Twitter's Jack Dorsey talks hack response and hate speech during P&G forum
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appeared in Procter & Gamble Co.’s Signal 2020 virtual conference Thursday fewer than 24 hours after a massive hack rocked his social network—confirming that the compromise of prominent accounts, including those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Jeffrey Bezos, stemmed from someone using internal systems and tools and that the company is cooperating with law enforcement.
Dorsey didn’t specify what law enforcement agencies were involved, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday ordered a full investigation into the hack.
“We do believe this was through social engineering of our own employees,” Dorsey said. “That is something that no matter how good the technology is, there is always a weak link there. And we can definitely build around it and are looking at the steps it would take to do that.”
Dorsey said the most important aspect of Twitter’s response will be transparency. “We will share everything we find,” he said, and “show the steps that we’re taking to mitigate issues in the future. And the team has been working around the clock to figure out exactly what happened, how it happened and how we can prevent this issue and related issues in the future.”
Dorsey added that such security breaches are a challenge for “our entire industry” and that Twitter would share information with peers to prevent similar attacks.
Temporarily suspending tweets from verified “blue badge” accounts was a difficult step, Dorsey said, but necessary given that they were being used in the scam that sought to collect cryptocurrency from unwitting users.
'How do we earn trust'
Dorsey earned praise in chat comments by P&G employees and guests for showing up as scheduled for the forum at a difficult time and dealing calmly and candidly with questions from Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Mehta.
Asked about his message for brand marketers in the wake of the hack, Dorsey said: “The biggest focus for us has to be trust and how do we earn trust. Obviously days like yesterday and situations diminish and erode trust. And there are multiple ways of earning trust. One in my mind is transparency. We will be really transparent around anything we made mistakes around and what we find.”
Dorsey added that he plans to make sure “that when we share the steps we’ll take that we follow through with them and are transparent around how those steps are working.”
Dorsey also talked about Twitter’s decision to label tweets from Donald Trump as misleading or glorifying violence.
“Misinformation is a massive problem and not something that anyone is going to fix, because misinformation is a category that includes lying, and we’ve been lying to each other since we learned to communicate,” Dorsey said. He said Twitter has opted to “make the problem smaller by focusing on misinformation,” particularly that which aims to change outcomes, and specifically those involving voter suppression, health issues around COVID-19 and manipulated media.
Terms of service review
More broadly, Dorsey said Twitter is looking to remove hate speech and address other problems by thoroughly reviewing and improving communications around its terms of service, which he said will be an ongoing process. He also said Twitter has made strides in taking the burden of reporting abuse away from victims, with 51 percent of violations it identifies now coming from machine learning algorithms that direct content for review by humans. Ultimately, the goal is to have at least 90 percent of violations flagged automatically, he said.
“We do hold every account to the same terms of service,” Dorsey said. “However we do note that there are certain accounts, like global leaders … that are saying things in the public interest, that are being reported widely, that have conversations that are broad, and we made a decision for these tweets, even if they violate our terms of service, to keep them up but to limit their spread, limit the ability to reply [and retweet] them, and note what term in our terms of service they violated.”
The team reviewing such tweets “is comprised of people with legal backgrounds, some from civil society, some from policy and government, and this is a global team. We’re not just focused on U.S,” Dorsey said. “We also realize that make mistakes, and when we do, we admit them, own up to them and make them right.”
Dorsey added that “we have a robust appeals process that any account can go through.”
Asked how Twitter differentiates itself from Facebook regarding hate speech, Dorsey said: “Ideally we want to take on a show, don’t tell, mindset. Early on last year we realized there was a pretty significant vector of attack in political ads. And we made the decision to ban political ads from our system. We believe fundamentally that political reach should be earned, not paid for.”
Advancing that decision was “the amount of misleading information we were seeing in political ads,” something Twitter was seeing worldwide.
More broadly, Dorsey said addressing hate on the platform “is our key priority as a company.” Besides automating detection of hate-speech violations, he said conversation controls that allow accounts to limit who can reply to tweets is another important aspect.