Mike Isaac

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Twitter Updates Rules to Crack Down on Abuse

twitter_bird_380After a week of public outcry over a series of threats against high-profile media figures, Twitter on Saturday announced an update to its site rules, aiming to more directly combat abuse and harassment that occurs across the network.

“Over the past week, we’ve been listening to your feedback on how we can improve our service,” Twitter employees Del Harvey and Tony Wang wrote in a company blog post on Saturday. “You told us that we need to make our rules clearer, simplify our abuse reporting process, and promote the responsible use of Twitter.”

“It comes down to this: people deserve to feel safe on Twitter,” the company said.

As a result of the fervor, the company updated its rules to better clarify that it does not tolerate abusive behavior on the service. The company also plans to add an in-tweet report button to its Android client and Twitter.com by the end of next month, and will work closely with the U.K. Safer Internet Centre to promote safe online practices to users.

The complaints began to stir last week, when feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez received rape threats in the form of tweets, a response to her successful campaign to put celebrated British author Jane Austen on the ten-pound bank note.

Twitter’s original response was unsatisfactory to Criado-Perez, who ultimately received support from Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper in the form of vehement condemnation of the microblogging service. Later in the week, a series of bomb threats were made against female journalists covering the story.

Upward of 125,000 signatures were collected on Change.org, a social petitioning and activist website, calling for Twitter to enact stronger policies against abuse and harassment made using its network.

Areas regarding free speech issues are particularly sensitive to Twitter, a company that prides itself on its ability to give a voice to the public while minimizing it’s own role in mitigating what should and should not be said via the service.

Clear and present threats, however, have not been tolerated on the network for some time. Twitter’s Saturday update lays the policy out more directly, adding clearer language on what constitutes “targeted abuse.”

“We are committed to making Twitter a safe place for our users,” the company said.

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