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Instant Analysis: Twitter Is Undone by Trolls Again

Leslie Jones' Twitter profile image. Image source: Twitter. 

What happened

Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones left Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) earlier this week after receiving a barrage of

. Jones retweeted many of the hateful comments and shared her thoughts throughout the episode, shedding light on a phenomenon that's become all too common on social media. 

Jones is one of a number of celebrities who have called out the site for being too lax on enforcing any reasonable standards of civility among its users. CEO Jack Dorsey reached out to Jones, asking her to send him a direct message, but it was unclear if the two connected. 

As a result of the attack, Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative writer who seemed to incite his followers to send hateful messages to Jones and tweeted from a fake profile of her. Twitter had previously disciplined Yiannopoulos multiple times for similar infractions, but the company has been slow to remove offenders from the site.

Does it matter?

While this incident may not have a direct effect on Twitter's business performance, it's damaging to the brand, and a reminder that management has been utterly incompetent in the face of a problem that's been hounding the company for years. Twitter can't seem to find a way to reasonably police its site to block hate speech and other types of ad hominem attacks on its users. 

Writer Julieanne Smolinski, who has also complained about trolls, may have put it best in her article: "Twitter Has Become a Park Filled With Bats and Perverts." What was supposed to be a space for sharing ideas, news, and conversation is being overrun by bullies and trolls.

By contrast, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB)-owned Instagram approached a similar issue much differently this week. When pop music star Taylor Swift was supposedly proven to have lied about giving Kanye West permission to use her name in a song, the photo-sharing app came to her defense as she received hateful comments from posters, blocking them and saying it restricts certain content to protect its community.

Twitter, it seems, could do the same thing if it wanted to. In a statement following the Jones incident, the company said, "No one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others."

If Twitter has such a policy, it should enforce it. That it can't do that is one reason why Instagram has surpassed it in users and relevance.

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Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.