The hate speech on Twitter reportedly steered Disney away from buying the company

Twitter is not so family-friendly.
Twitter is not so family-friendly.
Image: Reuters/Bobby Yip
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The trolls who take a toll on their fellow Twitter users with alarming regularity have finally taken a toll on Twitter itself.

Bloomberg reports that the Walt Disney Co. ditched a potential acquisition of the social-media platform, in part because it did not want the family-friendly Disney brand to be associated with the hate speech and abuse that can be regularly found on Twitter.

It wasn’t the only reason—Bloomberg’s anonymous sources say the size of the deal and Twitter’s financial prospects also persuaded Disney to back off. But it’s more proof that the microblogging platform has some serious housekeeping to do before selling. The accolades it has received for sweeping 360,000 ISIL-related accounts have been dampened with the rise of white nationalists on the site. Critics argue that the company has done little to directly tackle the growing harassment problem (and its sources) on the platform. Being able to target anybody, no matter how famous, is a noxious perk of the platform that has no verifications put in place to link people back to any real-world identity.

A month after Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones was attacked by hateful trolls, Twitter put the onus of reeling back abuse on users by giving them a quality filter to weed out “duplicate tweets or content that appears to be automated.” However, hiding such spam doesn’t counter threats from people you follow or accounts you’ve recently interacted with. That’s a blind spot, especially when the ability to have an anonymous identity on the platform has encouraged anti-semitic and Islamophobic tweets that are often spewed by real human accounts. And there have been reports of hateful accounting having sprung back up almost as soon as they were deleted.

Disney’s rationale behind considering taking Twitter under its wing was to gain a young mobile-first audience to find new avenues for content distribution. However, it cannot do so successfully on a platform infamous for troubling those very users. It seems Disney’s rumored interest in buying Netflix, which would be a more expensive deal, might be a better bet in reaching a similar audience, minus all the trolls.