When Twitter boss Dick Costolo vowed that his company was ready to “get a lot more aggressive” about tackling harassment on its network, details were thin on the ground. Now Twitter has revealed some of its specific plans.
The company is introducing new tools for its users to report examples of impersonation and doxing – the sharing of “private and confidential information” – while beefing up the size of its team dealing with reports of abuse.
“Overall, we now review five times as many user reports as we did previously, and we have tripled the size of the support team focused on handling abuse reports,” wrote Twitter’s vice president of user services Tina Bhatnagar in a blog post.
“These investments in tools and people allow us to handle more reports of abuse with greater efficiency. So while we review many more reports than ever before, we’ve been able to significantly reduce the average response time to a fraction of what it was, and we see this number continuing to drop.”
Bhatnagar’s post also cites “new enforcement actions” to be used against people who use Twitter to harass others, claiming that the new measures will not be visible to most users, but “give us new options for acting against the accounts that don’t follow the rules”.
The Verge has more details on that, reporting that Twitter may force users who are temporarily banned from Twitter to verify their email address or phone number, and will then use that data to permanently ban persistent offenders.
On doxing, an increasingly common tactic in cases of online harassment, Twitter will now enable users to report examples of contact information, financial account information, government-issued ID and/or unauthorised photos and videos of themselves or another user.
These announcements build on safety features introduced in December 2014, after a year of bruising criticism for Twitter on a lack of protection for users who were being harassed on its network.
Those features included the ability to report abuse as an observer, not just as a victim, as well as improved controls for blocking other accounts. Costolo has not been mincing his words on Twitter’s need to improve in this area, including a blunt internal memo in February:
“We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.
I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.
We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.”
This week, in an interview with the New York Times, Costolo followed up on those sentiments, declaring his ambition to “put the cost of dealing with harassment on those doing the harassing”, and suggesting that his memo had been an attempt to “send a wake-up call to the company that we’re going to get a lot more aggressive about it, and it’s going to start right now.”
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Friday 27th February 2015 12.38 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010