The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

POTUS Barack Obama Censorship

Did Twitter censor President Obama's Q&A? Former Twitter CEO denies BuzzFeed report that the site secretly blocked abusive tweets


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

August 11, 2016 | 4 min read

A report by BuzzFeed News has claimed that President Obama's 2015 #AskPOTUS town hall Q&A was censored by the social network following orders from then-chief executive Disk Costolo.


Source's have told BuzzFeed that Obama's Twitter Q&A was censored by Costolo

Sources familiar with the matter alleged that Costlo, who stepped down as Twitter boss in June last year, ordered the site's employees to implement an in-house algorithm in order to filter out unsavory language directed at Obama.

A second source claimed that Twitter's media partnerships team was asked to manually censor tweets around the Q&A, and two sources alleged that the decision to deploy the algorithm was hidden from senior Twitter employees in case they objected to the censorship.

A separate source has claimed that Twitter did the exact same thing to prevent abusive comments slipping through the net during Caitlyn Jenner's Q&A, adding: "This was another example of trying to woo celebs and show that you can have civilized conversations without the hate even if you’re a high-profile person, but it’s another example of a double standard — we’ll protect our celebrities, while the average user is out there subject to all kinds of horrible things."

BuzzFeed's sources claimed that the #AskPOTUS session was brought to the fore after Twitter's senior leadership grew frustrated that platforms like Reddit had become the go-to place for celebrity Q&As.

Costolo has today taken to Twitter to deny all of the claims, dubbing BuzzFeed's story "total nonsense."

Twitter has long championed free speech as an open social media platform.

Writing for the Guardian ahead of his departure from the social network, Costolo lauded Twitter as a democratic space. He said: "As Twitter developed and became a product of the world, access took on a more ambitious, more significant meaning. It started to represent the democratic ideal of access for all. It applied to people who didn’t necessarily know each other, who might not be in the same country, same political spectrum, or same socioeconomic condition.

"Thanks to the increasing pervasiveness of the internet and the growth of platforms like Twitter, access has become available at a larger scale than ever before. The United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and share information regardless of frontiers," he added.

The Drum has reached out to Twitter for comment, and will update this story when it responds.

POTUS Barack Obama Censorship

More from POTUS

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +