Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christian Chirp: Because Twitter Isn't Christian Enough

Christian Chirp launched a couple weeks ago, billing itself as "The Christian Alternative to Twitter." If I were to rank all the things that need a Christian alternative, Twitter would fall somewhere between peanut butter and adhesive bandages. Twitter is a value-neutral medium. Users have complete control over what they tweet, whom they follow, and who follows them. Twitter doesn't care whether one is tweeting about the Sermon on the Mount, the new BCS standings, the situation in Afghanistan, or the latest Donald Miller book. Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt who said of Christian Chirp, "Great. All we need is another ghetto. No thanks." I concur. When we spread the gospel message in 140-or-fewer characters, we are better off doing so at Twitter (where millions of people from around the world gather) than at Christian Chirp.

While Twitter is flexible and customizable and neutral, there is one thing that the micro-blogging service does not allow: spam. Spam on Twitter involves tweeting the same message or link to several other Twitter users using the "@" command. Just as one can get in trouble for sending large numbers of unsolicited e-mails, Twitter users can get in trouble for large numbers of unsolicited tweets. This one rule is responsible for the birth of Christian Chirp.

Christian Chirp is the brainchild of Christian financial adviser, blogger, and former Twitter user James L. Paris. Paris used Twitter to draw traffic to his blog and a particular post he wrote in defense of Rush Limbaugh. He made gratuitous use of the "@" command; Twitter interpreted this as spam, and suspended Paris for one week. Paris claimed that he was being treated unfairly because of his political views, and founded a "Christian alternative to Twitter."

A Christian Chirp user named Samsonijah suggested to Paris that his suspension had nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with the overuse of "@reply" tweets. Paris then suggested that, if he had tweeted in favor of President Obama and had made liberal use of the "@" command, he wouldn't have been suspended. Samsonijah put this theory to the test by posting several "@reply" tweets saying "Obama is awesome." His account was suspended almost immediately. Paris wasn't persecuted; he was mildly disciplined for breaking Twitter's one commandment.

Here's what bothers me about all of this: In the mind of James L. Paris, Twitter punished him for defending Rush Limbaugh but wouldn't have if he had been supporting President Obama. He then concluded that Twitter was hostile to Christians and set up Christian Chirp. Paris wasn't suspended for defending the Resurrection or the doctrine of the Trinity, he was suspended (from his perspective) for defending a conservative talk radio host. It irritates me that people still equate Christianity with a specific strand of American conservatism.


Anonymous James Paris said...

To this day, despite numerous requests, Twitter will not provide me with any specifics about my suspensions. Additionally, there is nothing in their terms of service that defines exactly what is too much @ replying. Don't you think I am at least owed an explanation from someone at Twitter? Search the Inter and you will find countless examples of people being suspended from Twitter without being given any reason.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

@JamesParis - Are you saying that you did not break Twitter's rules because they did not personally contact you and give you an exact number of how many @replies will trigger their spam filter?

Honestly, do you see how badly your behavior is reflecting on your fellow Christians, and why so many of us (Christian and non-Christian) are incredulous at how anyone can keep pretending to be so dense in order to not look bad for breaking something as innocuous as a website's spam policy? Is it beneath you somehow to accept responsibility for your actions and simply not @reply hundreds of people who did not ask you to @reply them in the first place? It's the same thing as sending unsolicited email. It is called spam. Twitter is not to be used for this purpose, their policy is strict, and I, for one, am GLAD their spam policy is so strict...and you should be, too.

Please - I am begging you as a fellow believer, for the sake of Christ's name and the witness you have to everyone you come in contact with - drop the "well, they haven't given me specifics" routine. You blew it, you know you blew it, man up and just admit it and then move on - you may still escape all this with a decent amount of your integrity still intact, which, to be perfectly frank, continues to fly out the window at an alarming rate.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Earl said...

Twitter makes the rules for those who participate. They apply the rules as they see fit. They are not a public accommodation and can exclude anyone on whatever basis they choose. Chirp will stand or fall as people either use or do not use it. If in the eyes of Hyatt CC is a "getto," then what difference is there in a congregations meeting on Sunday Morning/Evening for Bible study and Worship?

4:48 AM  

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