Twitter Tackles Revenge Porn Head-On With A New Privacy Policy And Mission

Handling abuse on its platform has been a constant struggle for Twitter, whose CEO even admitted "we suck" at it in February. After taking that important first step of admitting the problem, the company is now finally cracking the whip. On Wednesday, Twitter changed its privacy policy to prohibit revenge porn, adding two clauses that specifically deal with the posting of "intimate photos or videos." Victims of revenge porn can now report the violation to Twitter, while perpetrators will have their accounts locked or suspended completely if they repeat the offense.

As of Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET, Twitter had added to its privacy policy to include a separate clause on top of banning users from posting other users' private information:

You may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.

The abusive behavior policy had also been extended to include this:

In addition, users may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.

When Twitter announced these changes on Wednesday, the company also released an FAQ modeled after the 12 questions that BuzzFeed had asked Reddit when that site started implementing new policies to tackle revenge porn. In Twitter's answers, the company explains how victims can report violating content and the verification process that would follow.

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When asked if reporting abuse would require proof before the content is taken down, Twitter answered:

We will ask a reporting user to verify that he or she is the individual in question in content alleged to be violating our policy and to confirm that the photo or video in question was posted without consent. Agents will then act on content posted in violation of the policy. Users who believe that content they post has been incorrectly identified is violating the policy can appeal the decision and agents will review that request as well.

There is one other thing that needs to be verified — lack of consent:

As part of their reports, users will be asked to confirm that the photos or videos in question were posted without consent. Agents will review complaints to confirm that the content at issue violates our policy. Photos or video that do not appear to violate the policy — such as content that an individual has previously indicated was made publicly available with permission — will not be actioned.
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As for the violators, here's how Twitter would punish them:

Content that is identified as violating our policy will be hidden from public view and users posting it will have their accounts locked; those users will be required to delete the content in question before being able to return to the platform. Users posting such content with an intent to harass will be subject to suspension from Twitter.

Twitter also mentioned that reporters wouldn't be required to file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) request:

Our policy is broader that what is potentially protected by copyright. Users can report possible violations through our usual reporting process without relying on the DMCA.

While this is a significant course of action on Twitter's part, it's unclear how big of a dent it will put in the existing abuse on the platform. It's no secret that Twitter is plagued by countless virulent trolls whose only agenda online is to target others, whether it's because of their gender, religion, sexual orientation, or views.

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Last month, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo addressed its troll problem in an internal memo obtained by The Verge, admitting, "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years." In the same message, he vowed to "start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them."

It's clear that the company is sincerely trying to combat this persistent issue — when the CEO practically makes it his personal mission, you know they must be serious — no matter how time-consuming or painstaking it might be. It's an undertaking they appear to be wholly dedicated to, but that doesn't mean they don't have its work cut out for them.

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