Twitter to ‘Wage War’ on Internet Trolls

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

A front-page report in The Independent has confirmed that Twitter will continue to “wage war” against individuals they label as trolls as the platform becomes increasingly politicised.

In an interview, Bruce Daisley, the head of Twitter in Europe, has vowed to give its users new tools to “expose” the worst offenders and force accused trolls to tie their phone number to their accounts to “tell the user that what they do here exists in the real world.”

These new measures come ahead of the site’s ten year anniversary in March. The site has 320 million users and is valued at $33bn. However, the service has found itself under fire in the mainstream media with a series of skewed headlines about harassment and trolling. This has been compounded by celebrities publicly declaring they are closing their accounts to allegedly get away from such behaviour, including Zelda Williams and Lena Dunham.

Daisley stated that he saw the matter of trolling as that of “user safety” and added, “We have spent longer and put more effort into user safety than any other issue. The measures we’ve taken correlate directly with a reduction in the amount of bad behaviour on the platform.”

These new measures include asking anyone accused of abuse to identify themselves. “If someone is behaving in a way characteristic of a bad actor, we send them a phone verification,” Daisely continued. “That allows us to tell the user that what they do here exists in the real world. It normally acts as a stark reminder. Secondly, it allows us to see whether that user has already got other accounts set up on their phone that have been suspended.” Daisely is also said to approve of users sharing block lists to “expose” the worst offenders on the platform.

However, increasingly we are seeing these new measures not being applied evenly as Twitter looks to pander to shareholders and investors. Janet Bloomfield, the founder of the #WomenAgainstFeminism hashtag, was banned for repeating the words of Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti back to her. GotNews founder Chuck C. Johnson, who relied on Twitter for his crowdfunded model of journalism, was permanently banned for promising to “take out” Black Lives Matter activist Deray Mckesson with an investigative report.

Just over a week ago the actor who coined the term “GamerGate,” Adam Baldwin, was bizarrely suspended for stating that GG supporters were “much more attractive and joyous” than their counterparts.

Meanwhile the social media platform seemed to have little trouble with a friend of Community creator, Dan Harmon, repeatedly telling people he disagreed with to “kill themselves.” Spencer Crittenden, who leads the Dungeons & Dragons segments on Harmon’s podcast Harmontown, was temporarily suspended until Harmon intervened, after which his account was reinstated without even having to delete the offending tweets.

Feminist journalist Leigh Alexander was also hit with a temporary suspension for telling someone to “get hit by a bus” for pointing out her hypocrisy in retweeting support of an app where you could hit Donald Trump as a piñata but being critical of the “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” game. After her suspension was lifted, she complained publicly about Twitter’s policies despite having received clemency.

Breitbart has also extensively reported on Twitter’s seeming inability to combat ISIS recruitment and publicity accounts. This, despite the fact that Twitter committed to deleting anti-immigration “hate speech” within twenty four hours in partnership with the German government.

Despite these contradictions, Laura Higgins, of the independent UK Safer Internet Centre which works directly with Twitter, praised the platform for making “huge improvements” by “introducing new reporting routes” and “even trying to block persistent offenders from posting in the first place”.


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