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Social media vows tweet revenge on the online trolls

In a bid to crack down on abusive behaviour, Twitter has broadened its policy and launched a new feature that will lock users' accounts if they violate the rules. However, asks Katie Wright, is it really enough to deter determined trolls?

Published 09/05/2015

Taking action: online abuse continues to be a problem on social media
Taking action: online abuse continues to be a problem on social media

Twitter has unveiled two new changes as part of their plans to beef up protection against threatening behaviour. First, the social media site's violent threats policy has been broadened.

The policy used to be limited to "direct, specific threats of violence against others", but now includes "threats of violence against others or promoting violence against others".

The change was announced in a blogpost, which stated that the previous description was "unduly narrow" and meant the site was unable to act in the case of certain kinds of harassment.

Plus, a new enforcement option has been introduced, meaning that users' accounts can be locked if they send abusive messages.

After a specified time, the user may then be asked to provide a phone number to associate with their account (flagging up if someone is creating multiple "trolling" accounts with the sole purpose of hurling abuse) or to delete nasty tweets, before their account is unlocked. It's a feature that, no doubt, Sue Perkins would have welcomed recently.

The television presenter was bombarded with a flood of angry tweets from Top Gear fans following the rumours she was set to front the motoring show after host Jeremy Clarkson's sacking.

"Guys, post the utterly fabricated story about me & Top Gear, my timeline has been full of blokes wishing me dead ..." Perkins tweeted, before announcing she was "off Twitter for a bit".

It's a common reaction, from celebrities and non-celebs alike, taking a break or leaving the site altogether when the slew of abuse becomes too much.

With the new features, it looks like Twitter is trying to stem the tide of tweets that often pour forth whenever a user is involved in a high-profile news story (or even when they're not) and thereby deter Twitter quitters.

"We have to keep Twitter safe for the widest possible range of information and opinions to be shared, even when we ourselves vehemently disagree with some of them," wrote Vijaya Gadde, general counsel of Twitter, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, to coincide with the new announcements.

"We are under no illusion that there is a single solution to ensure this outcome, nor that we will never make mistakes."

She's right. No social media site is ever going to be able to stamp out online abuse entirely, but it's good to see Twitter taking a stand - and a step in the right direction.

Belfast Telegraph

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