Twitter CEO Targets Online Abuse

We’re not at our best online, that’s for sure. The level of abusive and violent speech is out of control. Saying social media has hit a ginormous nerve filled with anger, hatred and vitriol is an uber understatement. And Twitter CEO Dick Costolo aims to do something about it.

According to an internal memo obtained by The Verge, Costolo is planning to crack down on the rampant “abuse and trolls on the platform,” something he admits has gotten out of hand on his watch.

“I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO,” he said. “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.”

Costolo, a standup comic in a former life, goes on to say that he’s “going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.” He also indicated that it’s a clear priority for his leadership team and that he’s allocated the resources to fix the problem.

In case you’re wondering what his motivation is, Twitter is apparently losing core users over the issue. Fair enough.

A few years back, Facebook faced similar criticism for failing to deal with hate speech issues, mostly directed at women.

At the time I called out the politically correct mainstream media for blaming the social network instead of the real perpetrators of the violent hate speech, the morons that actually posted it. Not to mention their hypocrisy of somehow always managing to overlook the most barbaric treatment of women by so many other cultures.

It boggles the mind how Twitter and Facebook are raked over the coals by activist women’s groups and the media who, like some of our political leaders, can’t even bring themselves to utter the words Islamic and misogyny (or terrorism, for that matter) in the same sentence.

In any case, I give Costolo a lot of credit for taking the bull by the horns on this, whatever the reason.

From a purely intellectual standpoint, I can certainly see why so many act out on others online. It’s a lot harder to be a jerk and bully someone when you’re standing face-to-face. Besides the inherent distance of cyberspace, it also feeds that juvenile narcissistic attention beast that apparently lives inside more of us than anyone imagined.

What actually surprises me about all the violent verbiage is how widespread it is. Perhaps much of it is directed at women and celebrities but that hasn’t stopped hundreds from acting out their childish venom on yours truly. And some of the sources are so unlikely they’ll shock you.

I’ve been royally abused online by prominent professors, heads of women’s groups, medical doctors, and military veterans, not to mention the hordes of verbose folks that fail to identify their profession or even their true identity. For all I know there are priests and heads of state in there somewhere.

One CEO and editor-in-chief of a highly respected online publication for women executives actually took the time to send me an email entitled, “You are an idiot” that said, among other things, “are you really that stupid?” and “you are a moron.” Oh yes she did.

Ironically, I’m just the opposite. Maybe my mom dropped me on my head when I was little or something, but I’m really nice to people online. Maybe a little snarky but I usually follow up with a winky face to soften the sarcasm a bit. Contrary to my jovial online persona, I’m actually a jerk in person. I think it really surprises people.

In fact, my wife and I get along great as long as we just text or talk on the phone, the longer the distance the better. We’re only mean and nasty to each other when we’re together face-to-face. Go figure.