Jack Dorsey’s Week from Hell Gets Worse – Vanity Fair

October has historically been a tumultuous month for Twitter. Two years ago, Jack Dorsey reclaimed his title as C.E.O., inheriting the role from outgoing chief executive Dick Costolo. Last October, Twitter laid off 9 percent of its staff, announced the shut down of beloved six-second video platform Vine, and appeared to be in the throes of a crisis thanks to a plummeting stock price and a paucity of potential buyers.

This fall the company is again engulfed in tumult, albeit in a new—and potentially ongoing—way. In a bid to build trust with users, the $13 billion social-media giant has pledged over and over to increase its transparency, but its actions paint a different picture. Late last month, Twitter came under fire after North Korea said Donald Trump’s tweets threatening military action against the country constituted a declaration of war. Twitter users wondered aloud why the company wouldn’t shutter Trump’s account over what seemed to be a violation of its terms of service. Twitter explained that it will not ban content that is newsworthy or has public-interest value, thus rendering Trump’s Twitter account immune to the rules that ostensibly govern the app. “This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it,” Twitter wrote on its @Policy account. “We need to do better on this, and will.”

But as Dorsey preaches transparency, his company is being criticized for deleting “user data of potentially irreplaceable value” to the ongoing federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Politico reported Friday. According to officials, Russian agents may have deployed a combination of automated bots, hashtags, and fake ad campaigns and users on the platform to promote Trump. However, Twitter’s strict privacy policy, which requires the company to dump any information attached to deleted tweets or accounts, potentially means that data is irretrievable. (The company’s data retention and privacy policies state that “Once an account has been deactivated, there is a very brief period in which we may be able to access account information, including Tweets . . . Content deleted by account holders is generally not available.”)

“Should bot operators and people who spread hate and abuse have the right to remove content from the public domain? Twitter says yes, and I think it’s a scandal,” Thomas Rid, an expert witness for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, told Politico. “It removes forensic evidence from the public domain, and makes the work of investigators more difficult and maybe impossible.”

The tech giant is also embroiled in controversy over its decision to temporarily lock actress Rose McGowan’s Twitter account earlier in the week. The actress had been using her platform to call out alleged serial sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein; according to a statement from Twitter issued hours after the fact, her account was locked because she shared a screenshot of an e-mail that contained an individual’s private information. That explanation did little to placate users, tens of thousands of whom are staging a one-day boycott of the platform to protest its seemingly arbitrary and unequal application of speech rules.

The boycott, which has been organized using the #WomenBoycottTwitter hashtag, has led a number of users of all genders to share their own experiences with reporting harassment on the platform, which they say often goes unaddressed. (One reason might be because Twitter, BuzzFeed reported Thursday, doesn’t have the means within its own set of enforcement tools to disable or delete individual tweets, which helps explain why McGowan’s entire account was temporarily locked, but also shows a huge flaw in Twitter’s ability to police its users.)

Twitter’s public-relations stumbles are just the latest in a larger existential crisis gripping Silicon Valley. Consumers are growing wary of the outsize power and influence of companies once hailed as the vanguard of economic progress and American ingenuity, and thanks to the election, lawmakers are beginning to question whether tech’s gods need new restraints. For Dorsey, who’d hoped to transition to growth two years after his return to the company he co-founded, this week’s setbacks are a reminder of just how sharply the tides have turned.

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