LESS than three months after its CEO admitted to failing users on abuse, Twitter launched a new plan to end the harassment that has pervaded the social network.
It only took about nine years.
The crackdown on abuse comes in the form of a new POLICY to ban tweets that contain PERSONALthreats or promote violence. Twitter also is testing a tool to filter out tweets that seem likely to contain bullying content. User accounts caught violating the new terms will be suspended for a period of time, the company said.
In February, a leaked memo from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo provided the first indication changes were afoot. Costolo wrote he was “embarrassed” and “ashamed” of the company’s failure to deal with the persistent harassment of its 284 million users.
Yet Twitter’s new policy could lead to its own backlash. Now that Twitter has pledged to boot abusers, expect everyone to start holding the network more ACCOUNTABLE for unpopular Tweets. Anything that slips through the cracks of its new filtering system is fair game for critics.
And then there’s the question of what constitutes a violation. What about a terrorist sympathizer who Tweets, “Death to America”? I personally want the lurking lunatics to remain clearly visible (my guess is that intelligence-gathering officials are likely to want these accounts to remain live as well).
Balancing the network’s purpose as a tool for unvarnished dialogue and users’ rights to remain free from DIRECT abuse is clearly something that Twitter has given a lot of thought.
Whether in Tahrir Square or in our own back yards, used for debating the most contested of public concerns or for sharing the most personal of revelations, we want Twitter to continue to be a place where the expression of diverse viewpoints is encouraged and aired,” Twitter General Counsel Vijaya Gadde wrote in an Op-Ed last week.
But users are sick of being battered. Twitter has become the perfect platform for the dregs of society to unleash their inner beasts in 140 characters. Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling learned that earlier this year when his DAUGHTER was deluged with a slew of heinous Tweets. His public shaming of her harassers followed the high-profile Twitter exit of pop star Iggy Azalea and others.
It’s likely the bean counters at Twitter determined the ugliness was so widespread that it would drive away enough users to affect the bottom line. But my bet is that a forced exit for so many trolls isn’t exactly going to shore up the balance sheet either. Finally, Twitter is doing something genuinely nice for its users.