Twitter Admits Twitter Stinks at Stopping Abuse

[Content Note: Abuse; misogynoir; misogynist terrorism.]

Yesterday, The Verge published an internal memo it had obtained authored by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, in which he acknowledges that the social media site hasn't done nearly enough to combat abuse on its platform:
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.
Later, in another memo, he added: "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."

1. No shit.

2. Frankly, I'd rather that Costolo were angry about the abuse heaped upon many of Twitter's users than he was embarrassed by it. The fact that he's "ashamed" and "embarrassed," rather than angry and contemptuous; the fact that that he's more focused on the fact that people talk about their failure than he is on the people who are harmed by their failure, gives some insight into why Twitter has failed for as long and as catastrophically as it has. Costolo clearly isn't as worried about people getting hurt as he is people talking about people getting hurt, and when you're more worried about your reputation being harmed than people being harmed, well, that's reflected in your shitty priorities.

3. It's interesting that in a communication (which was clearly designed to be leaked), there is no discussion at all, not even a passing reference, to the disproportionate abuse heaped on women, and black women in particular. "Core users." But which core users? If the man who notes it's his fault can't even bring himself to talk about who is being targeted and why, then I have little expectation that the solution will work for the people being most viciously targeted.

4. Mr. Costolo: These attacks are not "ridiculous." They are a often part of a coordinated, orchestrated, targeted campaign. Many of us who get a shit-ton of abuse on Twitter are named on a circulated list. We know this. Surely you know this.

Words matter. No one knows this more than a CEO who writes perfectly-designed-to-be-leaked memos. And I'm pretty concerned about the words I'm reading. As someone who would like it very much indeed if Twitter took this shit seriously.

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