Twitter takes further steps in going after abuse

Twitter updates its Rules and begins working with the UK Safer Internet Centre to keep users safe

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
August 5, 2013
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Twitter already responded to the calls from the British people to crack down on verbal abuse on the network by promising to add a feature that gives its users on the iPhone and mobile versions of Twitter the ability to file reports from an individual Tweet to both the Android and desktop versions, as well.

But now the company is going even further, taking additional steps to help those who find themselves on the receiving end of a Twitter rampage.

"It comes down to this: people deserve to feel safe on Twitter," Del Harvey, Senior Director of Trust and Safety, and Tony Wang, UK General Manager at Twitter, wrote in a blog post

"Over the past week, we've been listening to your feedback on how we can improve our service. You told us that we need to make our rules clearer, simplify our abuse reporting process, and promote the responsible use of Twitter."

In addition to the expanded availability of the reporting button, Twitter is also going to be working with the UK Safer Internet Centre "to expand our user resources on digital citizenship and staying safe online."

The UK Safer Internet Centre is coordinated by a partnership of three leading organisations; Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation. Its mission is to "deliver a wide range of activity to promote the safe and responsible use of technology."

The Twitter platform will also be used to bring further attention to the UK Safer Internet Centre through  Promoted Tweets and a Promoted Trend.

Twitter also noted that is has updated its Rules "to clarify that we do not tolerate abusive behaviour."

This is the new language that has been added to the Rules:

  • Targeted Abuse: You may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be targeted abuse or harassment are:
    • if you are sending messages to a user from multiple accounts;
    • if the sole purpose of your account is to send abusive messages to others;
    • if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats

"We want people to feel safe on Twitter, and we want the Twitter Rules to send a clear message to anyone who thought that such behaviour was, or could ever be, acceptable," said Harvey and Wang.

The outage against Twitter started when Caroline Criado-Perez, a freelance journalist who is also the co-founder of and the Week Woman blog, was barraged with a series of rape threats last week, following her successful campaign to get Jane Austen's face onto the 10 pound note.

In response, a petition was started to get Twitter to add a "report abuse" button to the site.

"It is time Twitter took a zero tolerance policy on abuse, and learns to tell the difference between abuse and defence. Women standing up to abuse should not fear having their accounts cancelled because Twitter fail to see the issue at hand," the petition wrote in an open letter directed at Twitter.

The report abuse button needs to be accompanied by Twitter reviewing the T&C on abusive behaviour to reflect an awareness of the complexity of violence against women, and the multiple oppressions women face."

The petition, which started on Saturday, now has a total of 127,979 signatures.

"We are committed to making Twitter a safe place for our users. We are adding additional staff to the teams that handle abuse reports and are exploring new ways of using technology to improve everyone’s experience on Twitter. We’re here, and we’re listening to you," said Harvey and Wang.

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