Twitter might have finally found some motivation to deal with its troll problem. Three and a half billion motivations, really.
The company has spent the past few months courting potential buyouts from companies including Google, Disney, and enterprise software firm Salesforce.
That last suitor came closest of them all to actually making an offer, apparently driven by the potential of Twitter to provide an in-house social network that could be mined for data, used as a casual communication channel between customers and corporations, and tweaked into a passable professional networking service.
But in the end, it passed. And part of the reason, according to CNBC’s Jim Cramer, is the company’s long-running problem dealing with trolls. “What’s happened is, a lot of the bidders are looking at people with lots of followers and seeing the hatred,” Cramer said. “Twitter says ‘listen, we have a filter’. I mean, the filter filters out a very small amount of the haters, and I know that the haters reduce the value of the company.”
And Salesforce isn’t the only one. A Bloomberg report suggests that Disney, which went so far in its exploration as to hire JP Morgan Chase to help evaluate the bid, was equally concerned. “Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking,” the news service reports.
Twitter has long struggled to prevent abusive users from overwhelming discussion on the social network. In 2015, its then chief executive Dick Costolo famously told staff that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls”, after a Guardian article by the columnist Lindy West about her experience.
But user perception is still that abuse is a low priority for Twitter, with new efforts at tackling misuse of the platform few and far between compared with features such as Moments, which allows users to curate shareable content, or expanded message lengths, allowing them to add more images to any given tweet.
Now, Twitter has one final motivation to take the problem seriously. The company’s market cap is down $3.5bn from its peak at the height of the buyout rumours, and if what Cramer says is true, some portion of that multibillion collapse is directly caused by the perception that Costolo complained about over a year ago.
Will Twitter take action to protect its value, even if it hasn’t to protect its users?
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 18th October 2016 13.24 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010