Twitter has long received flack for its weak responses to clear instances of abuse over its network, but now it finally says that it’s going to do … something. In a statement provided to the Washington Postwith regard to the harassment of Zelda Williams, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety says that the company is currently “evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one.” He says that may include making Twitter’s policies stricter with regard to self-harm or private information, and it could also mean better watching out for users who have just had a family member die.
That last item is particularly important, as it’s Zelda Williams’ announcement that she was leaving Twitter that sparked the latest controversy. Following her father’s death, Williams began seeing harassment on Twitter by people who sent messages blaming her. They also sent edited images of her father that included bruises around his neck. “We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter,” Twitter tells the Post. Two Twitter users who were noted as particular problems in Williams’ case have had their accounts suspended.
Twitter’s statement is still a relatively weak one, giving little in the way of what we can actually expect to see it change. It’s not a clear promise that meaningful results will come, just a recognition that something needs to happen — and that’s been clear for a long time. Still, it sounds as though Twitter could finally be ready to draw a stronger line in the sand for what constitutes abuse and harassment, making it easier for people to report bad situations and have them dealt with. The latest incident is a very high-profile example, and it may be a much harder one for Twitter to brush aside.