Rachel Grate
February 06, 2015 3:07 pm

It’s common knowledge that Twitter has a trolling problem, especially when it comes to feminist writers. But earlier this week, writer Lindy West delivered a serious wake-up call to Twitter about just how serious the issue has become. And Twitter listened.

West wrote an article for the Guardian about her experience with an online troll who set up a Twitter account in the name of her recently deceased father, and her story made us all tear up a little (well, way more than a little). We weren’t alone — the CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo was effected too. After an employee shared West’s article, Costolo sent an internal memo admitting Twitter “sucks” at dealing with online abuse.

“I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO,” Costolo said. “It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front . . . We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face each day.”

This shockingly honest admission is the first step in the right direction from Twitter. It suggests that Twitter is taking the advice West offered the company in her article which was to “as a collective of human beings . . . choose to be better.”

This isn’t the first time West has prompted some majorly necessary conversations about women’s safety. Most famously, in 2013 West took on victim-blaming rape jokes in a series of articles for Jezebel that prompted much of the online trolling she’s dealt with since. She’s even received awards for her work, winning the Women’s Media Center’s Social Media Award for her activism online. As Lena Dunham said, on Twitter (no less):

As for Costolo he seems to be taking this all very seriously, which is great. He even sent a follow up memo to the Twitter team saying, “We HAVE to be able to tell each other the truth, and the truth that everybody in the world knows is that we have not effectively dealt with this problem even remotely to the degree we should have by now, and that’s on me and nobody else. So now we’re going to fix it, and I’m going to take full responsibility for making sure that the people working night and day on this have the resources they need to address the issue, that there are clear lines of responsibility and accountability, and that we don’t equivocate in our decisions and choices.” Brava, indeed. 

Twitter has taken some measures to improve the process for reporting abuse, which previously was way, way harder than necessary. In December, reporting practices were simplified and in November Twitter partnered with advocacy group WAM! in order to probe more fully into reports of Twitter harassment. It remains to be seen what measures will be put into effect by Twitter now but we’re at least going to take this moment to celebrate Lindy West and the awareness she’s brought by bravely telling her story.

On behalf of all of us, thank you Lindy, for helping make the Internet a safer space for women everywhere and for getting Twitter to take these issues as seriously as they deserve to be taken.

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