In case you haven’t seen it yet, Women, Action, & the Media released their report today on what they learned from acting as mediators for reporting harassment on Twitter last year. You can find it in several formats. There’s the summary, the infographic, and the full report (pdf). I suggest reading the full report if you have any interest at all in online harassment. From the types of reporters to the emotional cost involved in processing the reports, it’s got a lot of good information.
If you’re going to take away just one thing, however, make it their recommendations to Twitter:
- More broadly and clearly define what constitutes online harassment and abuse, beyond “direct, specific threats of violence against others” or “threats of violence against others, or promoting threats of violence against others” to increase accountability for more kinds of threatening harassment and behavior. 19% of reports were defined as “harassment that was too complex to enter in a single radio button.” See “Summary of Findings” and page 15 of the report.
- Update the abuse reporting interface, using researched and tested trauma-response design methods. Twitter should acknowledge the potential trauma that targets may experience; additionally, connecting users to support resources would go a long way in offering to inspire constructive discourse and structural changes. See page 34 of the report.
- Develop new policies which recognize and address current methods that harassers use to manipulate and evade Twitter’s evidence requirements. These policies should focus particularly on the “tweet and delete” technique, where harassers share, but quickly delete, abusive comments and information.The problem of evidence prevents comprehensive resolution for all reports acknowledgement and validation. See page 35 of the report.
- Expand the ability for users to filter out abusive mentions that contain “threats, offensive or abusive language, duplicate content, or are sent from suspicious accounts,” to counter the effect of a harassment tactic known as dogpiling– where dozens, hundreds or even sometimes thousands of Twitter users converge on one target to overwhelm their mentions and notifications. This kind of filtering would be opt-in only, enabling users to decide whether to use it or not. See “Summary of Findings: Dogpiling” in the report.
- Hold online abusers accountable for the gravity of their actions: suspensions for harassment or abuse are currently indistinguishable from suspensions for spam, trademark infringement, etc. This needs to change. Ongoing harassment was a concern in 29% of reports, where reporters mentioned that harassment started more than three weeks before the report. See page 15 of the report.
- Diversify Twitter’s leadership. Twitter’s own 2014 report reveals that its company leadership is 79% male and 72% white. Systemic changes in the hiring and retention of diverse leaders will likely expand internal perspectives about harassment since women and women of color, disturbingly absent, are disproportionately targeted online.
It’s time for Twitter to make some changes, and there’s plenty here for other social media platforms to pay attention to.