Pressure has been building steadily against Twitter in recent weeks, and not for an issue of its own making.
The great #Troll debate has reared its deformed head again, only this time it has taken centre stage like never before.
Following a well publicised barrage of abusive, perverse, nasty and threatening tweets against a number of high profile Tweeters (mainly women) in the UK and the threat of a crowd-sourced boycott of the service, Twitter was forced to speak out.
Such was the media outcry that the head of Twitter UK was placed before the cameras to apologise on behalf of its service against how it deals with abusive users.
As a result, Twitter has announced an update to its rules and stated that it is making a commitment to improve it’s processes.
We’re here, and we’re listening to you – Twitter
- It has updated the Twitter Rules to reiterate the point that it does not tolerate abusive behaviour.
- It has introduced a ‘Report Tweet’ function to make it easier to flag inappropriate content.
- It will promote the services of the UK Safer Internet Centre to provide advice on staying safe online.
- It is recruiting extra staff to place greater focus on effective handling of abuse reports.
Undoubtedly, something had to be done and Twitter had to be seen to be taking decisive action.
Will it stop Trolls doing what they do on Twitter?
I suspect not, it takes a suspended user all of 60 seconds to have another account up and running if they really want to.
But whilst it may not resolve the problem, at least it may reduce the volume and increase awareness.
Twitter’s endeavours to more pro-actively police their network could however raise the trickier question of what exactly constitutes trolling.
A lot of cases are very clear cut, if someone is being threatening then suspend/ban the account and report it to the authorities as needed.
But what about the middle ground? There will be a lot more tweets that fall into this category. At what point does the right to free speech infringe upon another’s rights? Shouldn’t we have the right to criticise? Or should we have the right to be nasty to others? That’s up to you to decide.
As I said at the start, this is not an issue solely of Twitter’s making. Trolls have been roaming the anonymous underbelly of the web since its inception; but mostly as a solitary creature with a lone digital footprint. Only recently have they developed the ability to target those in the public eye en-masse, and Twitter has played a large part in that by providing (unprecedented) direct and unfiltered access to celebrities and public figures. Twitter’s great draw is also a great weakness, and now they have to balance the two.
As such, there’s a very good chance your favourite/most hated public figure is only 140 characters away, so do feel free to reach out and send them a Tweet or two.
But please, don’t forget to be polite…