Twitter Attempts to Protect Free Speech While Eradicating Hate Speech

Your creepy, aggressive tweets at celebrities are why we can't have nice things.

Mr. Costolo (Photo:

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo revealed to the Financial Times yesterday that the company is preparing to roll out new efforts to curtail the proliferation of “hate speech” on the microblogging service. “How do you make sure you are both emboldening people to speak politically but making it OK to be on the platform and not endure all this hate speech?” he pondered to the FT.

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Twitter’s primary conundrum lies in the fact that the service has been used as a tool of political expression in countries with strict speech and cyber laws. But, like most corners of the Internet that allow for anonymity, it’s also been an impressively vitriolic vehicle for hate speech. Have you ever read Julia “I want to roll around in Silicon Valley” Allison’s @ replies? Not pretty.

According to the FT:

One technical approach Twitter is considering would hide from users’ page of replies any tweets directed at them by individuals who are not seen as “authoritative”, because they have no followers, no biographical information and no profile picture.

That seems more like a way to impede spam bots than hate speech bombthrowers, but it seems to be about as far as Twitter is willing to go when it comes to anti-cyberbullying actions. The FT says that Mr. Costolo “became visibly emotional as he described his frustration in tackling the problem of ‘horrifying’ abuse while maintaining the company’s mantra that ‘tweets must flow’.” Hm, maybe we need to check Mr. Costolo’s @ replies.

Twitter Attempts to Protect Free Speech While Eradicating Hate Speech