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Politics

Dorsey admits Twitter was slow to delete tweet threatening Meghan McCain

An edited image showed a gun aimed at John McCain’s daughter during a memorial service for the late senator.

Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain, touches the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Aug. 29. This image was edited to show a gun pointing at her, and the doctored photo was posted on Twitter for hours before the social network deleted it.

Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain, touches the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Aug. 29. This image was edited to show a gun pointing at her, and the doctored photo was posted on Twitter for hours before the social network deleted it.

Jae C. Hong/Getty Images

Twitter should have acted faster to remove a doctored image showing a gun pointed at the late Sen. John McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday.

Dorsey told lawmakers during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing that it was "unacceptable" that the tweet was on the social network for hours before Twitter's staff deleted it.

Dorsey was on Capitol Hill to testify on behalf of Twitter, taking questions on allegations of political bias and on how the social network protects people from misinformation and abuse. 

One of those examples of abuse appeared on Twitter last Thursday, after an account tweeted a photo of Meghan McCain mourning over the casket of her late father, Sen. John McCain. The image had been manipulated to show a gun aimed at the grieving McCain.

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McCain's husband, Ben Domenech, tweeted that the post had been up for hours and was reported more than 100 times before being deleted. Twitter has had trouble curbing abuse on its platform and often relies on reports and human reviews before taking down troubling posts.

House Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas, asked Dorsey why Twitter was so slow to address the post.

"I understand your algorithms, I understand you have to have checks and balances, but really, it shouldn't take hours for something that egregious to be addressed," Burgess said.  

Dorsey agreed with Burgess, as well as Domenech, telling lawmakers that Twitter needs to improve its artificial intelligence to detect these instances of abuse.

"In this particular case, this was an image, and we just didn't apply the image filter to recognize what was going on in real time," Dorsey said. "We did take way too many hours to act, and we are using that as a lesson to help improve our systems."

Dorsey added that he hasn't apologized personally to McCain's family but plans on it. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, also questioned Dorsey on why the image was up for so long despite clearly violating Twitter's rules. Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican from New Jersey, criticized Twitter for its inaction as well. 

"I think it is the unanimous view of this committee that five hours is intolerable and it was horribly violent," Lance said. "We are all opposed to violence on Twitter regardless of when it occurs."

"We don't believe that we should put the burden of reporting abuse or harassment on the victims," said Dorsey, who confirmed the image had been up for five hours. "We need to build algorithms to proactively look for when these things are occurring and take action."

First published Aug. 5, 12:05 p.m PT.
Updates, 12:25 p.m.: Adds more remarks from Dorsey; 12:49 p.m.: Includes comments from more members of Congress. 

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