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‘Horrific’ Twitter Abuse Facing Clampdown

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The boss of Twitter has promised to clampdown on the ‘horrific’ problem of online trolling, bullying and abuse

The chief executive of Twitter has admitted that online abuse on the microblogging service is at times “horrifying”.

The comments from chief executive Dick Costolo came in an interview with the Financial Times, in which he pledged to introduce measures to prevent Twitter abuse, as well as other forms of ‘trolling’.

Balancing act

These measures could include hiding replies from users who do not have any followers, biography or profile picture.

But Costolo also said Twitter would continue to allow for freedom of expression, by enabling anonymous members to use the service for speaking out, as many have done in countries run by repressive regimes.

“The reason we want to allow pseudonyms is there are lots of places in the world where it’s the only way you’d be able to speak freely,” Costolo said.

“The flipside of that is it also emboldens these trolls… how do you make sure you are both emboldening people to speak politically but making it okay to be on the platform and not endure all this hate speech? It’s very frustrating.”

One of the solutions that Twitter is reportedly considering is hiding reply page tweets from individuals that are not seen as authoritative. By ‘authoritative’, he means users that do not have any followers, biographical information or profile picture.

The news of a potential clampdown on abusive Tweets came after police reportedly began investigating a number of abusive and racist tweets following the penalty misses by Ashley Cole and Ashley Young in England’s defeat to Italy at Euro 2012.

A student was jailed for his abusive tweets about Fabrice Muamba earlier this year, after the Bolton footballer collapsed on the pitch.

Costelo, however, also admitted in the FT interview this move could diminish the democratic nature of Twitter and was not necessarily in line with its mantra that “tweets must flow.”

Online censorship?

Twitter already has some form of censorship capabilities in its arsenal. In January, it revealed it had the ability to block tweets on a country-by-country basis, but warned that removed content would still be visible in other regions.

But Twitter’s decision to censor content in certain countries in line with local laws quickly drew a furious reaction from many of its users.

Twitter itself has previously been blocked by a number of governments, including China and the former Egyptian regime after it was used to ignite anti-government protests.

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  1. I set up @NetFreeUK a month or so ago and built up a following by retweeting and commenting on stories related to freedom of speech, individual privacy, dangerous Big Media legislation like ACTA etc. I’ve been meticulous in sticking to the rules – not spamming, replying politely to those with contradictory views etc .. but my account is currently suspended, as of several days ago.
    I’ve appealed to Twitter, asking them to verify from my history that I’ve not broken any rules, heard nothing back after nearly a week. I’m assuming someone took a dislike to my views (e.g., defending Assange) and reported my account to silence it. If it’s happened to me in this manner, I can’t be the first.
    So much for Twitter being an effective medium of free speech. Dissenters using it to share knowledge within repressive regimes like Syria can be easily silenced simply by officials reporting their account for “trolling” or similar – Twitter don’t seem to bother verifying complaints. That could have disastrous IRL consequences. In my case it’s just been a very effective method of putting me off advocating some important causes.
    Anyone else run into the same problem with Twitter? Any advice on restoring a maliciously suspended AC?

    1. Twitter has made a horrific implementation of this idea. They have cut off potentially hundreds of thousands of legitimate users by preventing their replies from appearing inside conversations. Twitter support then ignores the complaints from these users and claim that this functionality is a feature.

      In my opinion, Twitter needs to publish a standard about what constitutes a “troll” because the idea that you have an anonymous profile and some other users don’t like you and block your account is an extremely naive, unjust, and unsustainable business model. Clearly the bad guys can manipulate such a simplistic formula simply by writing bots that will massively block and mark as spam potentially millions of valid user accounts.

      There is a developer thread and Twitter discussing this issue:


      See also the hashtag search on Twitter #repliesnotshowingup

      Users are really upset about this arrogant misfeature.