In the aftermath of Robin Williams' death, his daughter Zelda was pretty much driven off Twitter by a handful of horrible people. Merely hours after her father had hung himself, assholes on Twitter began sending her cruel messages and photoshopped images of her dead father. It was a generally uninspiring moment for humanity.
Now, in the wake of that, Twitter is saying that it's going to step up its efforts to combat similar abuse.
“We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter. We have suspended a number of accounts related to this issue for violating our rules and we are in the process of evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one. This includes expanding our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.”
That's Twitter's vice president of trust and safety, Del Harvey, promising to do better to combat the bullying, harassment, and general abuse that takes place on Twitter every day. Good on you, Del Harvey.
But those are just words. Actually combating abuse on Twitter is another story.
Here's the thing about Twitter – you're either private or you're public. Unlike Facebook, there's no real in-between. Either you protect your tweets or you don't. And even if you protect your tweets from view, users can still sling threatening tweets in your direction.
And if that happens, you can block them. You can also report the specific user, as well as report the abuse itself, hanks to Twitter instituting a new reporting mechanism last year in the wake of a rape threat controversy.
But trolls and bullies can always make a new account. It's harassment whack-a-mole.
People should be able to say what they want on Twitter, within reason (threats and harassment are outside that realm of reasonable, but otherwise unsavory content isn't). But people should also have a way to shield themselves from malicious users. Twitter has to find that balance.
Image via Wikimedia Commons