Del Harvey, Twitter’s resident troll hunter, has a fitting, if unusual, backstory for somebody in charge of policing one of the Internet’s most ungovernable platforms. As a teenager, she spent a summer as a lifeguard at a state mental institution; at 21, she began volunteering for Perverted Justice, a vigilante group that lures pedophiles into online chat rooms and exposes their identities. When the group partnered with NBC in 2004 to launch To Catch a Predator, Harvey posed as a child to help put pedophiles in jail. In 2008, she joined Twitter, then a small status-updating service whose 140-character quirk was based on the amount of alphanumerics that could be contained on a flip-phone screen. She was employee No. 25, and her job was to combat spam accounts.
Harvey’s bildungsroman is legend inside Twitter, where she now serves as vice president of trust and safety, effectively commanding a massive, never-ending war between the company’s censors and a legion of Russian bots, sexual harassers, neo-Nazis, and Turkish hackers who have, at times, seemed to overwhelm the platform. For the past decade, she has been at the forefront of that battle, winning the loyalty of Twitter employees who respect her deep institutional knowledge. But as Twitter has grown from a small messaging platform with no revenue to a $25 billion public company, many company insiders have come to a frustrating conclusion: it’s a war that Harvey is losing.
You’ll notice that, at least based on the list presented here, Harvey is doing nothing to battle progressive trolls — of which there are plenty.
Enough of these anti-Second Amendment bots have sprouted up just since Friday that it’s easy to spot the template, but it remains to be seen what — if anything — Harvey will do about them.