Twitter this afternoon publicly posted its schedule for instituting fixes and changes to longstanding abuse and harassment issues that have plagued the social network for years. The calendar, first disclosed earlier this week in an internal Twitter email obtained by Wired, details nearly two dozen changes stretching from October 27th to January 10th. They focus on a broad range of topics, from non-consensual nudity to hateful imagery and violent rhetoric to more transparency around account suspensions.
Some measures include more proactively banning content on the platform that glorifies or condones violence, instead of simply drawing the line at actual threats of violence. The company will also suspend accounts of organizations that promote violence. Twitter says that on October 27th, its first change will involve expanding its definition of “non-consensual nudity” to include “creep shots” and hidden camera footage. It will also immediately suspend accounts that post this material, choosing to “error on the side of protecting victims and removing this type of content when we become aware of it,” as the company detailed in its initial leaked email published by Wired. Twitter is also cracking down on abusive display names.
Twitter says it wants to be more transparent with account suspensions too, especially following the controversy generated when it suspended actress Rose McGowan last week for what the public assumed was speaking out about sexual abuse at the hands of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. Twitter revealed later on that it was because McGowan had violated an arcane rule around the posting of personal contact information; one of her tweets included a phone number. Twitter’s dedicated support team had to issue a series of tweets clarifying the situation, and it was yet another, albeit more high profile, example of how Twitter uses tone-deaf messaging to inconsistently enforce an already-opaque rule set. The company says it plans to respond to reports faster, provide more reasoning behind its rule enforcement, and provide more detailed information about account suspensions in the appeals process.
“This won’t be a quick or easy fix, but we’re committed to getting it right. Far too often in the past we’ve said we’d do better and promised transparency but have fallen short in our efforts,” the company writes in a statement. “Starting today, you can expect regular, real-time updates about our progress. Sometimes, this may be insight into the difficult questions we’re asking ourselves, even before we have the answers. This is the first time we’ve shared this level of visibility into our work, and we hope it helps build trust along the way.”
We just decided to share our internal safety work streams & shipping calendar tomorrow (10/19). This makes us feel uncomfortable because it’s a work in progress & rough, but it’s the right thing to do: we believe showing our thinking and work in real-time will help build trust.
— jack (@jack) October 18, 2017
Twitter has come under intense scrutiny this past year, more so than any time in its more than decade-long history, for its continuous technical, structural, and cultural failures with regards to addressing harassment and abuse on its platform. Starting in the lead up to the US election, and made only worse by the rise of the alt-right and other fringe political movements before and during President Donald Trump’s tenure, Twitter has become a hotbed for vile speech, threats, and the proliferation of racism, sexism, and regressive behaviors.
Twitter has failed to address these issues time and again, seemingly taking measures only when its back was against the wall. CEO Jack Dorsey said as much in a series of tweets on October 13th. “We prioritized this [harassment] in 2016. We updated our policies and increased the size of our teams. It wasn’t enough,” he wrote. “We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them. New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence.”