Twitter Safety Guide


  1. Twitter's Policies
    1. What type of content is not allowed on Twitter?
    2. What is considered harassment on Twitter?
    3. What is not considered harassment on Twitter?
    4. What should I do if I am harassed on Twitter?
  2. Report Harassment
    1. How can I report harassment on Twitter?
    2. How long should I wait before I report abuse on Twitter?
    3. What happens after I submit a report on twitter?
    4. Does Twitter accept screenshots as evidence for harassment?
    5. Who can report abuse on Twitter?
    6. Are reports kept confidential?
    7. Will I be notified when my abuse report to Twitter has been dealt with?
    8. I submitted an abuse report to Twitter, but I feel that my case wasn't handled adequately (e.g., abusive Tweets have not been deleted, harasser’s profile is not suspended, etc.). What should I do now?
  3. Block on Twitter
    1. How can I block someone on Twitter?
    2. What are some advanced features for people targeted for harassment on Twitter (other than the block, mute, and share blocklist options)?
    3. How to mute words or hashtags?
    4. What steps has Twitter taken to stop harassment on Twitter?
    5. What resources does Twitter offer for harassment victims?
  4. Works Cited

  1. Twitter's Policies

    1. What type of content is not allowed on Twitter?

      Twitter has a set of rules that highlight what is not allowed on the platform. Here are the categories included in those policies:

      • Abuse
      • Intimate media
      • Glorification of violence
      • Hateful conduct
      • Violent extremist groups
      • Spam
      • Suicide or self-harm
      • Sensitive content
      • Impersonation
      • Private information

    2. What is considered harassment on Twitter?

      On Twitter, what counts as abuse must fit one or more of these criteria:

      • An account sending harassing messages
      • One-sided harassment that includes threats
      • Incitement to harass a particular user
      • Sending harassing messages from multiple accounts to a single user
      • Aggressive insults with the purpose of harassing or intimidating others

      Twitter prohibits many forms of abusive behavior including:

      • Impersonation: when a user impersonates others in a manner that is intended mislead, confuse, or deceive others
      • Doxxing: publishing or posting other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address, or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission
      • Nonconsensually distributing intimate or sexual images: posting intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject's consent
      • Unwanted sexual advances: this includes sending someone unsolicited and/or unwanted adult media, including images, videos, and GIFs; unwanted sexual discussion of someone’s body; and solicitation of sexual acts.
      • Violent threats (direct or indirect): threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism; making threats or promoting violence against a person or group on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability

      You can find further details here.

    3. What is not considered harassment on Twitter?

      Twitter says "people are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, as long as they’re not violating the Twitter Rules. Personal disagreements and political debates do not count as abuse and the platform does not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users. Twitter's Help Center contains guidance about handling offensive content through tools and controls.

    4. What should I do if I am harassed on Twitter?

      If you are receiving unwanted, targeted, and continuous content on Twitter, and feel it constitutes online abuse, consider reporting the behavior to Twitter as soon as possible.

      Remember that it is important to document the violent or abusive messages with print-outs or screenshots, as this can be useful for future investigations.

      After reporting and documenting the episode, there are more steps you can take to protect yourself – and others – from being harassed:

      Block the harasser’s account: When you block an account on Twitter, that user will not be able to follow you or view your tweets when they're logged in to that account. Additionally, their replies or mentions will not show in your Notifications tab (although these Tweets may still appear in search). Blocked users do not receive any notification alerting them that their account has been blocked, but if they visit your profile they will notice they have been blocked. Blocked users cannot:

      • Follow you
      • Send you direct messages
      • View your tweets, following or followers list, photos, videos, lists, or favorites when they're logged in
      • Add your Twitter account to their lists
      • Tag you in a photo

      For more information on how to block a Twitter account from the website or from your phone or device, click here.

      Be aware that blocking can mask threads and it might make risk assessment more difficult. If you're scared for your physical and mental safety, consider getting a trusted friend or family member to monitor your account instead.

      Mute the harasser’s account: Mute is a feature that allows you to remove an account’s tweets from your timeline without unfollowing or unblocking that account. Muted users will not receive any notification and you can unmute them at any time. To view a list of accounts you have muted, visit your muted account settings.

      Some important things to know about mute:

      • Muted accounts can still follow you and you can follow them. Muting an account will not cause you to unfollow them
      • Muted account users can still send you a Direct Message
      • You will no longer receive push or SMS notifications from any muted account

      For muted accounts that you follow:

      • @replies and mentions by the muted account will still appear in your Notifications tab
      • Tweets from the muted account before it was muted will still appear in your Home timeline

      For muted accounts that you do not follow:

      • @replies and mentions will not appear in your Notifications tab

      For more information on how to mute a Twitter account from the website or from your phone or device, click here.

      Being harassed can be hurtful and traumatic. Remember that you are not alone in the struggle, and there is a HeartMob community ready to support you – visit this page to request help. See our security guide to learn more about what to do if you experience online harassment.

  2. Report Harassment

    1. How can I report harassment on Twitter?

      You can report harassment via this online form. The report will be reviewed by the Trust & Safety Team. On the form, you will be asked for:

      • The harasser’s Twitter username
      • Harassing tweet URLs (up to five)
      • Further details about the situation (e.g., repeated abuse from the same harasser, manipulation of Twitter security, etc.)

      For directions on how to find a tweet’s URL, click here. Tweet URLs are critical to the report because they provide evidence of harassment and advise Twitter on how to best handle the issue. Keep in mind that you can attach tweet URLs from deleted tweets. If the harassment occurs outside of a Tweet (e.g., account bio, header, profile picture, etc.), then you can explain it in the Further description field of the form.

      You can also report abusive content directly from a Tweet, List, or profile. Learn more here.

      Watch this video to see a step-by-step guide on how to report a profile on Twitter:

    2. How long should I wait before I report abuse on Twitter?

      You should report the abuse as soon as possible to prevent further harm. If the behavior does not fit Twitter's criteria for abuse, you may want to unfollow, block, or mute the user instead.

    3. What happens after I submit a report on Twitter?

      When someone submits a report, a Twitter representative needs to evaluate it before making a judgment. According to Twitter’s policies, when determining the penalty for violating this policy, Twitter considers “a number of factors including, but not limited to, the severity of the violation and an individual’s previous record of rule violations”.

      They may ask someone to remove the violating content and serve a period of time in read-only mode before they can Tweet again.

      "Subsequent violations will lead to longer read-only periods and may eventually result in permanent suspension. If an account is engaging primarily in abusive behavior, Twitter may permanently suspend the account upon initial review", says Twitter.

      For accounts engaging in abusive behavior on their profile, the abusive profile policy determines that an account could be suspended on a first violation if it includes any of the following abusive behaviors:

      • Violent threats
      • Abusive slurs, epithets, racist, or sexist tropes
      • Abusive content that reduces someone to less than human
      • Content that incites fear

      According to Twitter,

      “If an account uses a hateful symbol in its profile information, the account-holder will be required to remove the symbol before they can use their account again. Repeated violations will lead to permanent suspension.”

      Other ways in which Twitter might take action include:

      Limiting Tweet visibility: This makes content less visible on Twitter, in search results, replies, and on timelines.

      Hiding a violating Tweet while awaiting its removal:

      “In the interim period between when Twitter takes enforcement action and the person removes the Tweet, Twitter can hide that Tweet from public view and will replace the original content with a notice stating that the Tweet is no longer available because it violated our Rules. Additionally, this notice will be available for 14 days after Tweet removed.”

      Click here to learn more about the enforcement actions taken by Twitter.

    4. Does Twitter accept screenshots as evidence for harassment?

      Twitter does not accept screenshots as evidence of harassment without a corresponding URL. Their preferred mode of documentation is to copy/paste a tweet’s URL. However, if you choose to work with local law enforcement authorities, then you can choose to provide screenshots of tweets as proof of harassment.

    5. Who can report abuse on Twitter?

      The following individuals can report abuse on Twitter using this form:

      • The victim of online abuse
      • A legal representative of the victim (e.g. family member or attorney)
      • A bystander

      Bystander involvement helps to curb harassment on Twitter and shows the person targeted that they have the support of other users. Learn more about bystander’s role here.

    6. Are reports kept confidential?

      Twitter keeps each reporter’s information confidential in all cases, except for those that directly concern identity or trademark violations. For example, if someone is impersonating you, you must authenticate your identity. In such cases, Twitter will inform you prior to communicating with the owner(s) of the account(s) in question.

    7. Will I be notified when my abuse report to Twitter has been dealt with?

      Twitter will notify you when they have received your report, and they will inform you if they take further action. This will all be visible in your notifications tab on the app. You'll get these notifications whether the harassment you reported was targeted at you or at someone else. (Ho, 2017)

    8. I submitted an abuse report to Twitter, but I feel that my case wasn’t handled adequately (for example, Twitter has not deleted abusive tweets or suspended the harasser’s account, or my report was rejected). What should I do now?

      If Twitter hasn’t suspended the harasser’s account or removed the abusive content, it’s for one of two reasons: either the harassment doesn’t meet Twitter’s criteria for abuse, or the case is still pending. Sometimes Twitter asks users to remove abusive content, and only suspends their account. You can find out whether the tweet is still there by navigating to its URL and seeing if it loads. If it was deleted, the page would read, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”, If it’s still there, Twitter may still be giving that user time to take it down before suspending them.

      Beyond this information, Twitter has no clear path for when you aren’t satisfied with their response. They encourage you to review their rules and criteria for abuse, and unfollow, mute, or block the harasser’s account. If that same user repeats the abusive behavior, you can submit a new report.

      Additionally, you should encourage your friends and family to report the harassment because more reports make it more likely that Twitter will take it down.

      Remember that you can always control your interaction with the person posting abusive content by blocking or muting them.

      Finally, keep in mind that you are not alone in the struggle, and there is a HeartMob community that could support you – visit this page to request help. Try to remember that even if the harassment doesn’t meet Twitter’s criteria, your experience and feelings matter and you deserve support. For instance, HeartMobbers can submit third-party reports to Twitter if you think Twitter made the wrong call.

      If you feel you are in danger, consider finding legal support and report it to your local authorities as soon as possible. Check out our resources and learn more about how to deal with online harassment.

  3. Block On Twitter

    1. How can I block someone on Twitter?

      To block from a Tweet

      1. Click the icon located at the top of a Tweet from the account you wish to block.
      2. Click Block, and then select Block to confirm.

      To block from a profile

      1. Go to the profile page of the account you wish to block.
      2. Click the more icon on their profile page.
      3. Select Block from the menu.
      4. Click Block to confirm.
    2. What are some advanced features for people targeted for harassment on Twitter (other than the block, mute, and share blocklist options)?

      Unfollow. If an account you're following is annoying or offensive, you can unfollow them – you can still access their tweets by visiting their profile (unless their tweets are protected).

      Protect your tweets. With a protected account, you can approve follow requests from other accounts on a case-by-case basis. Only the accounts you approve will be able to view or search for your tweets. To protect your tweets, visit your account settings and click the box next to "Protect my Tweets."

      Use "safe search." Safe search removes tweets that contain potentially sensitive content, and tweets from accounts you have blocked or muted, from search results. While this type of content will be discoverable if you want to find it, it won’t clutter search results any longer. To use this option, enter your search query into the search box at the top of the page. Your results will show a combination of Tweets, photos, accounts, and more. You could click the Search filters options to filter your results From anyone or People you follow, and Anywhere or Near you. Click the three dots icon on the right-hand side of the search results page for more options:

      • Click Search settings to disable (or re-enable) safe search to filter your search results:
      • Safe search settings include Hide sensitive content and Remove blocked and muted accounts. Uncheck the box to disable either setting, you may re-enable at any time. Note: This setting may take several minutes to go into effect.
      •  

      Filter. Filter options for your notifications give you more control over what you see from certain types of accounts, like those without a profile photo or with unverified email addresses or phone numbers.

      Mute words. Remove certain keywords, phrases, or entire conversations from your notifications. You can mute these from your home timeline and decide how long to mute it for – one day, one week, one month, or indefinitely. (Ho, 2017)

    3. How to mute words or hashtags?

      1. Click Settings and privacy from your profile image drop-down.
      2. Select Muted words.
      3. Click Add.
      4. Enter the word or hashtag you’d like to mute. Entries can only be added one a time.
      5. Choose Home timeline if you wish to mute the word or phrase from your Home timeline.
      6. Select Notifications if you wish to mute the word or phrase from your Notifications.
      7. Specify From anyone or From only people I don’t follow.
      8. Under For how long? choose between Forever, 24 hours from now, 7 days from now, or 30 days from now.
      9. Click Add.
      10. You will see the mute time period indicated next to each entered word or hashtag.

      See the video:


        1. What steps has Twitter taken to stop harassment on Twitter?

          Twitter has recently added the ability to limit a user’s account for a certain time period, or until they register a phone number and delete abusive tweets. Previously, Twitter only suspended a user’s account and prevented login, and abusers could easily create a new account and continue harassing other users. (Weinberger, 2015).

          In July 2015, Twitter introduced the new Safety Center, a resource with information about online safety, on Twitter and elsewhere. It is organized around Twitter’s tools and policies to address safety, with sections created especially for teens, parents, and educators (Cartes, 2015).

          In 2016, Twitter established the Twitter Trust and Safety Council, which brings together more than 40 experts and organizations to help advise the platform as they develop their products. At the beginning of 2020, Twitter announced that the Council will be made up of several groups, “each focused on advising Twitter on specific issues”. The company will set up groups focused on:

          • Safety and online harassment
          • Human and digital rights
          • Child sexual exploitation
          • Suicide prevention and mental health

          Like other social media platforms, Twitter has also been relying on automated moderation tools to identify abusive content. In a letter to shareholders in October 2019, Twitter reported that 50% of all abusive tweets on the platform are being removed by these tools before users have a chance to report them.

          See what other social media platforms are doing to respond to online harassment here.

        2. What resources does Twitter offer for harassment victims?

          Twitter has partnered with the National Network to End Domestic Violence to develop a new resource: Safety & Privacy on Twitter: A Guide for Survivors of Harassment and Abuse. This guide provides specific tips and guidance for Twitter users on increasing their privacy and responding to other users who misuse the platform. Twitter offers several online resources to help combat harassment. The social media platform is also partnered with the following organizations, which you can follow on Twitter or otherwise refer to for assistance:

          For specialized information on how to deal with offensive content, here is a list of organizations Twitter partners with:

          For a complete list of partnered organizations and links to their Twitter profiles, click here.

          You can also visit Twitter’s Safety Center to learn more about online safety, on Twitter and beyond. The Center is organized around Twitter’s tools and policies to address safety, with sections created especially for teens, parents, and educators.

          Do not forget to visit our resources where you can find information about your rights and digital safety.

      1. Works Cited

        • Subbaraman, N. (March 2, 2015). Twitter expands safety team to better monitor harassment online. The Boston Globe.
        • Doshi, S. (April 21, 2015). Policy and product updates aimed at combating abuse. Twitter Blog.
        • Weinberger, M. (April 21, 2015). Twitter gets serious about online harassment with new rules and punishments. Business Insider.
        • Cartes, P. (July 20, 2015). Introducing the new Twitter Safety Center. Twitter Blog.
        • Cristina, M. (December 30, 2015). Fighting abuse to protect freedom of expression. Twitter Blog.
        • Southworth, C. (July 26, 2016). Safety and Privacy on Twitter: A Guide for Victims of Harassment and Abuse. Twitter Blog.
        • Twitter. (November 16, 2016). Progress on addressing online abuse. Twitter Blog.
        • Ho, E. (February 7, 2017) An Update on Safety. Twitter Blog.
        • Ho, E. (March 1, 2017) Our Latest Update on Safety. Twitter Blog.