Jack Dorsey’s hack encapsulates Twitter’s struggle with problematic content

The Twitter account of the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey was hacked to send out multiple white supremacist tweets on Friday — in many ways, it was a perfect encapsulation of Twitter’s most fundamental problems.

On the Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend, Dorsey’s 4.2 million followers began to see a series of messages with everything from racial epithets to anti-Semitic remarks about the Nazis to bomb threats. Dorsey’s tweets remained online for about half an hour before they were all deleted.

Twitter didn’t immediately have any additional comment as it investigates what happened to the account.

The hack is another alarming security breach on a platform that some powerful leaders and figures — including US President Donald Trump — use as their unofficial but influential loudspeaker to the public. And beyond that, the hack serves as a reminder of Twitter’s problem policing problematic content on its website, including from white supremacists, whom Twitter has not officially banned. Along with other social media platforms, Twitter has for years struggled to walk a fine line between permitting free speech but also while keeping hateful and extremist content off of its service. The company took down these obviously violative tweets, but plenty of white supremacists still use its service regularly.

Dorsey has also tried to show himself to be something of a model Twitter user. The Twitter CEO has invested personal energy into an effort to host “healthy conversations” on the platform, but it hasn’t even proven easy for him. Earlier this year, Dorsey and Recode’s Kara Swisher tried to conduct an “interview” live on Twitter as a way for Dorsey to show how conversations can happen on the platform.

But that devolved into chaos.