Photo: Rex USA.
Twitter's always been a free market for words and ideas. It makes no judgement. Good stands next to bad, and users decide what gets retweeted into viral immortality. But, that premise gets challenged when trolls troll and bullies bully. Now, with the high-profile takedown of Robin Williams' daughter, Zelda Williams — anonymous users not only blamed her for her father's death, but also sent photoshopped images of what was supposedly his body (it wasn't) — Twitter is finally stepping in.
After Zelda publicly quit social media, Twitter's VP of trust and safety, Del Harvey, said the company would not tolerate such abuse and is the process of updating its security policies. Right now, a person has to report a user and then their account might be suspended, but by that point, the damage is done. And, as Shirley Li at The Wire points out, there's nothing to stop users from creating another profile (and another and another). "It's not a minor nuisance," she says, "it's harassment."
None of this would be tolerated in real life, and the fact that it's online makes it harder to escape. Li suggests social networks look to gaming communities like League of Legends, which assembled a group of behavior experts (psychologists, computer scientists, and neuroscientists) to implement changes that reduce harassment among users. The results included the option to turn of the chat function, and something similar could work for Twitter — allowing users the option to stop replies or DMs.