#AskCostolo Interview Highlights Twitter’s Harassment Problems

CNBC interviewed Twitter CEO Dick Costolo on Tuesday, and the network invited Twitter users to ask him questions about the social network with the hashtag #AskCostolo. It could have been an opportunity for the company to address users’ concerns over safety and harassment on Twitter, but the questions were never asked.

Over 30% of the questions sent via the hashtag #AskCostolo had to do with safety on Twitter, but Costolo didn’t address them. Instead CNBC asked softball questions the network chose, largely pertaining to the company’s earnings call Tuesday afternoon. 

Reporting harassment on Twitter can be a problem. As many users note, it can take months for the company to respond to someone’s complaints. The company’s privacy policy regarding blocking and harassment focuses on the victim’s behavior rather than that of the harasser.

See also: Twitter Reverts Blocking Policy After User Outrage

Twitter has had problems with these issues in the past. Last year, the company changed its blocking policy so that it effectively “muted” other users instead of preventing them from following someone. At the time, Twitter justified the move by noting that users can get antagonistic once they realize they’ve been blocked and suggesting that inconspicuously hiding their interactions with the blocking users—i.e., muting them—offered a better solution.

The move caused an uproar on Twitter from people who had suffered harassment, and Twitter reversed its decision a few hours later. (It has since implemented a mute function.)

Tuesday’s #AskCostolo questions show that dealing with harassment on Twitter is as bad as ever.

The discussion of safety and blocking on Twitter comes at a time when the tech industry is working to bring more diversity into the workforce. In fact, Twitter recently released workplace statistics, showing that 90% percent of its technical workforce is male.

Of course, Twitter is a public social network, so there’s an argument that users should expect the trolls. But when tweeting turns into harassing or stalking, the company has a responsibility to enable safe and efficient means of reporting and ending the harassment—especially if, like Twitter, it has an entire team dedicated to the safety of its users

It’s high time for Twitter to answer those questions.

Updated 4:27p.m.: Updated to clarify Twitter didn’t pick the questions CNBC asked.

Lead image via TechCrunch on Flickr

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