Twitter CEO: "We Suck" at Handling Abuse

Dick Costolo says he's "embarrassed" by platform's problems with harassment and abuse; Pledges to take steps to eliminate trolls.

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The top executive at social media juggernaut Twitter has acknowledged that his company has major problems with harassment and abuse, and pledges to take steps to ameliorate the issues going forward. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says in an internal memo to employees, obtained by The Verge, that he is "embarrassed" by his company's shortcomings in this area, noting that harassment issues are even pushing some users to quit the platform.

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"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years," Costolo said. "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."

Costolo's frank remarks came in response to a question posted on an internal forum regarding the story of Lindy West, a woman who shared her story of Twitter abuse with This American Life and The Guardian recently. A Twitter employee asked if anything could be done to combat this abuse, and Costolo replied, taking full responsibility.

"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's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing."

Costolo went on to say that Twitter is going to take swift and severe actions against abusers and harassers going forward. "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."

"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years" -- Costolo

"Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital," he added.

As it faced an avalanche of criticism, Twitter in December announced new harassment reporting features that the company says it hopes will make Twitter a safer place. However, when Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore reported death threats made against him and his family to Twitter, he was told that the harassing tweets did not violate the company's rules.

Moore says he receives similar threats on a daily basis. And he's not the only one with ties to gaming taking abuse through Twitter. Call of Duty developer David Vonderhaar has also faced threats against his life from people upset with gameplay tweaks.

More recently, Feminist Frequency creator Anita Sarkeesian published an account of the harassment she received on Twitter from January 20 through the 26th, which included death and rape threats, among other things.

Twitter declined to comment on the memo. The company will report earnings for the latest quarter this afternoon, when Costolo or other senior Twitter executives may comment further on the matter.

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