Twitter has faced great amounts of criticism in the past for its inability to deal with online abuse, with the social networking site seemingly turning a blind eye to the many who are affected by online bullying and ignoring the “trolls” who partake in it. However, now the company’s CEO Dick Costolo has said that the site will be actively looking to remove those who take part in abusive behavior, in what sounds like a bold new move for the company.
“There’s no excuse for it”
In an internal memo written by Costolo and obtained by The Verge, the company head discusses the company’s failings on a moral standpoint, following a recently published article from feminist writer Lindy West who revealed how one such online bully had impersonated her deceased father on Twitter in order to attack her using the site.
Writer Lindy West, pictured with her late father. Her articles made her a target for online bullies.
The memo reads:
“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.”
“Let me be very very clear about my response here. I take PERSONAL responsibility for our failure to deal with this as a company. I thought i did that in my note, so let me reiterate what I said, which is that I take personal responsibility for this. I specifically said “It’s nobody’s fault but mine”
We HAVE to be able to tell each other the truth, and the truth that everybody in the world knows is that we have not effectively dealt with this problem even remotely to the degree we should have by now, and that’s on me and nobody else. So now we’re going to fix it, and I’m going to take full responsibility for making sure that the people working night and day on this have the resources they need to address the issue, that there are clear lines of responsibility and accountability, and that we don’t equivocate in our decisions and choices.
The argument of free speech
Many will likely point to this as a sign that Twitter is somehow looking to stifle its users’ right to free speech, though this argument is (and in situations such as these, always will be) a redundant one. Individuals and companies preventing you from attacking them/their customers isn’t an example of your right to free speech being taken away from you. Yes, you have a right (though not one you should really exercise) to insult and abuse people online if you so wish, the same way that they, and the platforms you are using with which to stage your attacks, have a right to tell you that’s not okay and to prevent you from doing such a thing in the future.
In the past arrests have been made following examples of Twitter bullying, most notably when British Olympic diver Tom Daley was harassed by one particular young man who was later brought in for questioning. Though this is a separate issue, and not one that I necessarily agree with, Twitter itself opting to prevent hateful users from participating in online bullying is a welcome move. With news stories repeatedly circulating last year regarding people being threatened on the social networking site, we should all hope that Twitter will speak with their actions this time, not just with their words.