Twitter Has Updated Its Harassment Policies, But Are They Working?

Twitter has posted a blog updating their policies on harassment and the actions the company has taken to ensure the site is a safe place for all of its users.

Twitter, for all that its benefits, has a problem with harassment. Sure, other social media sites can bombard people's inbox or wall with hateful messages, but there's something about the way that Twitter fosters communication that makes it a haven for trolls and bullies. One of the most infamous examples was the way in which right-wing blogger Milo Yiannopoulos used his army of Twitter followers to force African-American actress Leslie Jones off of the site. His role in that event earned Yiannopoulos one of the sites first bans.

Twitter's War On Bullies

Since then, Twitter has taken increasingly harsh measures regarding accounts that engage in acts of harassment or trolling including the banning of accounts which engage in such activity.

"We promised to do more with our technology. We're now taking action on 10x the number of abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year. We also now limit account functionality or place suspensions on thousands more abusive accounts each day."

Banning is a common means of dealing with such people, but in Twitter's case, there is one glaring flaw. Twitter is a free service, meaning that once a person is banned, it is a simple matter for them to make a new account. Twitter has said that they've implemented measures to deal with such accounts.

Is Twitter Safer?

Twitter is clearly taking steps to address these issues and that's certainly a good thing, but it's unclear how much good those steps are doing. Twitter says it is winning its war on harassment and bullying, but others are skeptical. One of the problems is that we lack the hard data to really parse Twitter's statements.

The other issues is that safety, in this particular instance, is about a feeling as much as anything else. Users need to feel safe that they can express their opinions without facing harassment by bored internet trolls. In that regard, Twitter might not be doing so well. Buzzfeed recently reported that Twitter was slow to act on reports of harassment that did not come from journalists or celebrities. If true, such a policy would undo all of the work it has done over the past several months.

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