Twitter CEO Dick Costolo: ‘We Suck at Dealing With Abuse’

About time

Tonight we’re getting news of a fascinating statement from Twitter’s CEO: ‘We Suck at Dealing With Abuse’.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is taking personal responsibility for his platform’s chronic problems with harassment and abuse, telling employees that he is embarrassed for the company’s failures and would soon be taking stronger action to eliminate trolls. He said problems with trolls are driving away the company’s users. “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years,” Costolo wrote in an internal memo obtained by The Verge. “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.”

“IT’S NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE.”

Costolo’s comments came in response to a question on an internal forum about a recent story by Lindy West, a frequent target of harassment on Twitter. Among other things, West’s tormentors created a Twitter account for her then recently-deceased father and made cruel comments about her on the service; West recently shared her story on This American Life and the Guardian. On Twitter’s forums, an employee asked whether anything could be done:

On Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 4:37 PM, Adrian Cole wrote:

A must read in its own right about cyberbullying. One section suggests Twitter can just do more.

“I’m aware that Twitter is well within its rights to let its platform be used as a vehicle for sexist and racist harassment. But, as a private company - just like a comedian mulling over a rape joke, or a troll looking for a target for his anger - it could choose not to. As a collective of human beings, it could choose to be better.”

In response, Costolo made a frank acknowledgement of Twitter’s slowness to adopt tools to combat trolls.

On Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 8:35 PM, Dick Costolo wrote:

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. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.

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.

@dickc

I hope this isn’t just a PR statement, and that it leads to a real commitment to putting a stop to the outrageous harassment Twitter has been enabling and tolerating for years. The worst of it is directed at women; they’re the targets of unbelievably misogynistic stalking on Twitter. But it’s not just women; people who follow me on Twitter are no doubt aware that there is a sizable group of right wing lunatics who have been stalking and harassing me and my followers ever since I opened my account years ago.

It’s time for Twitter to step up and deal with this huge problem.

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