BuzzFeed published a lengthy story this morning detailing Twitter's history of failing to adequately address harassment and trolls. Included in the piece was an anecdote that alleged former CEO Dick Costolo had gone so far as to censor abusive tweets during a Q&A with Obama last year.
In May 2015, after the company secured an #AskPOTUS Q&A with President Obama, Costolo secretly ordered the media partnerships team inside Twitter to use an algorithm to filter all tweets directed at the president for abusive language.
According to one source, the algorithm was fed thousands of examples of abusive and harassing language in order to block vitriolic tweets. Another source said the media partnerships team also manually censored tweets, noting that Twitter's public quality filtering algorithms were inconsistent. Participants in the #AskPOTUS town hall were never informed that tweets would be censored, and two sources told BuzzFeed News that the decision to filter was kept from specific senior company employees, for fear they would object to the decision.
Costolo, of course, seemingly repudiated these claims on Twitter—though it isn't clear if he was referring to the report as a whole, or the allegations specific to him:
1/ Total nonsense and laughably false as anybody who would speak on the record would tell you. Absurd.— dick costolo (@dickc) August 11, 2016
Not even going to link to it.
2/ shows a lack of understanding of the very basics of how trust and safety works at Twitter. Sensationalist nonsense.— dick costolo (@dickc) August 11, 2016