Twitter pledges to do more to tackle abuse

Twitter has apologised to women who have suffered harassment on its service and has introduced a number of safety updates to tackle abuse on the site.

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The microblogging site has come under fire over the past week for the way it failed to prevent female activist Caroline Criado-Perez – and other females who defended her – from being barraged with tweets threatening rape and death. A petition launched on the change.org website demanding Twitter update its systems for reporting abuse has amassed more than 125,000 signatures.

This weekend UK general manager Tony Wang tweeted: “I personally apologize [sic] to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through. The abuse they’ve received is simply not acceptable. It’s not acceptable in the real world, and it’s not acceptable on Twitter. There is more we can and will be doing to protect our users against abuse. That is our commitment.”

The site then posted a blog, co-authored by Wang and Twitter’s senior director of trust and safety Del Harvey, stating the company has been listening to feedback on how it can improve its service and outlining what it will do over the coming months to simplify the abuse reporting process and promote responsible use of the site.

Among the new commitments, Twitter is hiring additional staff to the teams that handle abuse reports and is speeding up the roll-out of an in-tweet report button – which already exists on the iOS Twitter app and mobile web – across its Android app and on Twitter.com.

Twitter will also run pro-bono advertising across its Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends formats from the UK Safer Internet Centre to draw attention to its expanded resources on digital citizenship and staying safe online.

In addition, Twitter has updated its rules to clarify the company does not tolerate abusive behaviour. It hopes the updated rules will “send a clear message to anyone who thought that such behaviour was, or could ever be, acceptable”.

These changes will be rolled out globally over the coming weeks.

Twitter’s reluctance to fire up its crisis communications strategy quickly enough as the backlash began brewing about the way it handles abuse on its service had a damaging effect on its perception among consumers, according to YouGov data

Facebook came under fire for similar reasons in May, which led to brands including Sky, Nissan and Nationwide boycotting the site after it became apparent their ads were appearing against offensive pages, such as those which made light of domestic violence or incited gender-based hate. 

The site caved into campaigners shortly after by introducing a new five-point safety programme to counter hate speech on the site after admitting its safety systems had “failed to work”. 

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