Twitter Execs Fear Targeting by Internet Trolls

The company wants “be more transparent,” but its safety team has to stay anonymous because they fear online harassment.

(Photo: Andreas Eldh/Flickr)

Twitter is the only major social media site that still allows Alex Jones to post his racist conspiracy theories and threats of violence, and the company just had a rough week because of it. In an effort to “be more transparent,” Twitter let the New York Times into a Friday meeting about the online harassment problem at their San Francisco headquarters.

But one part of that meeting was not particularly transparent. “Twitter asked that members of its safety team not be identified, for fear of them becoming targeted by internet trolls,” the Times reports.

That must seem ironic to the long list of people who’ve had to leave Twitter because of the harassment they’ve encountered on the platform, including Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, Batwoman star Ruby Rose, and of course, the teenagers who had their high school shot up with an AR-15.

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey caught some blowback last week for saying that Alex Jones had never violated the Twitter terms of service, a claim that CNN debunked within 48 hours. Dorsey then went on Sean Hannity’s radio show the next day, prompting some internal concern at Twitter that the right wing is playing Dorsey like a fiddle.

As the controversy grew, Twitter vice president of trust and safety Del Harvey (who does at least identify herself!) publicly released a company email that said Twitter is focusing on “dehumanizing speech — that is, speech that threatens or describes others as less than human.”

“Dehumanization consistently precedes acts of violence,” Harvey writes in the internal email.

Twitter describes its code of conduct as “A Living Document” because the rules change from time to time. “We have the Twitter Rules in place to help ensure everyone feels safe expressing their beliefs,” the Twitter Rules say.

But if even the Twitter safety team is afraid to express their beliefs in a public forum, that does not inspire much confidence that everyday users should feel safe from harassment.

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