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Saying “We want people to feel safe on Twitter,” Del Harvey, the company’s Senior Director, Trust and Safety and its UK General Manager Tony Wang wrote in a blog post that the company has updated its rules “to clarify that we do not tolerate abusive behavior,” adding that they “want people to feel safe on Twitter, and we want the Twitter Rules to send a clear message to anyone who thought that such behavior was, or could ever be, acceptable.”
Under the new rules Twitter makes it very clear that targeted abuse is unacceptable.
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”
The rules still allow for “potentially inflammatory content, provided they do not violate the Twitter Terms of Service and Rules,” and the company has reiterated that it “does not screen content” and does not remove potentially offensive content “unless such content is a violation of our Terms of Service.”
On July 29th, Twitter announced that it was improving its abuse reporting system with an “in-tweet report button” so that users can report a tweet right from within the tweet rather than having to go to their help center.
Working with Internet safety groups
The company also announced that it is working with the UK Safer Internet Centre, which is a partnership of three leading UK child safety groups: Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and theInternet Watch Foundation. The Centre is co-funded by the European Commission and has three main functions: an Awareness Centre, a Helpline and a Hotline. Unrelated to today’s announcement Twitter, a few weeks ago, offered a small grant to ConnectSafely.org, a U.S. non-profit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director.
Incidents in UK
Twitter has been under pressure from women’s groups, Change.org and others because of an incident in the U.K. after Caroline Criado-Perez received multiple threats on Twitter as a result of leading a successful campaign to have the U.K. government put a woman on the front of a bank note. Other prominent women, including Time’s Europe editor Catherine Mayer, also received threats. A Tweet was sent to Mayer saying “A bomb has been placed outside your home. It will go off at exactly 10:47 PM on a timer and trigger destroying everything.”
In an article about the incident, Mayer, who acknowledges that, for journalists like her Twitter “ranks with the telephone and email as an essential tool of the trade,” was nonetheless critical of the fact that “trolls are equally at home on Twitter.” She salled it “A medium that restricts arguments to bursts of 140 characters and promotes hashtaggable sentiments was always going to encourage virtual shouting matches.”
Harvey and Wang say they will “keep working” to make Twitter a safe place for users and say they 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.”