After years of inaction and criticism from users, activist groups, and former employees, Twitter is updating its rules and clarifying policies on abusive behavior, self-harm, spam, graphic violence, and adult content.
The social network has been plagued by harassment, hate speech, and trolling for a decade. Adding more detail and clarity to its rules comes weeks after CEO Jack Dorsey’s October announcement that the company would be “more aggressive” about preventing harassment after women around the world staged a 24-hour boycott of the social media platform.
"We have worked on this clarified version of our rules for the past few months to ensure it takes into account the latest trends in online behavior, considers different cultural and social contexts, and properly sets expectations around what’s allowed on Twitter," Twitter said in a blog post Friday.
The company detailed its updated rules on its website, but here are the highlights:
- Twitter will now send an email to an account that it suspends for violating abuse policies explaining which policy they violated.
- Twitter emphasized that the context of a tweet and its newsworthiness is important while evaluating abusive behavior and figuring out appropriate action. The company also takes into account factors like whether the behavior is targeted at an individual or a group of people, and if a report has been filed and by whom.
- When Twitter gets reports of suicidal tweets or tweets promoting self-harm, the company might reach out to the person and provide assistance in getting in touch with mental health professionals.
- Twitter now defines “spam” specifically as “bulk or aggressive activity that attempts to manipulate or disrupt Twitter or the experience of users on Twitter to drive traffic or attention to unrelated accounts, products, services, or initiatives."
- Twitter now provides more detail around what it considers "graphic violence" (gruesome death, crime and accident scenes, bodily harm, dismemberment, and torture, among other things), and "adult content" (full or partial nudity, and simulations of sexual acts, among other things), but notes that some of this content might be permitted if marked as "sensitive media".
Twitter’s new rules are baby steps toward fixing harassment and abuse on its platform, but the company is still in murky territory. It has, for instance, been notoriously inconsistent when it comes to enforcing rules, and has often made arbitrary decisions while providing no explanation.
Twitter said that it will share more details about how the company will review and enforce the new policies in a separate update on Nov. 14, and on Nov. 22, it will share more rules for violent groups, hateful imagery, and abusive usernames.
This post has been updated to make it clear that Twitter's update merely adds clarity to existing rules. The rules themselves remain unchanged.