," she says while saying that while Twitter seems to solve any issues with public accounts quickly, the everyday user gets left behind.

Excessive Trolling

I myself experience a similar issue this year. I wrote a news article on an influencer with the surname Calloway not knowing that a Reddit thread existed solely with the intent to criticise everything she said, typed or posted. She herself has acknowledged she has played a part in igniting some of what goes on, but this was at a level I have never seen before.

Over a 24 hour period, I had to report almost 50 accounts for abuse due to some the responses I received which apparently is par for the course for those who write about her. Some accounts were shut down, others remain active. It was, I thought, completely OTT and bizarre. The reasoning for this type of response or trolling in this case (certainly from what I could gather) is that it's all done under the guise of 'snark' or 'lightly-veiled' criticism and that this is to be expected for influencers who make their lives so public.

Whether or not you agree with the public figure stance is one thing (a certain amount can come with the territory), but Sarah says that this abuse is happening to those outside the influencer circle who don't cultivate any kind of status on the platform, yet are still relentlessly targeted. A known function is to use Twitter Lists as another method for spreading abuse.

"I just think the abuse has been spiralling out of control in recent months and while I don't have stats, it seems to be women who bear the brunt of it."

In 2018, the company did announce new measures to tackle abuse on the platform, but naturally, it hasn't solved the overriding issues.

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What's the point if Tweets can be erased but the troll accounts are still allowed to remain?"

*Name has been changed   

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