By its own admission, Twitter has never been the best platform when it comes to dealing with abuse and harassment. Back in February, the then CEO, Dick Costolo, said: “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years.” Now, the microblogging site has updated its official rules in an attempt to highlight the fact that it is cracking down abusive behavior.
In a blog post, the company said that while it will always “embrace and encourage” different opinions and freedom of expression, it would "not tolerate behaviour intended to harass or intimidate".
"As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs — but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse,” said Megan Cristina, the company's director of trust and safety.
While it has been pointed out that the new rules do seem very similar to the old rules, albeit with some paragraphs rearranged, there are some new additions. One section explicitly states that users cannot promote violence or directly attack and threaten people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. The company promised that any accounts that violate these rules will be suspended or banned.
Twitter also clarified what it considered to be “abusive behavior and hateful content.” This includes making violent threats or carrying out "targeted abuse or harassment,” running several similar accounts to work around one of them being suspended, and impersonating other users for deceptive purposes.
Cristina said that anyone who has their accounts blocked would have to complete a series of steps in order to be allowed back on Twitter, including deleting the offending tweets and verifying a phone number. But The Verge pointed out that this has been in place since April.
While taking a stand against online hate is commendable, Twitter’s harassment rules will be worthless if the company doesn’t enforce them. With terror groups such as ISIS continuing to use social media as means of spreading their message and recruiting members, it’s hoped that the company will back up its words with actions.