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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: ‘We Need to Do Better’ at Curbing User-Targeted Abuse

Exec's acknowledgement of need to improve comes after Leslie Jones was deluged with racist tweets

Twitter Jack Dorsey
Chris Pavlich/Newspix/REX/Shutterstock

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey acknowledged that the company’s efforts in cracking down on hateful and abusive attacks on the social service haven’t gone far enough.

“No one deserves to be the target of abuse on Twitter,” he said on a conference call with investors Tuesday. “We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we need to do better.”

At the same time, Dorsey insisted that Twitter is not censoring speech: “We are not, and never will be, a platform that shows people only part of what’s happening.” However, he said, “Abuse is not civil discourse.”

According to Dorsey, at the start of the year Twitter identified safety as its No. 1 priority, and “recent events have only confirmed” the importance of that focus.

Among one of the highest-profile incidents recently, actress Leslie Jones was the target of numerous racist comments on Twitter, prompting the “Saturday Night Live” cast member and “Ghostbusters” co-star to announce she was leaving the service. Dorsey personally intervened and met with Jones, and Twitter subsequently banned conservative columnist Milo Yiannopoulos and other accounts over the attacks; Jones has since resumed tweeting.

In announcing its second-quarter 2016 results, Twitter cited several steps it has taken recently to improve safety on the service. The company says it has improved the ability to block other users, and launched a comment-moderation system on Periscope that allows viewers on a broadcast to report and vote in real-time on comments that they consider to be spam or abuse.

The problem of Twitter trolls is a big business concern for the company, which has struggled to grow its user base. If celebrities like Leslie Jones, who currently has 348,000 followers on the service, are driven away by obnoxious or threatening behavior, that diminishes Twitter’s value.

“We, along with the broader industry, have a lot more work to do in this area, but we’re committed to continuing to develop tools that will help keep Twitter, Periscope and Vine safe and open for people to connect in real time,” Twitter said in a statement. “We do this work together with the strong communities and partners that exist across all of our products.”

Investors were disappointed with Twitter’s Q2 results and weak outlook for the third quarter, pushing shares down more than 11% in after-hours trading.