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The fight against Twitter harassment takes a step faster

With her poster on the air, Jessie Woletz had a simple message for Twitter: "#StopTheHate".

"It's really hard to trust Twitter right now," said Woletz, standing next to a handful of protesters Friday night in front of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, asking the social network to reduce harassment in the social network. "They say they're going to do something about it, I hope it's better than it is."


Jessie Woletz demonstrates her displeasure with Twitter during a protest in front of the San Francisco headquarters company on Friday night.

Terry Collins / CNET

That's the goal when Twitter officially started on Monday enforcing its updates to reduce the amount of abusive and hateful content on the platform. Among the changes are the prohibitions against the names of the users or biographies in their accounts that promote violence and hatred; the potential for permanent suspension of accounts that threaten violence or serious physical harm and death; and a ban on accounts with hate symbols and images.

But the company also recognizes that its efforts will continue to be a work in progress.

"We will evaluate and interact with these changes in the coming days and weeks", Twitter said in a blog post on Monday.

The updates arrived as scheduled, according to the security calendar of Twitter that specifies when certain changes will be applied to stop the abuse. As urge users the social network promised last year to curb chronic harassment and hate speech targeting women and minorities, even as it struggles to balance its claim to be a platform for free expression .

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's promises of changes to the company's harassment policies and greater transparency on how he will protect his 330 million users from abusive behavior have met with mixed emotions.

"They take their responsibilities very seriously, Twitter realizes that they have a series of problems on their hands, and they face a lot of pressure," Stephen Balkam, executive director of Family Online Safety Institute and a member of Twitter Trust and Safety Council said on Saturday. "I think this has been a year of play for the company, and they have been under scrutiny like never before."

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Twitter tumultuous 2017


Meanwhile, as hate endures, Twitter has made a series of changes throughout the year. In July, for example, he said he had disciplined 10 times more accounts than he did in 2016 . In October, Dorsey said in a tweetstorm that there were more changes on the way, responding to a #WomenBoycottTwitter protest urging people not to tweet for a day to force Twitter to improve the way it reviews the content. That came after #MeToo the hashtag campaign inspired by accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, which sparked an international movement that encouraged women from all walks of life to talk about assaults sexual and harassment .

Last month, Twitter temporarily suspended its verification process after showing outrage at giving its official blue and white checkmark to the accounts of prominent white supremacists.

Everything in context

Twitter said on Monday that it will have a range of options for the application, with a focus on context and behavior. For example, the company said that although some tweets may seem abusive on the surface, they may not be "when viewed in the context of a broader conversation."

In addition, Twitter said that the answers will depend on the severity of a tweet and the previous registration of the user's account. "For example, we can ask someone to remove the offensive tweet before I can tweet again," the company said on its page hate behavior policy . "For other cases, we can suspend an account."

Given the gray areas that the company sees in the tweets, it promises to recognize if in some cases it goes too far.

"In our effort to be more aggressive here, we can make some mistakes and we are working on a robust solution appealing the process," the company said in its blog post on Monday.

Balkam, a member of the security council of Twitter, an advisory group of more than 60 organizations and experts working to help prevent abuse in the social network, said the policies are much clearer than a year ago.

Now, it's a matter of executing them, he said.

"The real problem will come during the next six to nine months as to how they use these policies in terms of human revision, and also how their machine learning, their algorithms and their artificial intelligence are going to choose this and after an hour of protests on Friday, Woletz, a 34-year-old resident of San Francisco who lives not far from the Twitter site, said she would return if she withdrew and determined its accuracy, "he said.

believes that the company is not doing enough to eradicate hatred.

Woletz cited a series of anti-Muslim graphic tweets and videos retweeted by President Donald Trump on December 1 that Twitter did not remove. The company said that the tweets somehow did not violate its policies, despite being widely condemned by critics .

"I want Twitter to stop the double talk," he said. "They need to do much more than they did"

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