Twitter has a secret about you

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By Christopher Elliott

This week’s top story was Janice Hough’s first-person account about the power of social media.

In the post, she recalls helping a client at Miami International Airport who, thanks to Twitter, knew more about a series of flight delays than American Airlines.

Got to love it, Twitter knows security checkpoints at #MIAAirport are closed, #AmericanAirlines phone agents don’t know, & it’s THEIR planes

— Janice Hough (@leftcoastbabe) November 9, 2015

You go, girl.

I know why the story resonated. In a surveillance society, aren’t we all a little afraid that someone knows more about us than we do? Know what I mean, Target?

But it also underscores the power of social media in our own lives and it explains some of the decision we’ve made on this site recently.

For example, last week we had an interesting and largely productive discussion about class and privilege. Here’s the post that started it all.

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Most of the participants were well-behaved, reasonable and polite. But a few trolls decided to invite themselves to the party, and they were extremely disruptive.

Imagine if someone came into your house as a guest and called you a liar and an idiot. Imagine you asked them to mind their manners, but they just continued, insisting they had a right to “free speech” even as they sipped tea in your living room.

How long before you showed them the door?

Last week, many months after we started begging for a little politeness, we showed a few trolls the door. We also took steps to ensure they would not return.

Commenting on this site is a privilege, not a right.

Some have called this “censorship.” That’s an incredibly deceptive and self-serving characterization of what our moderation team has done. Indeed, virtually every site places some restrictions on reader comments, limiting commercial and hate speech. This one is no different.

Sure, we’re a little conservative — but with good reason.

Pretend you’re a consumer and you find this site while you’re looking for help. You read a story about someone who had a problem similar to yours. Then you scroll down through the comments and see some of statements made about the consumer:

  1. You’re a moron.
  2. You should have used a travel agent and you deserve what you got.
  3. By helping “stupid” people, this site loses all credibility.

I’ll tell you what I’d do — as a consumer, I’d turn around and run. I wouldn’t want to be exposed to such ridicule.

Social media is a powerful thing, as Janice notes. Our ability to help people hinges on attracting consumers who need help and have nowhere else to turn. (Here’s a story about a Twitter keyboard warrior with a long history of making complaints.)

I would rather shut down the comments than turn a single person away. I’d rather block the sites that invite the trolls and “mute” the gadflies who call us out on Twitter.

Our critics have a right to say what they want, of course. But just not here. They distract us from the mission of helping real consumers. Like Twitter, we know more about these misguided critics than they know about themselves. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

New FAQs and research. I’m pleased to unveil our latest knowledgebase article, our frequently asked questions about luggage. Our research department has been extremely busy, with new contacts for Arch Insurance, BerkelyCare, Cathay Pacific, Motel 6, and many more. (See how much we can get done when we’re not distracted?)

If you’d like to join us as a volunteer, please contact me. I’ll send you details. Have a great weekend.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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