Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo conceded the company hasn’t properly dealt with the pervasive online harassment users have been long complaining about, the Verge first reported.
“We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret,” Costolo wrote in an internal memo earlier this week. “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.”
The memo was in response to a question Twitter employee Adrian Cole posted on the company’s forum. Cole asked if Twitter could do more to stop online harassment, pointing to an article by Lindy West, who details her repeated encounters with abuse in the Guardian:
I’m aware that Twitter is well within its rights to let its platform be used as a vehicle for sexist and racist harassment. But, as a private company — just like a comedian mulling over a rape joke, or a troll looking for a target for his anger — it could choose not to. As a collective of human beings, it could choose to be better.
Costolo sent a second response, stressing his role in the company’s failure to address its harassment problem (emphasis Costolo’s):
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.
Tech companies’ in general have been criticized for having lax online harassment policies. Twitter has been at the center of the debate with users taking to the medium to express outrage over unchecked online harassment. In July, users derailed an online Q&A with Costolo by pointing the conversation to the site’s toothless online harassment policies.
Twitter also faced strong backlash in 2013 when the site made it so blocked users could still follow and see posts from the users that blocked them. The policy was reversed and Twitter has since decided to revamp its policies after Zelda Williams, daughter of late actor and comic Robin Williams, received graphic images of her father after his death in 2014.