Over the past week, over a hundred thousand people have signed onto a petition asking Twitter to streamline its process for flagging online threats. Twitter officials promised to work on it. Now, Twitter is apologizing to victims of threats and abuse — and handing down new rules intended to address the problem.
“I personally apologise to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through,” Twitter’s general manager in the UK, Tony Wang, tweeted on Saturday. He added, “The abuse they’ve received is simply not acceptable. It’s not acceptable in the real world, and it’s not acceptable on Twitter.”
Last week, Wang indicated that Twitter was working on responding to recent reports that many of its users — and particularly its female users — are subjected to frequent threats of rape and violence. After a British feminist was inundated with a flood of abusive tweets from users promising to rape her, and three female journalists reported they had received bomb threats on the site, the issue of gender-based hate speech on Twitter came to a head. Activists pointed out that Twitter’s policy made it difficult for victims to report threats, since it typically required users to submit a complicated online form rather than being able to easily report individual tweets.
In a blog post published on Saturday, Twitter officials announced new policies in this area. Twitter says it is introducing a one-click button to streamline the process for reporting threatening tweets, updating its policies to clarify that it absolutely won’t tolerate this type of abusive behavior from its users, and assigning more staff to monitor offensive messages on the site.
Twitter’s new guidelines also specifically reference “targeted abuse” — a tactic that online activists say is often used as an attempt to silence women. Targeted abuse can involve flooding a single user with abusive messages from multiple different accounts, or creating a new account for the sole purpose of harassing or threatening someone. While some users say those type of “trolls” should just be ignored, many feminist activists point out that online networks of misogynists prevent them from feeling safe when they use the Internet.
Twitter hopes to help change that. “We are committed to making Twitter a safe place for our users,” the site’s officials noted. “We 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. We’re here, and we’re listening to you.”
Wang explained that although this controversy originated in the United Kingdom, these new rules will apply worldwide.