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Twitter's Top Cop

Greg Beato | November 20, 2012 | Story Tech World

Brooklyn street gangs brag about murders they’ve committed. Somali terrorists post gruesome photos of their victims’ corpses. Even grandmothers are vilified in language that would make Howard Stern blush. As long as you stick to 140 characters per tweet, you can say whatever you want on Twitter.

Well, almost—there are limits. Credible threats of violence can get you suspended from the platform. So can impersonating someone or sharing another person’s private information without his or her consent. And who’s responsible for busting such charming perpetrators, which generally means exiling them from the site? Surprise: a diminutive and preternaturally upbeat 31-year-old by the name of Del Harvey.

Despite her innocent appearance, Harvey has earned her chops. At the tender age of 21, she worked for perverted-justice.org, a nonprofit group of Internet vigilantes who help root out online sexual predators by working with the FBI, local law enforcement agencies, and, on occasion, MSNBC’s Dateline: To Catch a Predator. On Dateline, Harvey appeared as the “bait” when a predator showed up expecting to meet the supposed minor he had been chatting with online. That’s probably why her current role strikes her as relatively tame. “My last job certainly gave me more than enough background in ‘awful’ to be like, ‘This is pretty okay.’”

Twitter hired Harvey four years ago to set up the company’s Trust & Safety team. Today she manages more than 30 employees, but she’s still on duty— often remotely—seven days a week. “Because what if something happens? What if something needs to be dealt with?” she asks. Besides, it’s not all malice and bad intentions in the world of Trust & Safety. During the holidays, for example, the department handles Twitter’s @Santa account. “This sounds pretty dorky, but it’s really important to me,” Harvey says. “When folks tweet Santa, we tweet them back.”

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