Twitter Closes Out 2015 By Tackling Harassment In Its Terms Of Service

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Following a tumultuous year both internally and in the public eye, Twitter is taking another stab at repairing its image by reenforcing its anti-harassment policies.

The microblogging site announced Wednesday that it restructured its terms of service with stronger wording and emphasis by reordering certain paragraphs.

“As part of our continued efforts to combat abuse, we’re updating the Twitter Rules to clarify what we consider to be abusive behaviour and hateful conduct. The updated language emphasizes that Twitter will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice,” Twitter’s safety and trust director Megan Cristina wrote in a company blog post announcing the change.

Twitter’s new terms of service more explicitly bans “hateful conduct,” which is defined as promoting violence or directly threatening or attacking “other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”

But much of Twitter’s new rules is a repackaging of the site’s previous rules but with more clarity or context.

For example, Twitter previously banned harassment, defining it as “targeted abuse,” according to the old rules.

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
  • Wednesday’s update made the language clearer and more direct, eschewing the “targeted abuse” label and creating a dedicated section labeled “harassment” in addition to the section on hateful conduct.

    You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:

  • if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
  • if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
  • if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
  • if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.
  • Twitter has been under a lot of pressure this year to shape up in terms of how it approaches and deals with harassment. Wednesday’s move follows several efforts Twitter launched in 2015 to revamp its policies, including new tools to report abusive behavior, and increasing the number of staff dedicated to addressing reported abuse. But criticism has persisted with many perceiving Twitter’s words being more progressive than its actions and enforcement of its revamped policies.

    Despite many attempts to get from under public scrutiny, Twitter, alongside other tech companies, continues to face criticism for appearing to still be tone-deaf on some issues — namely diversity. Twitter rehired Jack Dorsey as CEO, seemingly ignoring public cries for a non-white male to sit at the company’s helm. The company however did announce plans to gut its board of executives, after its diversity report and former employee revealed the company only had 49 black employees out of nearly 3,000.

    Those plans, which held some promise, aren’t coming together as many critics would have hoped. On Tuesday, Twitter announced that former Apple executive Jeffery Siminoff — a white male — would replace Janet Van Huysee as the company’s head of diversity. Women make up 30 percent of Twitter’s workforce and only one in five hold executive positions, including Van Huysee’s former role.