Twitter Enforces ToS, Cares About Users

Saturday, 24 May 2008

A discussion fueled by hearsay heated up this week when a popular blogger accused us of refusing to enforce our Terms of Service. The accusation is damaging to our reputation and the additional insinuation that we don’t care about our users is offensive to us personally.

Twitter is 16 employees made up of systems engineers and operators, product designers, and support specialists. We do not employ public relations professionals. This accusation caught us by surprise, putting us on the defensive in the middle of what continues to be a very busy work week.

What Really Happened?

A while back, this person submitted 13 individual tweets to our support staff that she considered to be harassment and wanted us to delete the owner’s account. It should be noted that the woman who wrote these tweets deleted the account on her own in March.

Upon receiving the complaint, Twitter employees carefully reviewed the 13 alleged offending tweets in order to determine if they violated our Terms of Service. Of the 13 tweets, only one mentioned the blogger by name and it called her this word: “experienced.”

There was one post that contained a particularly unpleasant word but it did not identify a specific name. None of the tweets contained threats, physical or otherwise. Some of them may have been insults about personality or physical attributes but again, they did not identify anyone specifically.

During the course of this public discussion it has come to light that these two women have a history of unpleasant interaction over the Internet. While the complainant may indeed feel harassed she is wrong to accuse Twitter of negligence. We review every complaint and we have on occasion deleted accounts for code of conduct violations. In this case, we saw no violation.

Note that this same popular blogger issued another complaint more recently about a different account which was some sort of “confession” mashup that allowed multiple people to post to one Twitter account. Our support staff investigated as soon as we received the complaint but the account had already been deleted by it’s creator. This complaint was separate from the original complaint and added confusion. This was not the account that inspired the accusation.

Keeping our Terms of Service Current

The Twitter Terms of Service document is two years old and in need of updating. We were engaged in a review prior to this incident and there is no connection. There are issues of liability, indemnity, and various legalese that need to be brought up to speed with the current state of Twitter, Inc. Additionally, we plan to look very closely at the code of conduct section which refers broadly to “harassment.” We think we can make this more specific to avoid future confusion.

In the meantime, we stand behind our current Terms, we care about users, and we take every complaint seriously.