Twitter’s plan to limit abusive and hateful content includes an updated policy that allows users to report such content even if it targets other users. It also plans to expand the “mute” feature — which allows users to remove an account’s tweets from their timeline without blocking the account — to include keywords, phrases and conversations.
But, as Twitter acknowledged on its blog, the new steps will not “suddenly remove abusive conduct from Twitter.” In fact, about 12 hours after Twitter published the announcement, Los-Angeles based writer and musician Ariana Lenarsky posted a screenshot of an ad on her timeline promoted by the now-suspended account @NEW_ORDER_1488, which represents a neo-Nazi website called the New Order.
The ad links to an article on the New Order’s website titled “The United States Was Founded as a White People’s Republic,” followed by the hashtag #WhiteAmerica. The website’s homepage, adorned at the top by a swastika, advocates for a “rebirth of racial idealism and reverence for the eternal laws of Nature.” The article promoted in the Twitter ad has been deleted from the website.
The promotion violated Twitter’s ad policy, which “prohibits the promotion of hate content, sensitive topics, and violence globally.” Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey acknowledged the mistake and apologized in a tweet Thursday. He said Twitter’s “automated system” allowed the ad to go through, notifying users the ad has been “fixed.”
In a statement to The Post, Twitter said the promoted tweet was live for less than an hour Monday before it was removed.
“We’ve identified where our process broke down and are making immediate changes to prevent this from happening in the future,” the statement said. “Specifically, we’re going to be adding more keywords and image recognition parameters to more quickly flag this type of content for review.”
The social media company has searched for options to combat its declining stock prices and sluggish user growth, but potential investors, including Disney, have expressed skepticism that has been linked to Twitter’s lenient approach to abuse and harassment.
Lenarsky responded to Dorsey’s apology on Thursday, calling for people to continue holding Twitter accountable for filtering its promotions.
In an email to the Post, Lenarsky said Dorsey’s apology was good enough for now, but still left unanswered questions about how the site’s automation allowed the ad to slip through — and whether Twitter can prevent it from happening again.
“Everyone uses Twitter to find out what’s going on,” Lenarsky wrote. “Many users are trying to digest rapidly changing (and often terrifying) news, or trying to connect with the thoughts/opinions of others. Hate groups can’t be promoted on a website where people are searching for answers.”
She said Twitter has “a lot of soul-searching to do,” and it must “draw the line when it comes to which voices they choose to amplify.”
“Start with Nazis,” Lenarsky said. “Definitely don’t want to amplify Nazis. Easy line to draw.”
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