Survey: Twitter Falls Short for Abuse Victims

“Safety is our top priority”. That’s what Twitter says, but it has never really felt that way.

Twitter logoI don’t get abused on Twitter very often, and when I do it doesn’t bother me. I just move on. For many other users, the reality is very different. The problem that I see is that the harassment, when reported to Twitter, is often not acted on, or worse, Twitter deems the act to be “not harassment”, or something.

I was encouraged last month to see a very good journalist from Buzzfeed, Charlie Warzel, reaching out to the community on Twitter to get feedback on people’s experience with abuse on Twitter. The survey got over 2,700 responses, and the results should be a wakeup call to Twitter. It’s the kind of network where, if that is what you’re into, you can end up spending hours a day on it. This needs to be fixed.

According to the article, a typical (or not atypical) response from Twitter to a report of harassment is: “We’ve investigated the account and reported tweets for violent threats and abusive behavior, and have found that it’s currently not violating the Twitter rules.”

Of the 2,700 respondents, 1,530 reported having experienced some specific type of abuse on Twitter. What types of abuse were reported (in order of frequency):

  • Misogynistic language
  • Homophobic or trans phobic slurs
  • Incitement to suicide
  • Racist slurs
  • Death threats
  • Rape threats
  • Tweets disclosing personal information
  • Other

There is not a lot of gray area in a number of the categories above.

Twitter abuseAccording to the survey, Twitter’s response when abuse is reported:

  • Twitter did nothing – 75%
  • Twitter determined that the incident was not abuse – 18%
  • Twitter deleted the abusive account – 3%
  • Twitter sent a warning to the abuser – 1%
  • In less that 1% of the reported instances, a rep from Twitter reached out to the victim

Twitter is a space designed for conversation and free speech, and not necessarily a safe space. Twitter’s policy appears to favor free speech over protecting users, but we hope we’re nearing a tipping point. We’ve seen plenty of examples of over the top abuse that are reported and not acted on. The survey and article point out several more. It’s time for this to change.



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