Twitter has always said that it does not tolerate bullying and harassment on its own platform, yet several of the latest instances of online harassment took place on Twitter.
The Gamergate controversy, for one, has seen high-profile feminists and female members of the gaming industry being the subject of vitriolic attacks taking place on Twitter as several anonymous people threatened to rape and/or kill them or their families, exposed their private information such as phone numbers and home addresses, a practice known as doxxing, and spewed a landslide of sexist hate speech on them. Actor Robin Williams' daughter, Zelda, also became the target of harassment on Twitter after anonymous persons sent her altered photos of her father's suicide.
Now, Twitter has decided to take a more proactive step toward preventing and eliminating harassment on the micro-blogging platform by partnering with Women, Action and Media (WAM!), the same non-profit organization responsible for launching the #FBrape campaign on Facebook, which ultimately lead to Facebook cracking down on content that promoted violence against women.
The WAM! partnership will allow women to be able to report gender-based online harassment in a faster, easier way. Twitter already has its own abuse reporting tool, but WAM! says it is not robust enough as users still have to report every single tweet or user they believe is harassing them. The new reporting tool, which can be accessed here, takes a few minutes to complete and asks users information such as the number of times they have been harassed on Twitter, if they are being harassed by a single person or by multiple persons and if the harassment also takes place on other platforms. The tool will also ask people to identify what type of harassment they are experiencing, such as doxxing, threats, hate speech, impersonation or revenge porn.
WAM! will then investigate these reports and escalate it to Twitter. Although WAM! says it cannot make decisions for Twitter, users can expect that the group will do its best to advocate for them.
"We're thrilled to be working with Twitter to make their platform safer for women," says [pdf] WAM! executive director Jaclyn Friedman. "The disproportionate targeting of women online results in them removing their voices from the public conversation. We're so glad that Twitter recognizes that the best way to ensure equally free speech for all users on their platform is to ensure that all users are equally free to speak without being targeted by harassment, abuse and threats."
WAM! says that all Twitter users, regardless of gender, age or race, may use its online tool to report all sorts of abuse they experience on Twitter. However, the group says women continue to bear the brunt of harassment and cites a Pew research study which found that 25 percent of young women have been sexually harassed online, while 26 percent have been stalked.