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Twitter apologizes for not addressing threat later linked to mail bombs

The social network says it should've responded differently when a user flagged a threatening tweet she says turned out to be from pipe-bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc.

Twitter's headquarters, in San Francisco.

Twitter's headquarters, in San Francisco.

James Martin/CNET

Twitter has apologized to a user who said the company failed to act when she reported receiving a threatening tweet that turned out to be from Cesar Sayoc, the man charged with sending pipe bombs to former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others.

In a series of tweets Friday evening, the company said it should've removed the threatening message and that it's looking into how it handles alerts from users about disturbing tweets.

"We made a mistake when Rochelle Ritchie first alerted us to the threat made against her," Twitter tweeted from its Twitter Safety account. "The Tweet clearly violated our rules and should have been removed. We are deeply sorry for that error."

"We want Twitter to be a place where people feel safe," the company continued, "and we know we have lot of work to do."

Ritchie, a Democratic political commentator and former press secretary for Congress, had said in a tweet Friday morning that Sayoc had threatened her on Twitter earlier in October, but that when she reported him, the social media company said he wasn't violating Twitter's rules.

Ritchie responded to Twitter's Friday night apology by saying, "Thank you. Do better."

Earlier in the day, Twitter had suspended an account that appeared to be linked to Sayoc, who was arrested Friday in connection with mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump.

For some time, critics of Twitter have attacked the social network over a perceived failure to respond quickly and appropriately to reports of troubling tweets and harassment on the site. Near the end of last year, after a #WomenBoycottTwitter protest, the company overhauled its rules on how it handles abusive behavior.

Last month, however, CEO Jack Dorsey told Congress that Twitter should've acted faster to remove a doctored image that had appeared on the site the previous week, following Sen. John McCain's funeral. The tweet showed a gun pointed at McCain's daughter while she wept over her father's casket.

Dorsey was on Capitol Hill to testify on how the social network protects people from abuse and misinformation, as well as how it guards against political bias. He said it was "unacceptable" that the McCain tweet was on the social network for hours before Twitter's staff deleted it.

Contacted on Saturday, Twitter declined to comment further on its Friday apology. 

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