Twitter cracks down on abusive tweets

Posted at 2:49 PM, Aug 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-05 14:49:08-04

By Doug Gross

(CNN) — In the end, Del Harvey says the decision to help users report threats of rape and other violence on Twitter was simple.

“It comes down to this,” wrote Harvey, senior director of Twitter’s Trust and Safety division, “people deserve to feel safe on Twitter.”

The site announced a list of changes this weekend in response to complaints that it wasn’t doing enough to combat hate speech, particularly against women.

The site is adding staff to handle abuse reports, partnering with an organization that focuses on the safe use of technology by children and updating its rules to clarify that abusive behavior is not allowed.

“We want people to feel safe on Twitter, and we want the Twitter Rules to send a clear message to anyone who thought that such (behavior) was, or could ever be, acceptable,” wrote Harvey and Twitter UK general manager Tony Chang in a blog post.

The post also reiterated that a “report abuse” button on individual tweets was added recently on some mobile versions of Twitter and said it will be available on the others, as well as the Web, in the coming month. Currently, users who want to flag threatening messages on Twitter must visit the service’s online help center, which requires several extra steps.

The announcement came after a week during which gender politics in England spilled over onto Twitter.

The Bank of England announced that “Pride and Prejudice” author Jane Austen will be featured on 10-pound notes. The move came after a campaign by activist Caroline Criado-Perez and others.

On Twitter, Criado-Perez wrote that the response got ugly fast: “I actually can’t keep up with the screen-capping & reporting — rape threats thick and fast now,” she wrote now. “If anyone wants to report the tweets to Twitter.” Some of the accounts she cited have since been suspended.

Eventually, one man was arrested in Manchester, England.

British police also are investigating a threat of rape and murder made to Stella Creasy, a Labour Party member of Parliament, after she tweeted her support of Criado-Perez.

But activists complained that Twitter didn’t act quickly enough. A petition, calling on Twitter to add a prominent “report abuse” button, had gotten more than 128,000 signatures as of Monday.

Twitter had posted last week it was working to address the concerns. In this weekend’s post, it said it will continue.

“We are committed to making Twitter a safe place for our users,” the post read. “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.”

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