Tech Platforms Love Moving Fast — Except When Their Users Are in Trouble

The CEOs of YouTube and Twitter are being far more cautious in addressing the problems of their platforms than they were in building them

Will Oremus
OneZero
Published in
7 min readApr 19, 2019

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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty

JJack Dorsey and Susan Wojcicki seem to have little in common, aside from their jobs—running two of the biggest platforms on the internet.

Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, comes across as an accomplished, even-keeled professional who blends in and shuns the spotlight. A Harvard graduate from a distinguished Silicon Valley family, she took over YouTube after successful stints at Intel and Google. A rare profile of her in the New York Times called her “the most measured person in tech.”

Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, is an unkempt idealist who throws himself into wellness trends, mindfulness retreats, and facial grooming experiments. An NYU dropout who once aspired to be a fashion designer, he helped start Twitter after he was rejected for a job at a shoe store. His onstage interview at the annual TED conference was only the latest in his ongoing tour of the media circuit.

Both Twitter and YouTube are rife with abuse, harassment, misinformation, manipulation, and every manner of extremism.

Although the CEOs are quite different, their recent media appearances revealed they are grappling with the same kinds of problems on their respective platforms — and taking a strikingly similar approach to addressing them. This approach could be charitably described as deliberate, even philosophical, and that deliberation stands in stark contrast to the breakneck speed at which the platforms were built, grew, and continue to operate.

Both Twitter and YouTube are rife with abuse, harassment, misinformation, manipulation, and every manner of extremism. One platform is stalked by armies of human trolls and bots lobbing death threats at scale. The other sucks users through wormholes to parallel realities where Earth is flat, vaccines cause autism, and radical ideologies are the cure for society’s ills. Both struggled to contain the viral circulation of livestreams of the New Zealand massacre.

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