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Twitter debuts new harassment reporting tool for female users

7 November 2014, 8:14 pm EST By Christian de Looper Tech Times
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Twitter has launched a new tool for people to report abuse on the network and get that issue resolved within 24 hours.

The tool is in partnership with a nonprofit organization called Women, Action and the Media, or WAM. WAM will essentially monitor the reports on Twitter and bring them to the social media network. It will also track Twitter's responses to these reports.

The WAM tool is primarily aimed at helping women on the network, who are disproportionately targeted in online harassment. The controversy surrounding Gamergate has escalated the amount of harassment, although there are many instances in which online abuse is happening, Gamergate-related or otherwise.

Despite the seemingly good move by Twitter, the social media network has received some flak for outsourcing the battle on online abuse and not simply handling it in-house with it's own reporting tool.

"I'll speak frankly," said Jaclyn Friedman, founder and executive director of WAM. "I think it's really unjust that they need our free labor for this. Twitter is making a lot of money and they should be putting the resources into this. We should not have to do this project and I don't think it would be a shock for Twitter to hear me say that."

Just a few months ago, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was bombarded with questions about abuse and harassment on Twitter, after which the company began taking a more aggressive approach to deleting accounts of the culprits. For example, in August Costolo said that the company would remove any images that portrayed the beheading of photojournalist James Foley.

Most recently, gender-related harassment has been prominent on the social media network, with women who speak out against sexism in gaming being subjected to death and rape threats online. While the partnership with WAM will predominantly be aimed at gender-related harassment, WAM will also look for racism and violent threats.

While WAM and Twitter will be working in partnership, Twitter will still have the final word on the issues involved. It is certainly a noble cause, but it will be difficult for WAM's two-person team to manage the amount of issues that may be reported. Not only that, but some suggest that attempts to combat online abuse are futile because users can easily create new accounts after having their old ones deleted.

"We're not Twitter, and we can't make decisions for them," said WAM on its website. "We're going to do our best to advocate for you with them, though."

Despite these concerns, the program will still likely lead to a better understanding of the type of abuse that happens on Twitter and it is a promising sign that Twitter is at least willing to listen to abuse-related concerns.

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