Twitter cofounder Biz Stone has been hit with a deluge of criticism after complaining that people are “so dismissive of the Trust and Safety team” — the Twitter employees responsible for policing abuse on the platform.
Following an exchange between two users over Twitter’s approach to US President Donald Trump’s inflammatory tweets, Stone responded: “Y’all pile on us. You really think the issue doesn’t weigh on us? And you’re so dismissive of the Trust and Safety team. We’re all people.”
Y'all pile on us. You really think the issue doesn't weigh on us? And you're so dismissive of the Trust and Safety team. We're all people.
— Biz Stone (@biz) October 1, 2017
But users lambasted the exec for what they viewed as a tone-deaf response, highlighting Twitter’s infamous problem with abuse and harassment and arguing the company should try to fix alleged failings rather than attack its critics for pointing them out.
“Like yeah there are good people working in broken systems. But the system is broken and companies being criticised [is not equal to people] threatening [people],” replied Zoe Quinn, a game developer who has been a constant target of organised harassment on Twitter.
“And I’ve been in those rooms with y’all and heard endless streams of excuses from all levels for years about why you won’t help. To my face … So if this shit weighs on you, take it up with your bosses. Not people who are hurting because of your company’s inaction.”
Meanwhile, the user @stonekettle wrote: “Dude, stop. I’ve reported/blocked hundreds of bots, trolls, bigots, haters, racists, etc. You don’t care. You don’t do ANYTHING about it … I’ve been attacked by actual Nazis on this platform. Twitter did NOTHING. Trust and Safety. Hilarious.”
Another user, Traci, agreed: “Same here. Also threats of rape, stalking, etc. yet nada done by Twitter.”
One of the longest critical responses came from Yonatam Zungr, a former Google employee, in the form of a tweetstorm. “I worked on policy issues at G+ and YT for years. It was *painfully* obvious that Twitter never took them seriously. Twitter was so enamoured of the idea that they had helped catalyze the Arab Spring that ‘free speech’ became an unexamined article of faith,” he wrote.
“It’s hard to think of a single case where Twitter’s answer wasn’t ‘allow everything, make it users’ responsibility to block.’ Even when it was very clear that this imposed unscalable burdens on individual users, silenced *their* speech, or created public risks. And Trump using Twitter was clearly far too exciting to leadership as well: ‘OMG we’re right in the middle of the political process!'”
He added: “Twitter chose to optimise for traffic at the expense of user experience. That’s why GamerGate, that’s why Trump, that’s why Nazis.
The furore stems, in part, from Twitter’s approach to Trump. There have been repeated calls from some critics for the social network to ban the US president, arguing his posts fall foul of Twitter’s rules and could start a war.
Twitter has resisted, arguing they are newsworthy and help hold him accountable — but the debate was reignited after North Korea claimed that a recent Trump tweet amounted to a declaration of war. (The US government denies this, saying it has not declared war on North Korea.)
Stone, who also cofounded blogging platform Medium, changed his tone in a subsequent tweet. “I really appreciate all the responses. (Apologies — my words didn’t come out right.)” He wrote. “We’re listening. Thank you for all this feedback.”
Twitter has grappled with the problem of harassment for years. Back in 2015, then-CEO Dick Costolo admitted in an internal memo that “we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls and we’ve sucked at it for years … we lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”
But the responses to Stone’s tweet show that many users believe Twitter still hasn’t managed to solve the problem.
Case in point: On September 29, Stone was asked whether a neo-Nazi “white power” tweet that used slurs for Jews and black people was “newsworthy.”
“You know it’s not,” he responded. “It’s disgusting. I reported it, and I hope you did too.”
But a full week after the it was posted, and three days after a Twitter cofounder apparently reported it, the tweet remains available to view on Twitter.
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