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Twitter hands down new rules to control abusive messages

Published August 4, 2013 8:59 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

London • Twitter is handing down new rules to control abusive language, the company said Saturday, a move which follows a barrage of nasty, harassing and threatening messages directed at high-profile female users of the microblogging site.

In a message posted to its web site, Twitter says it is introducing a one-click button to report abuse and updating its rules to clarify that it will not tolerate abusive behavior.

The one-click button means that users will not have to navigate to Twitter's help center in order to fill out an abuse form — a process some said was too cumbersome to deal with a mass of angry messages — while the new rules includes a restriction against "targeted abuse," which could include slamming a single user with messages from multiple accounts, creating an account purely to harass someone or making threats. The company also promised to devote more staff to weed out offending messages.

In a series of statements, General Manager Tony Wang issued his own apology "to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through. The abuse they've received is simply not acceptable. It's not acceptable in the real world, and it's not acceptable on Twitter. There is more we can and will be doing to protect our users against abuse. That is our commitment."

The relative anonymity of the Internet means it has long been hard to police abusive or threatening speech, but the issue recently received attention in Britain after several women went public about the sexually explicit and often luridly violent abuse they receive from online bullies, often called trolls.

Many argue that trolls are an annoyance which should just be ignored, but the catalog of graphic threats made public by the women involved have ignited a national debate over the impunity of those spewing hatred online. Wang said in a tweet that the new anti-abuse policy will apply worldwide.