A Tweet Filled With Porn Noises Demonstrates Twitter Is Unprepared for Audio

Twitter — a platform that already struggles with curbing harmful content — has not detailed a plan for moderating its new audio feature

Hanna Kozlowska


Images of the new Twitter voice tweets feature from the company’s product announcement page
Product announcement from Twitter. Images: Twitter

“You can Tweet a Tweet. But now you can Tweet your voice!” This was how Twitter introduced last week its new audio-tweet option. In the replies to the announcement, however, lingered a warning. “Is this what y’all want?” asked one person, reposting another user’s audio tweet, which used the new feature to record the sounds of… porn.

The porn audio tweet is still up without a content warning as of this writing (Update: Twitter labeled the Tweet Monday afternoon). The company’s lack of response could be a harbinger of what’s to come in this new, chatty Twitter. Audio brings with it a new way for pesky trolls and bad actors to spread content, and one that is more difficult to moderate than traditional tweets. The potential solution — voice-to-text transcription — is not ideal.

Twitter said in a blog post that the audio tweet feature, initially restricted to a limited group of users, will be available to all iOS users in the coming weeks. Each voice tweet can contain up to 140 seconds of audio, and if the user wants to say more, the platform will automatically add more voice tweets in a thread. Voice messaging is quite popular outside the United States, particularly on WhatsApp and WeChat, which said users sent 6.1 billion such messages through the platform in 2017. Twitter suggested tweeting by voice could be useful for “#storytime about your encounter with wild geese in your neighborhood, a journalist sharing breaking news, or a first-hand account from a protest.”

Content moderation researchers told OneZero that while the feature is not inherently good or bad, Twitter — a platform that already struggles with curbing harmful content — doesn’t seem to be prepared for its consequences.

“Like any new platform for content on the internet it is going to have all of the bad things that come along with — it’s going to have hate speech, disinformation, threats, bullying,” said evelyn douek, a lecturer at the Harvard Law School who studies regulation of online speech. (Evelyn spells…