September 24, 2018

State of the Art: Employee Uprisings Sweep Many Tech Companies. Not Twitter.

Perhaps. But at what cost to the world?

“You have a platform that’s damaging people on a regular basis, and it’s being used to target groups of people on a regular basis,” said Leslie Miley, an engineer who left Twitter in 2015 after he said he became disillusioned with what he saw as the company’s weak efforts to hire a more diverse work force. “At some point you have to ask yourself if you’re doing more harm than good.”

Last week, I reached out to Twitter’s employees to ask just that. Insiders were reluctant to talk on the record, but a few said that even if there’s little public evidence of organized resistance, some employees are constantly debating the role the service plays in public discourse. Mr. Trump’s tweets, in particular, arouse internal conflict, they said. And Mr. Dorsey’s decision — earlier reported by The Washington Post — to meet with conservative pundits who have accused the platform of liberal bias did not sit well with many workers.

Twitter declined to make Mr. Dorsey available for an interview. The company did put me on the phone with Vijaya Gadde, its head of legal, policy, trust and safety, who echoed the idea that there is robust debate within Twitter about its impact on the world.

“A lot of our employees are here because they’re tied to the mission that we’re serving and to our purpose in the world,” Ms. Gadde said. She defined that mission as providing “a healthy public conversation,” but acknowledged the company has had trouble defining exactly what such a healthy conversation might look like.

“We do have our own internal metrics, but some of that can be really noisy,” she said. For instance, the company looks at reports from users flagging abuse, or the rates at which people block, mute or follow others. “But we just don’t know if they’re all correct,” she said, which is why the company recently put out a call to academics and other experts to suggest new metrics for measuring the “health” of discourse on Twitter. That work, Ms. Gadde said, could soon lead to a better Twitter.

To critics, Twitter’s call for outside help in deciding the most straightforward element of its platform feels like part of a familiar pattern at the company — slow-walking a response to problems that have long been obvious to users, and that grow more obvious by the day.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/04/technology/employee-uprisings-twitter.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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