Commentary

Twitter 'Sucks' At Dealing With Trolls, CEO Admits

Well, at least they know it: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has admitted that at Twitter, “we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls” in an internal memo first published by The Verge, adding that he takes full responsibility and intends to step up efforts to tackle the online miscreants.

Costolo doled out plenty of scathing self-criticism in the memo, which read in part:

"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day. I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it.

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In good CEO-ly fashion, Costolo didn’t try to lay blame on anyone but himself: “I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.” His plan for remedying the situation involves swift, decisive policing of the platform to quickly weed out the offenders: “We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them. Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.”

Back in December, Twitter revamped its system for reporting abuse to make the process easier and faster, following highly publicized incidents including trolls attacking Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams, following her father’s suicide. Other incidents include threats of rape and murder against Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist critic writing about the depiction of women in video games, as well as attacks on the author Lindy West, publicized in interviews on This American Life and in The Guardian.

Costolo’s comments come amid investor worries that the microblogging platform’s growth is slowing. At the end of the third quarter of 2014 the site had 284 million active monthly users. That’s up 54 million from 232 million at the end of the third quarter of 2013; in the previous comparison period for the third quarter of 2012 and 2013, the site added 65 million new users.

 
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