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Twitter Cleaning Up Its Act

Social Media Against Gamergate

The recent Gamergate scandal, where women working in the gaming industry were the targets of rape threats and other kinds of online harassment, have highlighted that gendered online harassment is prevalent on Twitter. In another shocking occurrence, Jessica Valenti tweeted about tampons.

She was then the recipient of a tonne of abusive tweets, including rape threats and other sexist comments. Twitter up until recently had done nothing to curb online harassment - specifically harassment targeted at women.

Only high profile cases that attracted a lot of media attention actually got Twitter to react, but things are about to change. Twitter have finally decided to do something about their website being a platform to terrorise and harass women. Teaming up with the non-profit Woman, Action and the Media (WAM! for short), they are actively trying to understand online harassment and how trolls work.

WAM! have come up with an online Twitter harassment reporting tool, for those that are victims of online harassment. You fill out the form, which includes a few detailed questions ('Are you being harassed by a single person or by multiple people/accounts?'), and WAM! will look into it and get back to Twitter about it within 24 hours. The form is a lot more detailed than simply reporting a tweet or an account using Twitter, and allows you to explain exactly what sort of online harassment you are the victim of ('Impersonation, Threats of violence, hate speech, revenge porn, etc.').
twitter gamergate
WAM! will analyse all the data it receives and also monitor how Twitter responds to the its users being harassed. WAM! will collect all this data, giving Twitter a better understanding of how cyber-bullies work and how they use Twitter to terrorise their victim. Twitter and WAM! hope that this will help them fight online bullies more effectively and come up with better moderating systems.

The collaboration between WAM! and Twitter does raise a few issues. WAM! is a non-profit that most certainly does not have the same revenue as Twitter. Twitter could easily invest in a department of its own to monitor trolling on their website. As WAM! have noted: "we're not Twitter, and we can't make decisions for them. We're going to do our best to advocate for you with them, though." This means that even if you fill out the form in hopes of curbing your online harassment, there is a chance that nothing will come of it.

According to a Pew study, 25% of women have been sexually harassed online, and so it is good to see that Twitter have finally decided to do something about it. However, evidence seems to suggest that Twitter is only doing this to silence people that have criticised how they deal with online abuse. Time will tell if they will actually take action or not.

Laura is a recent graduate from University of East Anglia in Film and Television Studies, currently interning as a content writer but hoping to one day live off her writing. Follow her @LauraAtSMF.

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Twitter Cleaning Up Its Act Reviewed by Anonymous on Monday, November 10, 2014 Rating: 5
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