Twitter Inc. is enforcing updates to its rules regarding abusive and hateful content – meaning that users with accounts that threaten others through their profile images or headers will have to remove them.
In a Monday morning blog post, the social media icon said it will now flag hateful imagery the same way it flags adult content and graphic violence.
It’s encouraging news, said Matthew Johnson, MediaSmart’s director of education.
“Free speech has to be balanced with the right to one’s security,” he told ITBusiness.ca.
MediaSmarts is a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, and was consulted by Twitter regarding its new rules a couple of months ago, said Johnson.
It’s important that youth understand they can take action against online abuse, he added, and the new rules will make it a bit easier for them to do that.
However, Twitter says certain graphic or hateful content may be permitted in Tweets labeled as “sensitive media,” allowing other users to choose whether or not they want to view that specific tweet.
New signals in the company’s review process will also add relationships between accounts as context to reported Tweets. In addition, when a witness is notified about an action Twitter took based on their report, Twitter will share which policy was violated in the notification.
And while some Tweets may seem to be abusive at face value, that may not be the case in the context of a larger conversation, according to Twitter’s hateful conduct policy.
“While we accept reports of violations from anyone, sometimes we also need to hear directly from the target to ensure that we have proper context,” the policy reads.
The enforcement of these new rules, Twitter says, may lead to mistakes.
“In our efforts to be more aggressive here, we may make some mistakes and are working on a robust appeals process,” read Monday’s blog post. “We’ll evaluate and iterate on these changes in the coming days and weeks, and will keep you posted on progress along the way.”
The enforcement of these new rules has already led to the suspension of several accounts, including all of the main accounts for Britain First, a white supremacist organization in the U.K. famously retweeted by U.S. President Donald Trump in late November.
A petition on Britain First’s website is already seeking signatures to convince Twitter to reinstate the organization’s account.
Twitter has been working to stomp out abuse on its platform for more than a year. The barrage of abuse against journalists and Muslims during the U.S election left many people demanding Twitter to react.
In a November 2016 blog post, Twitter said it was taking three steps to address abuse on its platform, including expanding the mute button, reworking its hateful conduct policy and retraining its support team.
In July, Twitter’s vice-president of engineering Ed Ho wrote they were taking action on 10 times the number of abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year.