According to a report from Buzzfeed, then-CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo wrote a secret algorithm in 2015 designed to censor abusive comments directed at President Barack Obama.
In 2015, Twitter made an attempt to supplant Reddit as the go-to site for celebrities to do Q&As with the public. When Obama agreed to a Twitter Q&A session, Costolo took steps to shield Obama from nasty tweets.
“According to a former senior Twitter employee, Costolo ordered employees to deploy an algorithm (which was built in-house by feeding it thousands of examples of abuse and harassing tweets) that would filter out abusive language directed at Obama,” reports Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel. “Another source said the media partnerships team also manually censored tweets, noting that Twitter’s public quality-filtering algorithms were inconsistent.”
Costolo reportedly even hid the algorithm from Twitter’s higher-ups, knowing that they wouldn’t like the abridgment of Twitter’s traditional commitment to free speech. Sure enough, many senior employees were upset upon learning of the censorship.
In addition to President Obama, the same algorithm was reportedly used to shield Caitlin Jenner from abusive tweets during her Q&A.
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