by Sharon Florentine

Twitter backs up anti-harassment talk with action

Nov 17, 2016
CareersRelationship BuildingSocial Networking Apps

Twitter's finally taking some action to stop online harassment and abuse, but that's not sitting well with everyone.

Well, here’s a tiny bit of good news: Twitter’s finally introducing some tools to stop harassment and abuse and is retraining its front-line customer service personnel to increase understanding of cultural issues so that they have historical and cultural context into how and why certain language or actions constitute abuse. reports that:

“… users will be able to mute seeing certain words in their notifications, such as racial slurs and curse words — an update that was in the works for many months. People can also block whole conversations. The change may help lessen the ability of abusers to reach their victims, decreasing their motivation to do it. For anyone who spots language that violates the company’s policy, there’s a new option to report ‘hateful conduct’ in addition to abuse and harassment. Meanwhile, Twitter is retraining everyone who has the potential to review user complaints to increase understanding of cultural issues,” according to the article.

This is a great step, albeit years late; one particularly weak defense cited in the AdAge article is that Twitter’s engineers “in the past saw other challenges as higher priorities.

That’s the definition of privilege. Assuming that because an issue doesn’t impact you that it’s not a problem for anyone else, either. I’m nevertheless glad to see Twitter’s finally introducing tools to help users address the issue, but it remains to be seen if it’ll be enough.

Check out this great rundown of exactly how to use the new tools in the event an abusive or harassing Tweet appears; you need to mute a conversation, or if someone in your feed is in danger or contemplating self-harm.

Of course, not everyone’s pleased. One of the first actions Twitter took after implementing the new tools was to suspend the account of Richard Spencer and others associated with the ‘Alt-Right.’

The L.A. Times reports that “Twitter suspended many more accounts associated with the alt-right, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as ‘a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.’

…Twitter also suspended the accounts of the Virginia-based National Policy Institute, an alt-right, white nationalist think tank of which Spencer is president, and of the Radix Journal, a magazine run by Spencer.”

You won’t find me crying any tears over this – all I have to say is, “Keep it up, Twitter.”