It’s Too Early To Praise Twitter For Enforcing New Anti-Abuse Rules

Azmina Dhrodia is a technology and human rights researcher at Amnesty International.

“After five years of online harassment coupled with offline harassment, I have basically reconciled myself to the fact that I’m prepared to die for the work that I do.”

This is what Pamela Merritt, a blogger and reproductive rights activist from the U.S., told me when I interviewed her as part of an investigation into online abuse against women. Pamela was remarkably sanguine as she described the barrage of rape and death threats she receives, but her story is chilling. It shows how brave women need to be to express themselves online, in a world where their opinions are so often meet with violent threats.

I thought about Pamela today when Twitter announced that its new rules aimed at reducing “hateful conduct” have come into force. The company has garnered intense criticism over the years for its failure to tackle the abuse and violence that proliferates on its platform. Last month, things came to a head when criticisms by several celebrities about Twitter’s response to abuse led to the #WomenBoycottTwitter hashtag going viral.

In response, CEO Jack Dorsey promised a “more aggressive stance” on abuse and gave us these new rules. The main change is that Twitter is updating and expanding its rules to include unwanted sexual advances, intimate media, hateful imagery and display names, and violence.

However, Twitter’s rules have never really been the problem. When it comes to many types of abuse women suffer on the platform, it already has a fairly strong set of community guidelines that could be more effective if only they were properly enforced.

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