Twitter could make reporting abuse easier
Microblogging site testing new ways of simplifying reporting process for abuse
It has been an uncomfortable few days for social media, and Twitter in particular. The microblogging site has been threatened with a mass revolt from users, with threats to boycott the site on Sunday, August 4th, unless it made reporting abusive tweets an easier process.
Social media may have changed how we communicate, but if recent publicity were taken at face value, that may not always be a good thing. Social media and its users are being viewed in some quarters as an internet’s Wild West.
Twitter’s trouble began innocently enough. When Caroline Criado-Perez campaigned to keep a woman featured on Britain’s banknotes – besides the queen – the intention was to score a victory for feminism.
She won; Jane Austen will become the new face of the £10 note. But the day the news was made public, among the messages of congratulations on Twitter, Criado-Perez found abusive posts aimed at her. Among the less savoury responses, which were reported to Twitter, were multiple threats to rape her, a matter that was reported to the police.
A man was subsequently arrested in England, on suspicion of harassment offences.
Within a matter of hours, a petition was started on change.org to try to force Twitter to make the process of reporting someone for abusive tweets a little easier. Earlier this week, it had gained more than 80,000 signatures and Twitter looked to be on the verge of taking action.
Forced to act
It wouldn’t be the first time Twitter has taken action to protect its users. In October 2009, Twitter brought in a button that would allow users to report a Twitter account for spam. That came after an influx of bad accounts on the network and numerous complaints to Twitter.
For various reasons – free speech, the volume of tweets – Twitter can’t screen every single post to its site, so it relies on the network of users to keep it informed. But part of the problem was that for many users of the site, reporting tweets wasn’t a quick and easy process. And with more than 400 million tweets sent worldwide every day, across Twitter’s own site and third party apps, there’s a lot to sift through.
“The vast majority of these use cases which are positive. That said, we are not blind to the reality that there will always be people using Twitter in ways that are abusive and may harm others,” Twitter’s senior director of trust and safety Del Harvey wrote on Monday.
A spokesperson for the site confirmed to The Irish Times it was considering how to make reporting abuse easier for users. “We value the feedback from our users and are testing ways of simplifying the reporting process, including a broad roll-out of in-tweet reporting beyond the current availability on the iPhone app and mobile web. We have processes in place for working with law enforcement and are in communication with the police, as well as the affected parties.”