It looks like Twitter’s notorious troll problem is hurting its bottom line.
Although Twitter has been trying — thus far unsuccessfully — to get acquired by fellow tech and media industry giants like Disney, Google, and Salesforce, reports indicate that Twitter’s reputation as a haven for sexism, racism, and harassment has made these companies hesitate to purchase the social media site. “Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking,” explained Alex Sherman, Chris Palmeri and Sarah Frier of Bloomberg.
CNBC’s “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer told a similar story about Salesforce. "What's happened is, a lot of the bidders are looking at people with lots of followers and seeing the hatred," Cramer told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" based in part on a recent conversation he had with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. "I know that the haters reduce the value of the company ... I know that Salesforce was very concerned about this notion." Indeed, Twitter’s toxic reputation even made headlines today, with The New York Times reporting a surge in anti-Semitic tweets related to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Despite its initial reluctance to crack down on hate speech, Twitter has recently taken steps to protect its users from harassment and trolling. The most notable of these was changing its blocking feature so that users could render individuals whose tweets they found offensive completely invisible and banning notorious provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
Of course, trolling isn’t the only issue that tarnishes Twitter’s brand. The company has lost over $2 billion in the past five years, though it is still valued at $12.2 billion. This makes it an inherently risky acquisition proposition, regardless of the extenuating circumstances. But it's clear the social media site’s reputation as a home for trolling seems to be putting the nail in its financial coffin.