People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing Twitter Inc.'s logo.
Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe — Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Kia Kokalitcheva
August 11, 2016

Twitter’s user abuse and harassment issue is the problem that won’t die—largely because no one can agree on it.

On Thursday, news site BuzzFeed published a scathing report, largely based on unnamed former Twitter employees, detailing their insider experiences with the company’s struggles to curb online harassment.

Overall, the report painted Twitter as a place where a lack of true understanding of abuse among the high ranks, a pervasive commitment to free speech (almost at all costs), pressures for business growth, and paralysis when it came to designing and implementing tools have led to little done about the problem. It also included allegations that the company secretly worked to “filter” the tweets directed at President Obama to exclude abusive language during a question-and-answer session last year.

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But it appears BuzzFeed and Twitter along with its former CEO had a communication breakdown.

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who ran the company until he resigned last summer and declined to speak with BuzzFeed according to the news site, was quick to fire back:

(It’s unclear whether Costolo is referring to the claims that Twitter censored tweets directed at Obama, or BuzzFeed’s entire report.)

Shortly after, Twitter said that it was “contacted just last night for comment and obviously had not seen any part of the story until we read it today,” adding that BuzzFeed’s report contains “inaccuracies in the details and unfair portrayals.” But BuzzFeed S.F. managing editor John Paczkowski retorted that’s not so.

Twitter’s struggle to balance free speech with the safe experience of its users has been a long-standing challenge—practically as old as the company. Despite its attempts to create anti-harassment policies and features to report abuse, users, and even celebrities continue to report unpleasant and even frightening experiences.

As some have argued, whether it makes meaningful progress on this issue could affect Twitter’s future as service and as a company.

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