Twitter cries foul over BuzzFeed article on trolling

Twitter has claimed a BuzzFeed article titled "Inside Twitter's 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment" contains inaccuracies, but the social network is not going to do anything about them.

Internet trolls have driven several high-profile users away from Twitter (Credit: dan177/Thinkstock)
Internet trolls have driven several high-profile users away from Twitter (Credit: dan177/Thinkstock)

The long-form article was published on Buzzfeed yesterday and examines the conflict within Twitter’s leadership about whether it should champion free speech or crack down on the troll accounts which have driven several high-profile users away from the platform.

It includes an allegation that in 2015 then chief executive Dick Costolo "ordered the media partnerships team inside Twitter to use an algorithm to filter all tweets directed at [US President Barack Obama] for abusive language" during a Q&A session and kept this secret from some senior employees. BuzzFeed reported that Costolo did not respond to requests for comment.

The article questions whether Twitter has double standards for celebrities and non-celebrities in light of its actions after Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones quit Twitter citing racist and sexist harassment in July this year. Current chief executive Jack Dorsey permanently banned conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos, who was reported to have urged on the trolls, and Jones returned.

Twitter’s response to the article, also published yesterday, reads: "In response to today’s BuzzFeed story on safety, we were contacted just last night for comment and obviously had not seen any part of the story until we read it today.

"We feel there are inaccuracies in the details and unfair portrayals but rather than go back and forth with BuzzFeed, we are going to continue our work on making Twitter a safer place. There is a lot of work to do but please know we are committed, focused, and will have updates to share soon."

Twitter’s work includes establishing a Trust & Safety Council, which was announced in February this year, to provide input to its safety products, policies and programmes.

The council consists of more than 40 organisations, including Feminist Frequency, led by feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, who has suffered abuse via Twitter.

Other members include the Internet Watch Foundation, which tackles child abuse online, and the Samaritans.

This article was first published on PRWeek's sister site Campaign

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