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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Twitter abuse policies a ‘positive move’

Graphic+By%3A+Frederica+Shih

Graphic By: Frederica Shih

To reduce harassment and abuse on feeds, Twitter has announced privacy policy changes that establish a process to more easily report users.
Shreyas Doshi, director of product management and user safety with Twitter, said in a blog post that Twitter is moving to make it easier to report harassment or abuse in tweets by making it more mobile-friendly and simpler to flag tweets for review.
Srividya Ramasubramanian, associate professor of communication, said the changes are a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s a positive move because online spaces like Twitter have sometimes become so vicious and very uncivil in terms of comments people are writing,” Ramasubramanian said. “In fact, we take an issue like race that I study most often. In fact, there is even a term called ‘twesism’ which is about Twitter racism. We have documented that more than 10,000 racial slurs are on Twitter every day.”
Stephanie Valentine, computer science graduate student with Sketch Recognition Lab, said Twitter is creating a good precedent by making the reporting process simpler for users, but she is concerned about Twitter’s lack of transparency.
“They told us there is this awesome new reporting thing, which I think will be great. I think more harassment is going to be reported now,” Valentine said. “But at the same time if you have a great influx in the number of reports that are made you need to have the resources to support that many reports, and we haven’t really heard the changes that Twitter is making in terms of staff and other certain things to handle these requests.”
Wording choice in Twitter’s announcement also concerned Valentine. Her area of work focuses on social media, specifically platforms directed at children. This year, she developed a social networking site designed to teach kids how to be good digital citizens. She said Twitter’s announcement hardly used the term “cyber bullying,” an issue she addresses in her own work, instead favoring the term “cyber harassment,” which she said applies only to people 18 or older.
Ramasubramanian said Twitter’s changes are beneficial, but the real problem is in the culture of Internet hate. The focus in curing Internet hate shouldn’t be in fixing the symptom, but rather should be on addressing the culture.
“People are just saying anything and everything they want to, which we would not see in interpersonal one-on-one situations,” Ramasubramanian said. “It’s just a different culture, you respond in hateful ways and it goes back and forth. I’m not saying people have to use language that is nice and polite. What I’m saying is that we cannot misuse the power of language to completely put down a group. Especially if you are in a more powerful situation or you have more power, you have greater responsibility for the type of speech that you use.”
Doshi said in the blog post Twitter is still making changes and will continue to answer issues regarding harassment and abuse.
“We are nowhere near being done making changes in this area,” Doshi said. “In the coming months, you can expect to see additional user controls, further improvements to reporting and new enforcement procedures for abusive accounts.”
Ramasubramanian said, regardless of the changes, user control of social media remains incredibly important.
“Social media is a powerful tool,” Ramasubramanian said. “How we use a tool is up to us, whether we use it for peaceful purposes, whether we are using it in meaningful ways, are we using it to gain information, are we using it for building partnerships, to bring about social change. That’s up to us how we use it. I think the power and potential are tremendous, I just hope this generation that has grown up in the digital space are mindful as to how to use this tool.”

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