Twitter has had a tough time dealing with hate speech and abuse but they have revamped their policy to start combating abuse better.
In an ominous start to the year, Twitter’s stock plunged an additional 5% after closing below $20 a share for the first time in its history. The stock news followed a public backlash on Twitter’s attempt to commit to their revision on policies combatting abuse and harassment. Last February, Twitters then-CEO Dick Costolo wrote an in-house memo taking personal responsibility for the company’s chronic problems with harassment and abuse saying “We suck at dealing with abuse.”
In December, Twitter Director Megan Cristina blogged about revisions on policies that would clarify what the social media company perceived as abusive behavior and hateful conduct. These changes followed public criticisms that many believe Twitter remain as willfully ignorant in the way it treats issues regarding cyber harassment, bullying and violence.
Twitter has tackled and made changes in their policies before. In March, Twitter provided users with tools for reporting and blocking abusive tweets. This filter, however, was only available to verified users. There are around 150 thousand verified accounts of “highly sought users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other key interest areas,” whereas 300 million active users on Twitter exists. Verified accounts barely make up 1% of the entire active platform. The company changed its policy to prohibit acts that promoted violence against others in April; in the past it only banned direct and specific threats.
The newest addition to its policies takes measures in assessing which accounts promote abusive and/or threatening behavior. A user deemed unfit for Twitter would find themselves locked from their account until appropriate changes, such as deleting offensive Tweets, are made. Once the requested actions are completed, the account would be unlocked for free use again.
Twitter’s Crackdown Backfires.
Twitter is facing an ugly public backlash for carrying out their new policies. The social media company has made headlines after attempting to block Breitbart Tech Editor Milo Yiannopolous’ account. While no word has confirmed which particular tweet caused the suspension, Yiannopolous (Instagram handle @Nero) has been described as an “Internet-troll” for his behavior and there are many incidences of him that closely violate Twitter’s code of conduct.
Yiannopolous is enjoying an auspicious amount of celebrity exposure. Fans of the British journalist have rallied in his defense, prompting a hashtag movement #JeSuisMilo to trend on social media. Currently, the journalist is gleefully blowing up Twitter and tweeting about the company’s dismal financial performance (last weekend Twitter’s stock dipped below $20 a share, an all time low) while enjoying an extra 10,000 followers on his Twitter account.
The public backlash and scorn parallels what Reddits interim CEO Ellen Pao experienced last year when the company announced their own policy revisions. The vitriol hit an all-time high after their dismissal of Victoria Taylor, a popular talent director at the company known for creating Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA). The consequences of these choices effectively ousted Pao from the company. Despite Pao’s resignation, however, Reddit has chosen to stand by their stance on anti-harassment.
Twitter appears to also stand by their policies, having returned Yanniopolous’ account to him, unverified. Amidst the backlash, all eyes are on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as the company continues to struggle with their IPO, while stoking the conversation on what it means for free speech on the web.
If implemented correctly, Twitter’s update on abuse and hate could be used to block trolls and harassment on your social media account. This is powerful for brands to be able to have the ability to block those who are trolling their accounts.
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