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Twitter: "We suck at dealing with abuse"

Internal memo breaks news that won't surprise any victims of harrassment

Given the recent spate of hideous social media attacks perpetrated in the name of GamerGate, it'll come as a surprise to no one that Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo has admitted in an internal memo that the platform has no effective way of dealing with those responsible.

"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," he said in the missive, seen by The Verge.

"We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."

"We're going to start kicking these people off right and left"

He also suggested the company would be taking a harder stance on "trolls" in the future, banning them from the service. Twitter accounts can be terminated currently if they issue threats of violence, impersonate people or reveal personal information (known as doxxing) but these rules have been largely ineffective so far, as banned users are simply able to go and set up a new Twitter identity.

"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."

Twitter has been used by a weapon against many in the games industry, most recently Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu.

While Twitter takes its time figuring out how to combat abuse and threats, Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz have founded Crash Override, an online support network for victims of harassment, doxxing and other forms of abuse.

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Latest comments (19)

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
You missed the part where Anita and company useTwitter as a weapon to silence their critics, who have never threatened the,, with whom they refuse to engage, and they use their ne reporting batphone to the top to get people banned for non offenses. The poster child being a fan of Zoe Quinn getting Jordan Owen banned for posting a shot of her face, which she has shown many times in public many times, for which she signed a release, and for which permission was obtained from the copyright holder. The allegation was "stalking", for which Jordan basically had to confess, and wait a month for re-instatmen

Weak people use things like harrassment policies as a weapon, and the appeals process, and access to accusations, as well as the identity of the accuser (except in cases of actual, real, confirmed by law enforcement threats to an individual) should be accessible

I spent sixth to eleventh grade the victim of a small weak, severely larding disabled kid. He used the fact that he was perceived as just short of drooling to achieve months of detention, suspensions etc because as someone who was much larger and smarter than he was, I was seen as the only person who could instigate trouble. There's a reason why the U.S. Constitution has the right to face ones accuser, and it's to prevent precisely these situations. What stopped it was finally convincing a principal that phrenology existed, and everyone has lumps on their heads not necessarily caused by being bashed into lockers.

When I've moderated a forum, and there's a dispute, I go back two pages at least, and if possible read everything before rendering decisions, and I have suspended serial reporters who start fights and tell the teacher

There is a perception that victimhood is one subject, one sided, and it's one that the SJWs push hardcore, because it's to Eur advantage, relying on overworked moderators to not look too hard. So I hope Twitter wil enact a transparent, and deliberately slow process of removing people for actual "crimes", and not slime campaigns, and put a hairier eyeball on repeat reporters, or those accounts that repeatedly are reported.
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Iain McNulty Software / Game Developer, Yanxen2 years ago
Twitter has been used by a weapon against many in the games industry, most recently Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu.
Twitter has also been used as a weapon by the three people named above, them using it to set their followers onto individuals who they did not agree with. In the case of Sarkessian, setting them on her male critics (for some reason she never posts about her female critics) by accusing them of slander, in the case of Quinn she set them upon TFYC, and in the case of Wu ... There are too many examples to count, amongst them her attack on a Unity middleware programmer, for daring to mention that their physics plug-in can simulate breast physics on a character.

Do not get me wrong, these individuals have suffered harassment themselves, which is wrong. But please do not make out that these same individuals are completely innocent themselves when it comes to harassing people on Twitter (by their own definition of the term), as it is simply not true. I was brought up to believe that two wrongs do not make a right.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Iain McNulty on 6th February 2015 8:41pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
Both Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkesian started out engaging with their critics and got so much hostility and obscenity in replies that, yes, they stopped replying and got other people to read their feeds and delete the crap they get.

I don't blame them, either. They don't owe you their time. They don't owe you their attention. They don't owe you ANYTHING.

As for getting people banned for non-offences, complete and utter rubbish. It's hard enough getting people banned for actual offences, especially on Twitter. Just because you don't want it to count as harassment doesn't mean it isn't. If someone is going well out of their way to cause someone else grief, then they need to learn better.

Setting people on their "critics"? Is there actually any proof of that? I know there are bloody vigilantes in the feminist crowd as well as the MRA's organized hate mob, but is there any proof at all that Srakesian, Wu and Quinn are deliberately inciting them? The publication of threats isn't intended to do that - they publish them because - guess what? - when women say they're being abused and threatened, the first response is always "You're making that up, blah blah," "professional victim blah blah" and that's exactly what happened with them. So they started naming and shaming because "Don't feed the trolls" has never, ever worked.
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Show all comments (19)
Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop2 years ago
CEO of Twitter: "Yeah we suck at dealing with trolls and I'm personally going to make sure we fix that"
Commenter: "No but you didn't mention how the women are being mean on twitter too."

Fuck's sake. Every. Single. Thread.
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Iain McNulty Software / Game Developer, Yanxen2 years ago
@Bonnie
Both Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkesian started out engaging with their critics and got so much hostility and obscenity in replies that, yes, they stopped replying and got other people to read their feeds and delete the crap they get.
Last time I checked, this was attributed to Wu, who said she needed to hire someone to deal with Twitter for her. This is the first I have heard about Quinn and Sakeesian doing the same. There again, it is sometimes difficult to tell who is making the posts on the Feminist Frequency Twitter often these days, since it is the Twitter for the company, not her own personal Twitter (which exists separately).
I don't blame them, either. They don't owe you their time. They don't owe you their attention. They don't owe you ANYTHING.
I hope that was not addressed at myself, since I have never implied they owe me anything at all. I merely stated they have weaponised Twitter themselves.
Setting people on their "critics"? Is there actually any proof of that? I know there are bloody vigilantes in the feminist crowd as well as the MRA's organized hate mob, but is there any proof at all that Srakesian, Wu and Quinn are deliberately inciting them? The publication of threats isn't intended to do that - they publish them because - guess what? - when women say they're being abused and threatened
Which is why I said "critics", not "abusers". Conflating the two gets nobody anywhere, since there is a distinct difference between publishing the abuse (and as we all know, abuse is wrong), and publishing statements aimed at silencing critics by having their followers do similar work to what their abusers are doing, in sending them nasty messages in order to silence them. And I named an exact example in my post for Quinn, in the case of Wu there was also what happened with the David Pakman Show (her accusing him of making a hit-piece, when in actual fact his own philosophies on recent controversies were very similar to her own), although the Sarkeesian example could be elaborated on to clear it up. A few weeks ago she made a post on the Feminist Frequency Twitter accusing four male critics of slander, and blaming their "slander" for her receiving more abuse (and as I said previously, abuse is wrong). However, she did not elaborate on how these critics are said to have slandered her, and as such these same critics then received hateful messages back themselves having been painted to be liars without any reason given by Sarkessian as to why she said that. If we are to assume that Sarkeesian was correct for the purposes of this, then by her own logic her making that post makes her a hypocrite (given the nature of the post was about weaponising YouTube followers, in her case though it would be weaponising Twitter followers). As I said, two wrongs do not make a right. However, since she did not elaborate on how these critics slandered her, it would be wrong to assume she was right to accuse them of slander, and as such can equally be assumed to have made that post to slander her critics, and in doing so knowing that some of her followers would post them hateful messages.

If you know you have a ton of followers, and you use social media to promote yourself and/or your company then you have a responsibility to act professionally on the medium, and I would say this to everyone on social media, regardless of their opinions. This means not making posts which you know will deliberately set the zealot-esque followers to harass and abuse others. As is said in good old Spiderman, "with great power comes great responsibility".


@Anthony
CEO of Twitter: "Yeah we suck at dealing with trolls and I'm personally going to make sure we fix that"
GamesIndustry.biz: "*Drops the names of the same three women who have been name-dropped in recent times very often over this issue*"
Commenter: "Abuse is wrong, so why didn't you mention how these same individuals are being mean on twitter too?"
I fixed your quote for you to more accurately reflect what happened with this article. With the recent controversies it seems that everything is being turned into a gender issue by the media, when these issues affect people of all genders. As John Bain noted not too long ago, there are a ton of males who are video content producers in gaming who are being harassed on social media (even getting swatted) but do not speak up about it due to being advised not to by the authorities. Boogie2988 notes that he receives harassment every day (but is ignored by the media, even given how much of a following he has), despite him being one of the sweetest individuals on the planet.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Iain McNulty on 7th February 2015 5:31pm

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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 2 years ago
The topic of the thread is about harassment, and therefore related to what we have seen surrounding the women named. It seems perhaps unnecessary given the target audience of the website but let's face it, it would have been brought up in the comments anyway. I would have thought that the Peter Moore article would have been more relevant to mention, but there you go.

Arguing about whether someone who is harassed online is a total innocent or not does not relate to this story. In the context of being harassed they are the innocents. If they are also harassers in a different situation or incite harassment, then the story covered here shows that they will also be actioned, or at least those that that do the harassing will be.

@Jeff I really disagree that people reporting users for harassment should have their details made available. Anonymity should be guaranteed for those that want it. Otherwise there is the real possibility that any abuse could escalate because of it. And of course context must be taken into account, but that does not excuse personal attacks, even when someone else 'started it'. Overuse of a report function should never be punished, at least not before clear warning and explanation of what constitutes improper use is given.

It is true that those that process complaints must constantly strive for objectivity and make every attempt possible to make sure that they view the reported message free of any emotional or factual context given by the reporter. In a list of guild names reported for being sexual, one was included that was '[other guild name] sucks' and it took me some to realise that I have never ever thought that word commented on the fine detail of someone's sex life, but in the context of the report I nearly did.

A long slow public report process is exactly the worst possible thing that they can do. They need a lightening quick, private report process, backed up by reasonably quick appeal process, probably best with several tiers to ensure efficient and fair processing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kenny Lynch on 7th February 2015 7:54pm

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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 2 years ago
@Bonnie Patterson
I don't blame them, either. They don't owe you their time. They don't owe you their attention. They don't owe you ANYTHING.
Well, Anita does. Remember all that money people gave her a few years ago so she could make more videos? Isn't she still way behind in the number she said she would make, even though she's talking about a second series or something already?
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
Remember all that money people gave her a few years ago so she could make more videos?
Were you one of them?

The videos for the first series are still rolling out - there's been no mention of stopping them.

And this obliges her to open the comments for more abuse how?
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
@Iain McNulty

Yeah, the Zoe Quinn / FYC spat was an exemplary example of why one should do one's fact-finding thoroughly before getting all righteous and riled up. Since then, Zoe Quinn has owned her part in the debacle and apologised, things between her and FYC are reportedly patched up. Still, a truly huge f-up.

Re: Twitter filtering, I know Ms Quinn also uses Randi Harper's blocking software, so the tweets never get received at all. But once the police get involved, the standard advice is to have someone different read through, record threats and abuse in case they're needed for evidence, and then get rid of them so the target never sees them. There's been a long queue of volunteers offering to perform this service for the various women involved.

No, my comment about people not owing anyone anything wasn't aimed at you - it was a reply to Jeff's complaint of censorship by Sarkesian closing the comments on her videos. I'm so tired of seeing that same complaint being raised by people busy hurling abuse not just at Sarkesian, but at so many women involved in games development and players too, anyone who has expressed the opinion, basically, that guys should just alt-tab and look at real porn rather than shoe-horning it into games - and of course, any man with the gall to support them, because clearly they are only hoping for sex :eyeroll:

Not to mention that I have yet to see even one critique of Ms Sarkesian's work which actually addresses what she said, in the context in which she said it, so I really don't blame her for closing comments.

Saying people are getting on your case isn't the same as deliberately launching a digital raid on someone, and Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkesian have repeatedly called for their followers to leave people alone (I have no idea about Ms Quinn, I've not seen anything but formal statements from her in a long time).

Take the recent example when the mob went after @brunothebear for apologising for saying that Gamergate is a load of crap. Ms Wu posted repeatedly that the creator of Adventure Time doesn't have to be glorious feminist battle icon standing against the throng and that Bruno has always done right by the portrayal of women, and that no-one should be dragged into the same nightmare she's been through.

I often moan and grumble and complain on my Twitter, sometimes I reference or link to things. It's not because I want people to attack those I mention, however aggrieved I am with them; I just want them to look and see if they agree with me, and maybe say some supportive things to me so I feel less cruddy. That's a completely human thing to do, especially when your message to abusers, whoever they are and whomever they claim to support, has been "Sod off; you're not helping."

Edit: It was Jeff, not Andrew I was responding to. Similar comments confuse me.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 9th February 2015 2:05pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
Reading twitter is like watching car crash videos on Youtube. You know it is going to end badly from the first second, but you never quite know how it will go down exactly. After seeing how it went, you cannot help but wonder about the decision making processes of the people involved.

It is probably for the best to wait for spring and let the sparrows do the tweeting.
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Adam Jordan Community Manager, Ubisoft2 years ago
Quite honestly, while NO ONE, whether male, female, transgender, animal, alien or some unknown species that I may have missed out should endure harassment or threats, I'm pretty sure the tactic of "rolling your eyes and scrolling past the vile spewers, whilst passing on information and evidence to the appropriate authorities" would suffice.

It might be me, I may have toughened up quite a lot over the years but I would rather laugh at them and carry on with my life than give them any kind of power over me.

Granted, it might be possible that one of these so called "haters" might actually live up to their threats but by announcing it on Twitter or any other social media site is the equivalent of them being called down by a games show host to win 1 Million dollars.

Like I have always said to people within communities that I moderate(d), report the trouble makers, do not give them attention and allow the mods to deal with them. Sure, Twitter itself hasn't been great at dealing with idiots but adding fuel to the fire doesn't help either.

What Twitter need to do is hire a huge team for a "report" department, people need to be hitting that report button and if anything sounds like the writer will make their tweet real, the report department contacts the relevant authorities.

It's what used to happen years ago with a website I was a moderator at, if we ever thought someone was bypassing bans and being a nuisance (Stuff a lot minor than death threats) we would log it, send it to the site admin and they would contact ISPs to remove the user's access to the Internet.

Same happened at EA before there was an issue with logging IP addresses (Basically legislation states that IP logging is a breach of privacy -_- ) where we would get legal involved or contact relevant people, such as universities to alert them that someone is using their resources to cause havoc in the community (This one was a little more serious due to the person spamming the forums two weeks straight on multiple accounts with vile imagery...I won't go into details but let's just say you really can find anything on the Internet)

My point...we all have faced serious issues in the past, fighting fire with fire (Let's face it, no one is innocent and there's always two sides to every story) won't help solve a situation, some use it to their advantage, others fall deep into the anarchy and revel in it, however what is needed is a mature and professional tactic to overcome the situation.

Such as with my above mention of the guy spamming the forums. I asked 30 voluntary moderators to help, it was optional and I would not think any less of them or respect them any less if they said no after all it was a voluntary position and out of them, I was the one being paid due to being part of the Community Team. They all stood with me and we faced the spam head on.

Eventually it all died down and things resumed as normal, a few players left due to not agreeing with the changes of the game and that was 5 years ago..

Overall, like I said, no one should have to deal with or endure threats, or harassment, I do agree that something should be done about it. I just don't agree with how it's being dealt with at the moment.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
Some people are bombing other people with continuous online insults and threats, some of those with information like their home address, and each time this topic is out for debate all the points are "who did what" and "who owns what" or "what that person should do" instead of a simple "how we get rid of that". Sometimes it really sounds like people are trying to say that it is that person's fault for "provoking them" (And I hope I am wrong, because that would be disgusting)

How about this? I'm tired or reading trash from trash people that can only use insults on social media. So I think that, if you use insults you should get "perma-banned", and if you also threat people, you should get visit from the cops; I can guarantee they will not do this kind of crap again; because it is the lack of a real consequence what makes unacceptable crap like this to keep repeating itself.

Sounds "too much"? well, compared to what the person that sees his address in the hands of one of those Twitter "rat people", not really.
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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 2 years ago
@Bonnie
And this obliges her to open the comments for more abuse how?
You're putting words in my mouth again. I never said she should open comments. My post was in response to your "They don't owe you ANYTHING".
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Weirdly, I only ever seem to see complaints about the timeframe of TvW video releases from people who didn't back the project and seem to be generally hostile to the idea anyway. People like myself who did gladly give our money towards production are, by and large, quite happy with the release schedule and quality of videos as well as the behind-the-scenes backer updates we get.

It's almost like dedicated haters will latch onto anything they can possibly whine about when it comes to Anita.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
@Andrew Watson

My apologies, I had you mixed up with Jeff Kleist's post, which condemned her for closing comments and thus "censoring" the very valuable viewpoints she would have otherwise received thereby. That being the context in which I posted it, hence asking why the hell she should open the comments being relevant.

Though when did I put words in your mouth before, exactly?

Nonetheless, if you weren't one of her donors, you don't really have a leg to stand on - her donors are happy with the rate of progress so it's just not up to you.

Honestly, when I see Gators making that precise complaint on Twitter and the Chans it sounds like yet another attempt to find a legitimate attack route against someone they want gone for reasons no deeper than "I have no idea what she actually said but she's a feminist so I assume she said these things and I don't like that."

Personally I think for the next 6 videos, she should just post this on hour-long loops: "Thank You Hater" by Isabel Fay and Tom Hopgood of Clever Pie

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 9th February 2015 2:25pm

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Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games2 years ago
He also suggested the company would be taking a harder stance on "trolls" in the future, banning them from the service.
So no more "Celebrities read mean tweets" from Kimmel's show?
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
@Bonnie

And I never said she needed to open comments, and she admits on camera she actively censors, and it's well documented that she has deleted perfectly rational and benign tweets, comments, etc that make her look bad. So yes, you're putting words in my mouth.

I said she needs to take open mic questions at her public appearances, and engage in debates and other interactions with her critics. Instead, she's tweeting their names and phitos out for harassment. As I mentioned, Jordan was banned from Twitter by Zoe Quinn for a month for posting a picture of her she signed a release for, with the copyright holders permission, and basically had to admit to "stalking" to get re-instated. Where is Anita's ban? She knows for example, Thunderfoot will wipe the floor with her, and she has no desire for public humiliation, At least Ray Comfort had the guts to do an on-camera sit down, and he's just as big of a media
Glutton as she is. The difference is that Ray CAN engage people who don't follow his script. I'm sure this debate would be a wonderful thing to use crowd funding for, set a goal, have the beneficiary be a center for spousal abuse, cancer, Dotors Withiut Birders, just so long as neither one is pocketing the cash and definitive good is done.

As Andrew pointed out, she's also I believe three years behind delivering, and now talking abiut more videos. This isn't Star Citizen she's making here, and that looks like it's only going to be a year late (With constant weekly updates, public appearances, and plenty of online and public forums to find out how yiur money is being spent)
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
So yes, you're putting words in my mouth.
Are you Andrew? Quit swapping accounts!

And my quibble was with the word "Again". But yes, your post was so similar to a number of recent MRA rants about Ms Sarkesian that I blandly assumed you were complaining about the same things. My mistake.

Once again I ask: "Can you link to or quote her admitting "censorship"? Can you provide this documentation of her deleting specific tweets?

If they're harassing, they've not got much to offer in the way of criticism. That's the problem with most of the people claiming Antia "censors" their criticism - in the eyes of anyone who has watched the videos and takes her statements in context, very few of the so-called critics (or at least I haven't seen any at all) actually address what she actually says. So I really don't feel like I'm losing out as I've already heard all the hysterical complaints from the manosphere.

And as I said to Andrew, if you're not a backer and not receiving backers' updates, you don't get to complain. Ironically, the backers are #NotYourShield.

So seriously, guys, are you saying that games have been perfect in their treatment of women? That nothing should change? That women shouldn't get to not only have a say in that but the major say because we're the ones who'd know from experience? That it will in some way hurt you if games do change to be more inclusive and less repellent for women? Because all the efforts to silence and damn anyone who says otherwise seems to indicate that.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 9th February 2015 3:37pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
YI'm not a backer because I knew what Anita was when she went begging. Look into her past sometime, it's full of interesting things that are very relevant. And no, none of the people she tweeted pictures of are harassers, except that they make videos that make her look like an idiot pointing out her logical fallacies, strawmen, manufactured outrage, fabricated scenarios etc.

Here's Thunderfoots video on when Anita got him suspended from Twitter for "coordinated harrassment campaigns"

http://youtu.be/XTSQbLt9DS8

Here's screen caps of comments deleted from Anita's Nightline piece. There's too much on Google to even find the stuff from as far back as she was allowing comments, but many of these are representative of the content and style. Anita says in her Kickstsrster vid that she "....moderates comments to create a safe place to discuss feminism and feminist ideas without being harassed or ridiculed"

http://imgur.com/gallery/iX00h/new?forcedesktop=1


Here is a guy who is a donor, who has had his tweets censored by Anita, requesting a refund since she has failed to deliver, that covers many of the reasons why real people, including those on her enemies list don't like her, including the fact she admitted on camera she's not a gamer, knows nothing about them, and finds them "gross". This guy does have standing to sue Anita and file criminal charges as a backer.

http://youtu.be/UoucuL1jazI

If you're actually interested in a detailed account of Anita's past, the exact things that are wrong with her videos and methodology of her biased and superficial "research" that causes well published Ph.Ds like Dr. Mason to find her so offensive, I'm happy to provide but my experience in the past dictates that I'll spend two hours writing something that will be dismissed as "mansplaining", or Big Pharma propaganda (vaccines do not cause autism), the work of Satan, etc etc etc in ten seconds, no matter how damning and documented it is.
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