Twitter Clarifies Rules Regarding "Abusive Behavior" on the Platform

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On Friday, the social network clarified its definitions of abusive behavior and graphic violence.

Twitter has updated its user policies to make it more clear what kind of behavior can get people kicked off its platform. 

The social network on Friday said that it was publishing a new version of its Twitter Rules because "online behavior continues to evolve and change, and at Twitter, we have to ensure those changes are reflected in our rules in a way that's easy to adhere to and understand." The company stressed, however, that its approach has not changed. 

Among the changes that Twitter has made is more explicitly defining what "abusive behavior" on its platform looks like. "We are making it clear that context  … is crucial when evaluating abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions." That context includes whether the behavior was targeted at a specific person, whether a report has been filed and whether the tweet is considered newsworthy and in the public interest. (In September, Twitter explained that it hadn't removed a tweet of President Donald Trump's that appeared to threaten violence against North Korea because of its newsworthiness.)

Twitter also updated its rules regarding tweets that express thoughts of self-harm to clarify how strictly it enforces the policy and how it communicates with people displaying that behavior.

And it provided more specific details about what it considers to be "graphic violence" or "adult content." The new language states, "We consider graphic violence to be any form of gory media related to death, serious injury, violence, or surgical procedures. We consider adult content to be any media that is pornographic and/or may be intended to cause sexual arousal."

In addition, Twitter clarified its definition of spam and shared more information about how to reviews accounts that may be spam. 

The changes come as Twitter continues to draw fire for not doing enough to prevent hate speech, bullying and harassment on its platform. In mid-October, for instance, Twitter's move to lock the account of actress Rose McGowan after she posted a series of tweets about Harvey Weinstein caused many prominent Twitter users to chastise the company for taking action against a vocal victim of sexual assault when many offenders go unpunished. Twitter later clarified that McGowan's tweets had violated its privacy rules because they included a phone number, and CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, "We need to be a lot more transparent in our actions in order to build trust."

In order to avoid such confusion in the future, Twitter has said that it will now notify the users behind suspended or deleted accounts about which tweet violated its rules and why.

Twitter will update its rules again on Nov. 22 with new policies regarding violent groups, hateful imagery and abusive usernames.