Twitter To Introduce “Report Abuse” Button In Every Tweet

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The company gives in to the pressure of public opinion

Following last week’s outcry surrounding threats of violence on Twitter, the micro-blogging platform has announced it will change its guidelines to introduce a “report abuse” button into every tweet.

The button, currently included in its iOS app, will be rolled out on Android and online next month. Twitter has also promised to simplify its abuse report form. The current reporting mechanism has been widely criticised for taking too much time and effort, placing the responsibility on the victim.

Meanwhile, the police are investigating eight statements made on Twitter in recent weeks, including threats of rape, bombing and decapitation.

Julien Tromeur - Twitter Sorry“We have updated the Twitter Rules to clarify that we do not tolerate abusive behaviour. We want people to feel safe on Twitter, and we want the Twitter Rules to send a clear message to anyone who thought that such behaviour was, or could ever be, acceptable,” said a post on the Twitter UK blog.

A petition calling for Twitter to add a ‘report abuse’ button, launched on 27 July, has managed to attract almost 129,000 signatures.

Moral panic

The last few weeks have put a lot of pressure on Twitter in the UK. First, the trolls attacked Claire Perry MP, the woman who masterminded the ’opt-out’ adult content filter plans recently announced by the Prime Minister.

Then, the angry mob switched to freelance journalist and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who launched a petition to feature more women on banknotes. Later, police confirmed they were investigating threatening messages sent to Labour MP Stella Creasy, including rape threats.

Finally, this weekend, the classicist and TV presenter Mary Beard received bomb threats on Twitter, and promptly contacted the police.

Both Criado-Perez and Creasy have criticised the way Twitter had handled the situation. The MP said it was difficult to get in touch with representatives of the company, and filling in the reporting forms took too much time. Even after Twitter suspended some accounts, it was obvious their owners were just creating new accounts and continuing with their assault.

In response, Twitter announced plans to include a button for reporting abuse within every tweet, a feature currently present only in its iOS app, but not online or on any other mobile platforms. Now these plans have been integrated into Twitter’s policy.

To complain about abuse, users previously had to follow the link to the Help Centre, where they had to fill out a long and complicated form. Now users can report harassing messages directly from a tweet.

Twitter has also pledged to work with the UK Safer Internet Centre “to expand our user resources on digital citizenship and staying safe online”.

“We will also use the Twitter platform – including Promoted Tweets and a Promoted Trend – to bring more attention to the important resources the UK Safer Internet Centre has developed and the ongoing work they are doing,” read a post co-authored by Twitter’s Del Harvey and UK general manager Tony Wang.

The company has added additional staff to the teams that handle abuse reports, and said it is “exploring new ways of using technology to improve everyone’s experience on Twitter”.

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