Twitter Looks to Make It Easier to Report Abusive Behavior in Wake of Controversy

Josh WolfordSocial Media

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Last month, we all got to see just how brutal online abuse can be when a feminist activist was subjected to some pretty serious threats due to her outspoken position on women on English currency (or the lack thereof). Of course, we know that people on the internet can be pretty nasty to one another - but this was something different. This abuse was deeply rooted in anti-women views and included a multitude of rape threats. There was even an arrest made in connection to it. Basically, this went much further than your average "people being mean online" scenario.

The story of Caroline Criado-Perez and her Twitter abuse went viral, and the response from much of the Twitter community was to ask the company to improve their abuse reporting mechanisms - at least make it easier to do so on the site. An online petition garnered over 125,000 signatures and Twitter execs mentioned that they would look into making some changes.

Well, they have.

The first major success for the petitioners is the commitment to a new report abuse button that will launch on Android and next month. Until now, reporting abuse on those platforms has been a bit muddled - with users having to fill out a form on another part of the site. Now, there will be a report button inside every tweet. Twitter just enabled that functionality on Twitter mobile and iOS last month - so this is just an expansion of that which has been hastened along by all of this controversy.

"Over the past week, we've been listening to your feedback on how we can improve our service. You told us that we need to make our rules clearer, simplify our abuse reporting process, and promote the responsible use of Twitter...We are committed to making Twitter a safe place for our users. We are adding additional staff to the teams that handle abuse reports and are exploring new ways of using technology to improve everyone’s experience on Twitter. We’re here, and we’re listening to you," said Twitter in a blog post.

Twitter has also committed to expanding resources for victims of abuse and to amend the Twitter Rules to be more clear about the service's no-tolerance policy on abusive behavior.

Right out of the gate, Twitter UK GM Tony Wang found himself in the middle of this controversy. Along with posting the update on the Twitter UK blog, Wang took to the service to publicly apologize to those who felt abused in the past:

For the next day or so, Wang spent hours responding to dozens and dozens of Twitter users personally. Many accused him of singling out women as the only group victimized by Twitter abuse.

"Thanks for the understanding as I was referring to events this past week, of course rules apply to all," said Wang.

It looks like Twitter's doing what they can here in the face of a substantial amount of outrage. It's not just hard, it's downright impossible to prevent all sorts of bullying, threatening, and general abuse on the internet. But social media sites can do more to protect users from much of the abuse with better tools for reporting said abuse - and that's exactly what Twitter is doing.

Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf