"For someone who considers themselves a journalist, I firmly believe he understands the power of his words," McKesson said of Johnson. "'Take out' functions in a certain way, and if I got on any media outlet and said something to the effect of 'take out the police,' nobody would think I was talking about an exposé, it would function to mean a physical threat, and I believe that was what he meant ....
Twitter's Troll Troubles
Johnson's suspension could be an example of Twitter's new get-tough(er) policy on trolls. In February, a leaked internal message from CEO Dick Costolo revealed his consternation over the company's inability to prevent users from getting harassed. He wrote:
We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.
I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.
We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.
Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.
At the time, we talked to Carolyn Petit, a former editor of the site GameSpot who had been the target of trolls objecting to a review she wrote about Grand Theft Auto 5. The negative comments bled over to her Twitter feed, where, she says, she was forced to grapple with death threats.
She mostly responded by blocking the abusive Tweeters from sending her messages. "The only problem is it doesn’t acknowledge the fact that sometimes there are things that may need to be taken more seriously," she said, "like death threats that need to be looked into by law enforcement, (the users) that Twitter has the responsibility to step in and shut down in immediate and more effective ways than they do.”
Petit told us her reports of abuse using Twitter’s online form resulted in automated replies and, many times, a followup email that the Tweeter was not in violation of the company's user policy.
But in April, Twitter amended its policy around violent threats. From re/code:
The original policy prohibited “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” The new language drops the words “direct” and “specific” — a subtle change but one that lets Twitter’s abuse team expand the net to threats that aren’t as targeted. Some Twitter trolls would actually game the system by doing things like wishing a threat upon someone, which wasn’t considered direct under the old policy.
The new policy is purposefully vague, which gives Twitter’s human moderators more freedom to interpret the tweet’s context. The policy prohibits “threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others.”