If you’ve seen cyberbullying on Twitter, or worse, had it happen to one of your teens, you know how devastating it can be. Earlier this year, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo went on a memorable rant taking his own company to task for not effectively dealing with abuse. His rant included the following:
“We’re going to start kicking [the abusers] off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.”
This week, Twitter took its next step toward creating a safer environment, issuing an update titled, “Policy and product update aimed at combating abuse.”
We are very encouraged to see Twitter take a hard stand against trolls. This isn’t just about attacks on public or controversial figures either. Cyberbullying and anonymous threats are real issues for some everyday users. Making Twitter a safer place is not only a noble goal, but also the right thing to do.
This week’s update both expands the breadth of actions that are prohibited, and increases Twitter’s tools for enforcement.
The prohibited actions guidelines continue to include direct, specific threats of violence against others, but now also include promoting violence against others. If you are looking to organize a Lynch Mob, you presumably won’t be able to do it on Twitter.
On the enforcement side, Twitter will now have the option of suspending abusive accounts for a period of time. This is new. In the past, Twitter could demand that a user delete an abusive tweet, or they could shut down an account entirely. The interim step of a temporary suspension makes sense to us, especially in grey areas.
The sheer volume of tweets makes it impossible for Twitter to monitor everything in real time. Many or most abusive posts will not be caught unless a user reports them to Twitter. To help get ahead of this, Twitter alludes to the fact that they will use analytics to identify a “wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse including the age of the account itself, and the similarity of a Tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive”.
Kudos to Twitter for these efforts. For teens on Twitter, it looks like the overall user experience will be safer in the future, but when encountering abuse, it is still a good idea to report the user in addition to blocking or muting him. It’s easy to do and free of charge.
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