According to a report by BuzzFeed News, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo secretly ordered staff to filter out “abusive and hateful” replies to President Obama during his #AskPOTUS Q&A session in 2015.
According to a former senior Twitter employee, Costolo ordered employees to deploy an algorithm (which was built in-house by feeding it thousands of examples of abuse and harassing tweets) that would filter out abusive language directed at Obama. Another source said the media partnerships team also manually censored tweets, noting that Twitter’s public quality-filtering algorithms were inconsistent. Two sources told BuzzFeed News that this decision was kept from senior company employees for fear they would object to the decision.
If true, the information reveals a major fault-line in the social media company’s longstanding unfettered free speech stance. For many years, Twitter has touted itself as a global leader for free speech. Top executives even published a blog post boasting of such in 2011 titled, “The Tweets Must Flow.”
In the post, executives wrote, “Freedom of expression is essential. Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users. We don’t always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.”
“There are Tweets that we do remove, such as illegal Tweets and spam,” the blog post acknowledged. But only rarely, and only to serve the broader goal, which is simply to “not to remove Tweets on the basis of their content.”
… Except for when they may be harmful to a favored political figure. Got it. (For more from the author of “Was Ex-Twitter CEO Censoring Negative Speech About Obama?” please click HERE)