Now, with an incident involving the flagrant misuse of paid promoted tweets on Twitter, we see a perfect example of how a few jerks with an agenda are presenting the company with a serious business challenge.
(Be warned, there’s some nasty language and at least one slur involved here.)
It started with this terrible ad, ostensibly in the name of prominent feminist Caitlin Roper, that somebody paid to have placed into people’s Twitter feeds unbidden:
It’s bad. Really bad. The eagle-eyed may notice that the Twitter username “@Caitlin_Roperr” has an extra “r” at the end, but many didn’t see that.
An anonymous troll from 4chan, the Internet’s very own underbelly, claimed responsibility, saying that it was retribution for Roper’s efforts to get the video game Grand Theft Auto V banned from Australia on the basis of its violent and sexist content.
A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company does not allow the promotion of hate content, including hate speech against a group based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “Once this instance was flagged, we immediately suspended the account and stopped the campaign,” Twitter said.
Filtering offensive material is no easy task on an open platform like Twitter, where users are not required to use their real names.
One potential solution on the advertising side would be to make sure that every paid ad is vetted by a human. But that would add a major bottleneck to Twitter’s advertising business, which appeals to many marketers because of its quick, self-serve nature.
Presumably Twitter already uses some technology to automatically scan and reject ads containing offensive terms — though this incident shows that it’s not working perfectly.
Any solution is sure to require more spending, adding more pressure to margins at a company that’s already struggling to turn a profit.
Still, there’s really only one way forward if Twitter wants to fix the situation and boost its user growth: Continue to invest in anti-harassment policies, tools, and technologies to improve the experience for everybody and get the haters off the service so these issues don’t come up in the first place and customers can buy ads in peace.
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