Former Twitter Employees: ‘Abuse Problem’ Comes From Their Culture Of Free Speech

Twitter complained of “inaccuracies in the details and unfair portrayals” in an article which described their service as “a honeypot for assholes.” Buzzfeed interviewed 10 “high-level” former employees who detailed a company “Fenced in by an abiding commitment to free speech above all else and a unique product that makes moderation difficult and trolling almost effortless”. An anonymous Slashdot reader summarizes their report:
Twitter’s commitment to free speech can be traced to employees at Google’s Blogger platform who all went on to work at Twitter. They’d successfully fought for a company policy that “We don’t get involved in adjudicating whether something is libel or slander… We’ll do it if we believe we are required to by law.” One former Twitter employee says “The Blogger brain trust’s thinking was set in stone by the time they became Twitter Inc.”

Twitter was praised for providing an uncensored voice during 2009 elections in Iran and the Arab Spring, and fought the secrecy of a government subpoena for information on their WikiLeaks account. The former of head of news at Twitter says “The whole ‘free speech wing of the free speech party’ thing — that’s not a slogan. That’s deeply, deeply embedded in the DNA of the company… [Twitter executives] understand that this toxicity can kill them, but how do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line? I would actually challenge anyone to identify a perfect solution. But it feels to a certain extent that it’s led to paralysis.

While Twitter now says they are working on the problem, Buzzfeed argues this “maximalist approach to free speech was integral to Twitter’s rise, but quickly created the conditions for abuse… Twitter has made an ideology out of protecting its most objectionable users. That ethos also made it a beacon for the internet’s most vitriolic personalities, who take particular delight in abusing those who use Twitter for their jobs.”


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