Have you been on Twitter lately? If the answer is no, we don’t blame you. Users have complained that the service has become a cesspool of harassment, trolling, and abuse. It’s especially worse if you’re a person of color and/or a woman, a fact I can personally attest to. Lindy West, a writer, was driven off Twitter after she couldn’t handle any more of the abuse, but not before she famously confronted a troll who adopted her deceased father’s identity to harass her.
It’s not just the garden-variety trolls that have invaded our mentions. Neo-nazis and members of the “alt-right” have used the platform to spread hate speech and harass users. It’s something I have personal experience with, unfortunately, when I tweeted about a skirt that bore an odd resemblance to Pepe the Frog was sold by fast-fashion retailer Zara — I woke up to hundreds of Nazis in my mentions who were threatening all sorts of physical violence. There were photoshopped images of my head on gore photos, rape and death threats, and some users who claimed to have my personal information. All over a skirt that was hideous to begin with.
Finally, there’s the biggest troll of all: Donald Trump, who is somehow really the 45th President of the United States. He’s gone after private citizens on his Twitter account: a Gold Star family, a former Miss Universe winner, and actress Kristen Stewart. Many worry that he’ll use the platform to start the third World War, and this fear wouldn’t be so ridiculous if he hadn’t tweeted this blatant threat against the antagonistic nation: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” Anyone with a passing interest in national security and, well, being alive, threw up their hands in despair at that tweet.
Now, after users boycotted the service en masse to protest actress Rose McGowan’s Twitter suspension, @jack says he will finally do something. In a series of tweets, he admits that Twitter hasn’t done enough to curb abuse. He also announced some new “critical decisions” to target harassment and violent speech, though he didn’t specify what they were.
He wrote: “We see voices being silenced on Twitter every day. We’ve been working to counteract this for the past 2 years.We prioritized this in 2016. We updated our policies and increased the size of our teams. It wasn’t enough. In 2017 we made it our top priority and made a lot of progress. Today we saw voices silencing themselves and voices speaking out because we’re still not doing enough. We’ve been working intensely over the past few months and focused today on making some critical decisions. 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. These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week.”
It’s welcome news for those of us who dealt with harassment on the service. We just want to be able to tweet about dogs and astrology memes without being told to kill ourselves. Is that really so much to ask?