Twitter cracks down on online abuse

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Published: Tuesday 21st April 2015 by The News Editor

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Twitter has announced an update to its policies to expand the site’s powers to deal with abusive behaviour.

The changes include an expansion of what Twitter classifies as a violent threat – beyond being directly sent to other users, and now covering “threats of violence against others or promoting violence against others”.

The micro-blogging site’s Shreyas Doshi said: ” Our previous policy was unduly narrow and limited our ability to act on certain kinds of threatening behaviour. The updated language better describes the range of prohibited content and our intention to act when users step over the line into abuse.

“We believe that users must feel safe on Twitter in order to fully express themselves and we need to ensure that voices are not silenced because people are afraid to speak up. To that end, we are today announcing our latest product and policy updates that will help us in continuing to develop a platform on which users can safely engage with the world at large.”

Earlier this year Twitter chief Dick Costolo admitted the site “sucks” at dealing with abusive behaviour and content, which in the past has seen a host of high profile users quit the social network over abuse they received, including most recently Sue Perkins, who left the site after receiving abuse over claims she was in line to replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear.

Mr Costolo said at the time he took personal responsibility, and this latest update marks a string of policy tweaks stretching back even before his admittance, which came via a leaked memo to staff.

Also in the blog post, Twitter announced a new enforcement tool for dealing with account users who are suspected of abusive behaviour. A temporary lock can now be placed on an account for a pre-determined amount of time, with criteria set for the user to meet before it is unlocked again. Previously, Twitter had only the option to suspend an account, or not.

“This option gives us leverage in a variety of contexts, particularly where multiple users begin harassing a particular person or group of people,” explained Mr Doshi.

The site has described the new feature as being able to put an account in “time out” while they investigate abuse.

Twitter, which currently has around 288 million users worldwide, also confirmed that a new algorithm is going in place that it will use to help identify and prevent the spread of abusive tweets.

Mr Doshi explained that the solution will take into account aspects of a tweet such as the age of the account it originates from, and whether it is in any way similar to other, previously spotted abusive content.

Twitter confirmed that this will not affect user ability to see content they have explicitly sought out, but is “designed to help us limit the potential harm of abusive content.”

While dedicating more resources toward better responding to abuse reports is necessary and even critical, an equally important priority for us is identifying and limiting the incentives that enable and even encourage some users to engage in abuse,” said Mr Doshi.

“We’ll be monitoring how these changes discourage abuse and how they help ensure the overall health of a platform that encourages everyone’s participation. And as the ultimate goal is to ensure that Twitter is a safe place for the widest possible range of perspectives, we will continue to evaluate and update our approach in this critical arena.”

Published: Tuesday 21st April 2015 by The News Editor

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