Twitter users often have to put up with abuse and harassment from trolls. We saw this play out unfortunately during the whole #GamerGate saga, when death threats and “swatting” became the norm. We even saw it following the death of beloved comedian Robin Williams. His daughter, Zelda Williams, was harassed and trolled so badly following the tragedy that she suspended her Twitter account (she did return weeks later, however, after receiving an outpouring of support from fans).
Zelda Williams (second from right) was temporarily chased off Twitter by trolls following her father's death. (Source: Flickr)
Twitter has a problem, and its executives know this. In fact, the company’s CEO is well aware of the problem according to leaked memos obtained by The Verge. In the first memo, CEO Dick Costolo talks about Twitter’s troll problem and makes an impassioned commitment to dropkick these losers off a bridge:
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.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo (Source: Flickr)
If that wasn’t enough, Costolo went even further by repeatedly stating how he takes personal responsibility for what has become Twitter’s inaction on abusive posts. We count the word “responsibility” used four times in the second memo alone:
On Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:45 PM, Dick Costolo wrote:
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.
I must say, it’s quite refreshing to see a high-profile CEO making these statements about a long-running problem. However, actions speak louder than words, so we’d like to see what plan Twitter has in place to take down trolls once and for all. One solution would be some combination of IP logging and account validation using a phone number to help prevent trolls from quickly creating multiple accounts to spread their venom. Perhaps we’ll hear something about Twitter’s plans following its fourth quarter earnings that will be reported tomorrow.