Many former employees cite the stagnation of Twitter’s product team as a chief reason for the rise in harassment after 2012. “I think product has failed users,” one former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. Part of what makes Twitter so powerful is its ability to level the communication field; tweets from a non-famous, little-followed user, are, in theory, just as easy to surface as a celebrity’s. Simply, Twitter is built differently than most social networks. Two accounts don’t have to follow each other to interact, and once a tweet is out in the world, the original tweeter doesn’t have the ability to moderate responses, like they might on an Instagram or Facebook comment. This unique design is responsible for some of Twitter’s most revolutionary and serendipitous moments; it’s also perfect for abuse.
“For years, it allowed this equal footing, where a troll you didn’t follow and your best friend who you follow and interact with all the time were given equal weight, and that’s crazy,” a former senior employee said. “Seriously, if you were an alien and you came down to look at this thing, you’d say, ‘Oh, the product was basically built for maximum ease of trolling.’ Like, they must have built this for trolls.”
Employees close to the product team echoed these frustrations. “There are easy anti-abuse ideas that product managers brought up like 10 times — like, when you open any famous person tweet, the first reply you see should be somebody the tweeter follows, not just a rando,” one former employee said. “We talked about this idea five years ago — that’s an eternity in tech — and they’re not executed, and that does not give me hope that they think about this problem.”
Or, as one former employee said, “product inaction created a honeypot for assholes.”