Twitter chief: we suck at dealing with trolls

Twitter's Dick Costolo admits he's 'ashamed'. Picture: Getty
Twitter's Dick Costolo admits he's 'ashamed'. Picture: Getty
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TWITTER “sucks” at dealing with trolls who abuse people online, the social media website’s chief executive has admitted.

Dick Costolo assumed personal responsibility for site problems in dealing with complaints in an internal memo.

And he said Twitter should be embarrassed at how it handles abuse and must take stronger ­action in the future.

Mr Costolo said: “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. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues they face every day.

“I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure. 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.”

His comments came on an internal forum among Twitter employees, after another member of staff asked what more could be done to tackle online abuse in the wake of writer Lindy West speaking about her experiences.

Ms West received comments and abuse on a daily basis, and trolls even created a Twitter ­account in her deceased father’s name in order to post insults ­
to her.

“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,” added Mr Costolo. “Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.”

Stories of abuse, threats and internet trolls have become commonplace on Twitter in recent years.

Journalist Caroline Criado-Perez received rape threats after she voiced her support for the campaign to introduce Jane Austen as the new face of the new £10 note. Twitter users Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo admitted sending the messages to Ms Criado-Perez and both were jailed last year.


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Many believe that Twitter is still not doing enough, and in December the social platform moved to make the task of reporting abuse easier.

An update saw the process streamlined and fewer steps required in order to report abuse – it used to require filling in a nine-part questionnaire but can now be done in a few steps. Twitter said more tools are on the way to improve the service.

Mr Costolo continued: “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.”


THE growing incidence of Twitter trolling has seen the law brought to bear on the problem. Last year Peter Nunn, 33, from Bristol was sentenced to 18 months in jail for bombarding Labour MP Stella Creasy with abusive messages after she supported the campaign to put Jane Austen on the £10 note.

The father-of-one was found guilty of sending indecent, obscene or menacing messages.

Robin Williams’s daughter, Zelda Williams, was forced to leave the social platform last year after being sent disturbing images in the wake of her father’s suicide.

But television historian Mary Beard took matters into her own hands when she shamed an internet troll who attacked her by naming him on Twitter.


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