Changing Twitter's default avatar will do nothing to fix its trolling problem

Owen Hughes
Twitter

Twitter's highly-publicised battle against trolls appears to be gaining little headway. Despite various efforts the social media platform continues to be plagued by harassment, abuse and drumbeaters of racist and sexist viewpoints.

Now the company is now trying to sever this association by changing the way anonymous users appear on the platform.

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This week, Twitter announced that it was changing its default avatar in an attempt to shake the association between its iconic avatar and the problems currently plaguing the platform. "We've noticed patterns of behaviour with accounts that are created only to harass others – often they don't take the time to personalise their accounts," the company said in a blog post.

"This has created an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behaviour, which isn't fair to people who are still new to Twitter and haven't yet personalised their profile photo."

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The move is at best cosmetic, and at worst a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from its more inherent problems. Will changing an avatar do anything to stop trolls using the platform? Of course it won't, and any association linking abuse to Twitter will continue to exist until the company finds a way to fully silence trolls on the platform.

The company has also, somehow, managed to select an avatar that is significantly more sinister that the cutesy egg. While comments describing it as 'the new face of evil' are perhaps hyperbolic, there's no question that a nameless, faceless silhouette is even more representative of the anonymous trolls that use Twitter to attack from the shadows than an ovum.

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Despite repeated vows to nip abuse in the bud, Twitter has been accused of being too lenient with trolls and attempting to sweep its problems under the rug rather than confront them directly. A recent update to the platform saw Twitter remove the ability for users to see when they were being targeted by trolls – a feature the company promptly reversed following backlash.

Its latest attempt to distance itself from the trolling epidemic appears to be more of the same – a way to dampen negative connotations with the platform, rather than an effective effort to confront the root of the problem. Until it does, Twitter will remain a potent outlet for trolls – no matter what little picture they use to represent themselves.

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