Cyber bullying and harassment on social media sites is not a new phenomenon. However, many social media networks still face criticism for having inadequate features and reporting systems to combat cyber harassment when it occurs. Recently, Twitter came under fire after certain high-profile women in the UK were attacked with rape threats and bomb threats. This incident actually led to almost immediate change, with Twitter instituting a new “Report” button.
Cyber Threats To Prominent UK Women
The attacks against these women, specifically prominent authors, journalists, and even Members of Parliament, began after the announcement that a woman, author Jane Austen, would appear on British banknotes. Those who were targeted on Twitter either campaigned for this change or spoke out in support of the campaign, and they include writer and feminist Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy. The women were flooded with threats of rape as well as threats that bombs would be set off in their homes.
Report Button & Rule Changes
As the attacks continued, other Twitter users called for a site-wide boycott, and they also began a petition on Change.org asking Twitter to add a button allowing users to report harassment. This petition gathered over 126,000 signatures, and it was very effective. Del Harvey, the senior director at Twitter, and Tony Wang, the general manager of Twitter in the UK, spoke out to tell users that they were listening and would be instituting a report button for individual tweets.
This is a vast improvement to the long, complex form that Twitter used to require for those needing to report abuse. In addition, Twitter has updated their rules to better describe what constitutes abuse as well as “targeted abuse.” Social media networks frequently incite criticism for their safety features, or often their lack thereof. Twitter’s report button and updated rules are certainly a start, but is it enough?
This scandal appears amongst news reports about Twitter Revolution, the documentary that premiered last night on CNBC about the Twitter phenomenon. Twitter Revolution examines the way that Twitter is used to disseminate breaking news and how this has caused huge changes in the way that everyone communicates, from journalists to the average viewer. Twitter users could, of course, follow along with the premier using the hashtag #TwitterRevolution.
How do you think social media sites should handle cyber harassment?
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