Twitter harassment on the rise: Study

| Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 13:22
First Published |

Do you feel you are being harassed on Twitter? If yes, you are not alone, a study said.

The study by feminist activist group Women, Action and the Media (WAM) found that, among other things, around a quarter of young men and women have been physically threatened online, and a quarter of young women have been sexually harassed.

WAM got approval from Twitter to accept and submit harassment reports, putting together a picture of who is complaining about accounts or tweets and how Twitter might be able to help, The Verge reported.

WAM focused specifically on 811 harassment reports.

About a quarter of the reports concerned "hate speech" like racist, sexist or homophobic comments, and a slightly smaller number involved releasing private details about individuals.

Actual threats of violence were lower down the list. They made up 12 percent of the reports.

It found, however, that despite all its well-meaning measures, Twitter can still do little to curb online harassment.

Firstly, not all of such content is banned by Twitter, even though the platform prohibits threats, posting confidential information and abuse, including "promoting violence" against people or groups.

Submitting a report, again, is not always straightforward.

The study notes that first-time users may not send vital things like a tweet's web address.

Others might need a way to make clear that one person is harassing them from several different accounts, making a new one each time the old one is banned.

While Twitter can always suspend accounts, it might not always be the best strategy.

If the tweets are actually illegal, a suspended account means users cannot show messages to law enforcement, the report said.

WAM found that one of its best tools was simply communicating with people who reported harassment to figure out the larger context behind a reported tweet or account.

One of the solutions that WAM has suggested is to opt for filters that people could turn on to limit what they receive.

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