Harassment and abuse have been constant problems for people who use Twitter, but the company itself has remained largely silent on the matter. A new leaked internal memo indicates that may be about to change, and Twitter might finally do something to combat trolls.
In a memo obtained by The Verge, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo responds to an employee asking why Twitter doesn't simply choose not to allow trolls to use its platform to harass other users. Here's Costolo's response:
We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. 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.
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 else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing.
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.
Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.
In a second memo, Costolo goes on to clarify that he is taking full, personal responsibility for Twitter's troll problem, and that he plans to do something about it. "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."
Costolo's memo comes after months of abuse and harassment generated by some parts of the Gamergate campaign, the trolling of Zelda Williams after her father's death last August, and on the heels of several recent high-profile slams of Twitter's inaction in the face of widespread complaints and reports. Those critiques include writer Lindy West's This American Life segment in which she confronts some of her own trolls, and critic Anita Sarkeesian's shocking chronicle of a week's worth of harassment aimed at her Twitter account.
Costolo's words sound promising and refreshingly unequivocal, though it remains to be seen just what concrete steps the company will actually take. Here's hoping it all amounts to something, and the Twitter of 2015 actually becomes a less toxic place to be.