The Loop looks at the future of Twitter

University of Alberta professor Timothy Caulfield and City of Edmonton content strategist Sarah Dharshi are both big on using Twitter. They join The Loop podcast to talk about what changes to the platform could mean for their careers, and community. (Submitted by Timothy Caulfield, Sarah Dharshi - image credit)
University of Alberta professor Timothy Caulfield and City of Edmonton content strategist Sarah Dharshi are both big on using Twitter. They join The Loop podcast to talk about what changes to the platform could mean for their careers, and community. (Submitted by Timothy Caulfield, Sarah Dharshi - image credit)

This week on The Loop, hosts Min Dhariwal and Clare Bonnyman dive into the Twitter storm.

University of Alberta professor Timothy Caulfield and Sarah Dharshi, content strategist for Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, join Bonnyman to dig into what the platform means. Plus, technology columnist Dana DiTomaso joins the show to talk about Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter — and the platform's potential future.

Dharshi and Caulfield talk about misinformation, racism and what it really means to have a blue check mark. They share with Bonnyman how they're watching the platform shift, and what it would take for them to leave.

CBC
CBC

This transcription has been edited for clarity.

Clare Bonnyman: Sarah, you use Twitter both as a human being and also professionally. What do you think that this kind of shift means for politicians or other blue check-marked people on the platform?

Sarah Dharshi: I think that this is going to have a really big impact. In my experience, I'm working for the first racialized mayor that Edmonton's ever had. I'm working for an immigrant. I'm working for someone who used to work in federal politics.

There are a lot of layers to the politician that I work for that result in a lot of unsavoury comments. It's not great, but the fear that some of these folks are going to be even more emboldened and the fear that — although the account that I'm managing is verified and has tens of thousands of followers — knowing that when I report hate speech that it might not go through? It sets a really dangerous precedent for the rest of the users.

Even for me personally, as someone who's outspoken about social justice and politics on my personal platforms, I definitely received my fair share of misogynist comments. A lot of slut shaming, a lot of racial comments … It's not great, but I see it all the time. But at least there was this barrier of knowing, OK, I can go through the steps. Maybe I can get this reported. Maybe this person is going to understand that you can't act this way online. Now knowing that that safety mechanism is gone?

I don't know that Twitter was ever a fully safe space. But I don't know if it's as safe as it could be for a lot of these folks who have marginalized identities. And that really scares me because it does mean so much to the different communities that use it.

Timothy Caulfield: I think it sucks too. The check-mark thing — look, it's flawed. Now you know how people get checked, but there was some kind of standard there and if that's lost, if you can just buy it, then I think it becomes a really messy space … even messier than it is now.

You know, I dump on social media all the time. It's such a problematic force in society right now. But there is this huge plus side to it and building communities is one of those things. There is research to back this up, the idea that people can find communities and affirmation on social media. And if that's lost because ... the space feels more dangerous? More hostile? That's a big loss.