Twitter accidentally promotes neo-Nazi message

Twitter has apologized unreservedly for running an ad sponsored by a white supremacist group, which appeared on the platform for approximately one hour.

What is going on in the telco and tech industry at the moment? It seems we can’t turn away from our screens without one of the technology giants making some sort of blooper. Twitter has been relatively quiet on the blunder-front but this one puts it right on top of the pile.

CEO Jack Dorsey is in good company however. Facebook has recently had to apologize   for misleading advertising metrics, WhatsApp is making enemies everywhere with its data sharing announcement, Google is currently being accused of anti-trust, LinkedIn has got itself banned from Russia, the whole broadband industry has p*ssed off the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK, while AT&T’s marketing team try to put a positive spin on data throttling, Samsung is apparently trying to blow up its customers, Apple delayed the launch of the heavily PR’d AirPods and Yahoo is seemingly just screwing everyone. Maybe the Twitter team just felt left out.

Jack Dorsey Tweet

Twitter’s saga focuses on a neo-Nazi white supremacist organisation called New Order that appeared in the timeline promoting an article entitled ‘The United States Was Founded as a White People’s Republic’. The promotion, which violates Twitter’s policies, seemingly slipped through the net as it was approved by the teams automated ad system. Just to be clear, this isn’t human error or anything nefarious; this is a case of automation gone wrong.

The tweet was up for approximately an hour before being removed, due to violating the company’s ‘hateful conduct policy’ which states:

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.

Just to make things a bit more embarrassing for the social media giant, the team has been on a crusade in recent weeks to protects users from abusive content on the site. The team introduced a new feature, known as Mute Tweets, which allows users to use filters to block out tweets with particular words people don’t want to see. The announcement came this week, so the neo-Nazi blunder couldn’t really come at a worse time.

While the Mute Words feature is a step in the right direction, it would be worth noting it is a bit of a cop out from the team. The team are apparently committed to removing offensive content from the platform, however all it is doing in this instance is shielding users from the content; it is not being removed from the site.

Hopefully the backlash for the Twitter won’t be too extreme as this is an automation error. Technology is not at a stage where it can understand what would be considered offensive material effectively, while the team is not completely blameless, it did recognize the error and rectify. That said, what is going on in the wider industry? Blunders are becoming far too common. Someone needs to give a few execs a couple of slaps to bring them up to speed.

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