Twitter Safety Guide

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  1. What is considered harassment on Twitter?
  2. What is not considered harassment on Twitter?
  3. What should I do if I am harassed on Twitter?
  4. How long should I wait before I report abuse on Twitter?
  5. How do I know if I have blocked a Twitter account?
  6. How do I unblock a Twitter account?
  7. How do I know if I have muted a Twitter account?
  8. How do I unmute a Twitter account?
  9. How do I share block lists on Twitter?
  10. How can I report harassment on Twitter?
  11. What are some advanced features for people targeted for harassment on Twitter (other than the block, mute, and share blocklist options)?
  12. Does Twitter accept screenshots as evidence for of harassment?
  13. Who can report abuse on Twitter?
  14. Are reports kept confidential?
  15. Will I be notified when my abuse report to Twitter has been dealt with?
  16. How long will it take Twitter to respond to my abuse report?
  17. 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?
  18. In the abuse review process, does Twitter give priority to certain types of abuse, or does Twitter review reports in the order they received them?
  19. Other than the abuse report form, is there another way to report harassment on Twitter?
  20. What resources does Twitter offer for harassment victims?
  21. What steps has Twitter taken to stop harassment on Twitter?
  1. What is considered harassment on Twitter?

    Abuse is a knotty problem that depends as much on behavior as it does context. 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

    Twitter will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice.(Cristina, 2015)

    Since abuse takes place in a particular context, a Twitter representative needs to evaluate it before making a judgment. There are exceptions, including threats and calls to violence based on race or gender. Twitter will suspend accounts that are reported for violent threats and may report them to law enforcement.

    There are many forms of abusive behavior on Twitter, 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
    • 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 in the Twitter Rules.

  2. What is not considered harassment on Twitter?

    Personal disagreements, political debates, and offensive content do not count as abuse unless they fit at least one of the criteria in Twitter’s abuse policy. Distinguishing between abuse and offensive content lies in this: disputes are inevitable when there are over 300 million users, many of whom hold opposing points of view. Since such disputes or disagreements aren’t necessarily abusive, Twitter enables users to unfollow, mute, or block other users to screen out unwanted content.

    Twitter's Help Center contains guidance about handling offensive content through tools and controls.

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

    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.

    On Twitter, there are several 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. 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.


    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 alerting them that their account has been muted, 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, here.


    Report the harassment to Twitter: If you're being harassed, you can report it to Twitter using this form. The report will be reviewed by the Trust & Safety Team at Twitter.com, and most requests are responded to within 24 hours. On the form, you will be asked for:

    1. The harasser’s Twitter username
    2. Abusive Tweet URLs (up to five).
    3. 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. The Trust & Safety Team will be able to access deleted tweets, even if though the public cannot.

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

    If you believe that the harassment fits Twitter's criteria for abuse, Twitter asks that you report it 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.

  5. How do I know if I have blocked a Twitter account?

    If you visit the harasser's account profile, you will see the Follow button has been replaced with a Blocked button and their tweets are hidden. You can still see their tweets by clicking the View Tweets button.

  6. How do I unblock a Twitter account?

    1. Visit the blocked account’s profile on Twitter
    2. Click or tap the Block button
    3. Confirm that you want to unblock the account by selecting "Unblock" on iOS, or "Yes" on Android
  7. How do I know if I have muted a Twitter account?

    Visit the muted user’s profile on Twitter. If the account is muted, you will see the red mute icon.

  8. How do I unmute a Twitter account?

    Visit the muted user’s profile on Twitter. Click the red mute icon to unmute.

  9. How do I share block lists on Twitter?

    You can share block lists with other Twitter users. This means you can 1) export and share your block list with others facing similar issues, and 2) import another user’s list into your own.

    To Export a block list:
    1. Go to your blocked account settings on Twitter.com
    2. At the top of your block list, click All to export your full block list. Click Imported to export the block list(s) you have imported
    3. Click the Advanced options drop-down menu
    4. Select Export your list
    5. Confirm the accounts you want to export
    6. Click Export and a .csv file will be downloaded to your computer and you can share the file with other Twitter users (NOTE: If your block list exceeds 5,000 accounts, your list will be separated into multiple files)

    To Import a block list:
    1. Go to your blocked account settings on Twitter.com
    2. Click the Advanced options drop-down menu
    3. Select Import a list
    4. In the pop-up, click on the paperclip icon and find the .csv file. Click Open to import the list
    5. The file name will be displayed when the file has been successfully imported
    6. Click Preview. The list of the accounts will be displayed. You can uncheck any accounts you do not wish to block (accounts that you currently follow will be automatically unchecked)
    7. Click Block to confirm
    8. The imported accounts will be added to your block list
  10. 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 at Twitter.com, and most requests are responded to within 24 hours. On the form, you will be asked for:

    1. The harasser’s Twitter username
    2. Harassing tweet URLs (up to five)
    3. 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. The Trust & Safety Team will be able to access deleted tweets, even though the public cannot. 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.

  11. 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.

    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)

  12. Does Twitter accept screenshots as evidence for harassment?

    Twitter does not accept screenshots as evidence of harassment without a corresponding URL. Screenshotted tweets are difficult to trace, and it is not always possible to affirm a screenshot’s validity because it may have been digitally altered. The 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 may choose to provide screenshots of tweets as proof of harassment.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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)

  16. How long will it take Twitter to respond to my abuse report?

    Twitter tries to respond to abuse reports within 24 hours. However, depending on how many other reports Twitter is dealing with at that time, it may take up to a few days to respond.

  17. 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). 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 if they fail to take down the abuse. 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 will 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.

    Try to remember that even if the harassment doesn’t meet Twitter’s criteria, your experience and feelings matter and you deserve support. HeartMobbers can submit third-party reports to Twitter if you think Twitter made the wrong call.

  18. In the abuse review process, does Twitter give priority to certain types of abuse, or does Twitter review reports in the order they received them?

    Twitter prioritizes harassment that is “of utmost urgency” or blatantly illegal. These cases include threats of suicide or self-harm (requiring swift action) and depictions of child sexual exploitation (which are removed and reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).

  19. Other than the abuse report form, is there another way to report harassment on Twitter?

    The abuse report form on the Help Center and in the Twitter app are currently the only ways to report harassment on Twitter.

  20. 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. (Southworth, 2016)

    Twitter offers several online resources to help combat harassment. Twitter is partnered with the following organizations, which you can follow on Twitter or otherwise refer to for assistance:

    AFA/Point de Contact (@AFAfrance)
    Amnesty International (@AmnestyOnline)
    Anti-Bullying Pro (@antibullyingpro)
    CEOP (@CEOPUK)
    Child Focus (@ChildFocusFR, @ChildFocusNL)
    Childnet (@childnet)
    Circle of Six (@circleof6app)
    Common Sense Media (@CommonSense)
    Connect Safely (@connectsafely)
    Community Matters (@WakingUpCourage)
    Crash Override (@CrashOverrideNW)
    Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (@EndRevengePorn, @CCRInitiative)
    Cyberbullying Research Center (@onlinebullying)
    The Cybersmile Foundation (@CybersmileHQ)
    ECPAT International (@ECPAT)
    E-Enfance (@eenfance)
    eNACSO (@eNasco)
    Fair Girls (@FAIR_Girls)
    Feminist Frequency (@femfreq)
    icanhelp (@icanhelp)
    ihollaback (@ihollaback)
    InHope (@INHOPE_PR)
    Insafe Network (@EInsafenetwork)
    International Justice Mission (@IJM)
    Internet Sans Crainte (@BetterInternetF)
    Love 146 (@love146)
    Missing People UK (@missingpeopleUK)
    National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (@MissingKids)
    National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (@NSPCC)
    NetSmartz Workshop (@netsmartz)
    PantallasAmigas (@PantallasAmigas)
    Red Barnet Ungdom (@RedBarnetUngdom)
    Safer Internet GR (@saferinternetGR)
    Safernet (@safernet)
    Save the Children (@SavetheChildren)
    StopBullying (@stopbullyinggov)
    La Strada International (@lastradainterna)
    Spunout (@SpunOut)
    Thorn (@thorn)
    UK’s Safer Internet Centre (@UK_SIC)
    Webwise (@webwise_ireland)

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

    International Network Against Cyber Hate
    The Anti-Defamation League (@ADL_National)
    Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (@_LICRA_)
    Muslim Advocates (@MuslimAdvocates)
    SOS Racisme (@SOS_Racisme)
    SOS Homophobie (@SOShomophobie)
    Against Violent Extremism (@ave_org)
    No Hate Speech Movement (@nohate_speech)

    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.

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

    Twitter has made strides in fighting online harassment on their platform. They updated their violent threats policy so that prohibited behavior is not limited to “direct, specific threats of violence against others,” but now extends to “threats of violence against others or promote[ing] violence against others” (Doshi, 2015). Before this policy change, harassers could incite others to be violent toward individuals and not be penalized, but now the promotion of violence against others is also banned. The updated policy better describes the range of prohibited behavior and shows Twitter’s intent to act when users cross the line into abuse.

    Twitter also 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. The new time-limited suspensions make the penalty more annoying, making it easier for users to delete abusive tweets and stop their behavior than to continue creating new accounts (Weinberger, 2015).

    Twitter is testing a product feature to help them identify suspected abusive tweets and limit their reach. This feature takes into account a wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse including the age of the account itself, and the similarity of a tweet to other content that their safety team has already independently determined to be abusive. It will not affect users’ ability to see content that they’ve explicitly sought out, such as tweets from accounts they follow. Instead, it is designed to help Twitter limit the potential harm of abusive content.

    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 took steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts. This effort focuses on some of the most prevalent and damaging forms of behavior, particularly accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others. Twitter has also started identifying and collapsing potentially abusive and low-quality replies so the most relevant conversations are brought forward. The collapsed tweet replies will still be accessible to those who seek them out.

    Currently Twitter is working to identify accounts as they engage in abusive behavior, even if this behavior hasn’t been reported, and taking action by limiting certain account functionality for a set amount of time (such as allowing only their followers to see their tweets). For example, this change could come into effect if an account is repeatedly tweeting without solicitation at non-followers or engaging in patterns of abusive behavior that violates the Twitter Rules. (Twitter 2016)

     

  22. 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.