“Don’t feed the trolls” used to be an internet saying, but now it’s a business strategy. Twitter lost bids from two potential acquirers because of the site’s reputation for allowing bullying, trolling, racism, sexism and other forms of lewd communication, according to a Bloomberg report.
The Walt Disney Co., which was rumoured to be planning to buy the company in late September, was worried Twitter would tarnish its wholesome, family-friendly image.
Meanwhile, CNBC reported that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was also turned off by Twitter’s inability to fix its bullying problem. “What’s happened is, a lot of the bidders are looking at people with lots of followers and seeing the hatred,” said CNBC’s Jim Cramer on a recent broadcast.
The statements on Twitter’s reputation are a huge blow to the company. Speculation that Twitter would try to sell itself started a few months ago following a series of disappointingly poor earnings reports, which indicated the company was having trouble adding new users. In late September, the Walt Disney Co. appeared to be most likely to acquire Twitter, especially because co-founder Jack Dorsey is on the board of Disney. The rumour was Disney was interested in using Twitter as an online video distribution platform, or as a way for the company to reach the 20 million households that don’t have a cable or satellite subscription.
But it’s over now and Twitter has no one to thank but its anonymous trolls. The social media site has had a long-running problem dealing with trolls, but this year it really boiled over. In July, the Breitbart blogger Milo Yiannopoulos (@nero on Twitter) was permanently banned for inciting a campaign of racist harassment against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. In response, Dorsey said, “No one deserves to be the target of abuse on Twitter... We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we need to do better.” Apparently, it wasn’t good enough.