We’ve got good news and bad news about Twitter.
The bad news is that Twitter seems to be notorious for online harassment: doxing, threats of violence, public shaming, Gamergate, MRAs, rape threats — we could go on. We all know that Twitter struggles to compete with the growth rate seen by other social networks, and their attempts to lure new users to the Land of the Blue Bird (longer tweets! Polls! Algorithms! GIFs!) have failed to acknowledge that repeated harassment is, for too many, the reason for leaving Twitter.
Finally, on Monday, we got some good news: Twitter made an adjustment to their harassment policy, hopefully for the better.
Report abuse on Twitter more easily than ever. Find out how to protect yourself and others.https://t.co/1MEfTzkfFL— Safety (@safety) April 25, 2016ADVERTISEMENT
Now, users can report a group of tweets in one report, as opposed to having to report each harassing tweet individually. Okay, so, why is this such a big deal, anyway?Imagine someone sends you five harassing tweets, each one escalating in threats of violence. Under the old system of reporting harassment, you would have to report each individual tweet, follow up on each individual tweet, yadda yadda yadda. This basically makes getting harassers to leave you alone your new full-time job! The last time I reported a Twitter user (for threatening me with gun violence if I don’t stop promoting feminism, yay), I had to respond to a follow-up email — imagine having to supply this information five times for each 140-character instance of cyberbullying you report:
DUDE, I just filled out a harassment report. I gave you all this information, you need me to send you a follow-up email repeating myself? In a classic "are you sure you're sure you're sure?" move, Twitter emails you to say they have accepted your report, but just needs you to go through it all over again to prove you really want to go through with this. In our hypothetical "5 harassing tweets" situation, you would recieve five of these emails, and have to complete each of these three steps for each of those five tweets. For seriously. Welcome to being harassed on the Internet: Reporting it is your new full-time job, and your complaints are taken seriously, but not too seriously. Urf.
Twitter's new policy aims to ease the burden on those being cyberbullied when it comes to reporting their harassment. Hopefully, this extra follow-up work will be easier and less time-consuming than it has been in the past.
Additionally, now that multiple harassing tweets can be reported as a singular case of harassment, it should be easier for the Twitter Safety Team (aka the Itty Bitty Twitter Committee) to establish a pattern of harassment, and to understand the serious extent of your harassers’ campaign of intimidation.
While we’re certainly glad that Twitter is making it easier to report harassment, and that’s totally great, what we really want is for action to be taken once harassment is reported. You can make the method of reporting harassment as easy as clicking a single button, but if all those complaints get dumped into a vaccuum, then what's the point? What is actually being done to stop the harassment?
Twitter begins the announcement of their new policy with the sentence, “We want everyone on Twitter to feel safe expressing themselves.” Baby steps, Twitter, but keep striving for that dream. We'll be waiting, 140 characters at a time.
lead image via Shawn Campbell on Flickr
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Meghan Sara is a tour guide for Ghosts, Murders and Mayhem Walking Tours. She is open-minded about everything, but intolerant to gluten. She blogs at meghansara.com, is a regular contributor to Femnasty, and tweets her feelings @MeghanSaraK.