Leaked email: Twitter introduces yet more rules in latest attempt to tackle abuse

Twitter has made endless promises about clamping down on abuse, constantly tweaking existing rules and introducing new ones in an attempt to protect users. Following last week's #WomenBoycottTwitter protest, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey promised to start taking a more aggressive approach.

A leaked internal email gives details of just what this new stance will involve. The definition of "nonconsensual nudity" is to be expanded to include upskirt photos and so-called "creep shots," and symbols of hate -- a term that Twitter does not actually define -- will be hidden behind a "sensitive image" warning.

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In addition to this, Twitter is going to make it easier to report instances of unwanted sexual advances, so anyone who witnesses such activity -- regardless of whether they are the victim -- will be able to make a complaint. The email, seen by Wired, also says that Twitter intends to "take action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause."

Twitter's rules on non-consensual nudity are to become far stricter. Rather than temporarily banning users who post such images, anyone who is the original poster of such content, and anyone who shares it with the aim of harassing someone, will be slapped with an immediate permanent ban. It's not clear how Twitter will deal with appeals, or how it will prevent offenders from simply creating new accounts.

Twitter has issued a statement in response to the leaked email:

Although we planned on sharing these updates later this week, we hope our approach and upcoming changes, as well as our collaboration with the Trust and Safety Council, show how seriously we are rethinking our rules and how quickly we’re moving to update our policies and how we enforce them.

The full text of the email from Twitter's Head of Safety Policy to Trust and Safety Council members is as follows:

Dear Trust & Safety Council members,

I’d like to follow up on Jack’s Friday night Tweetstorm about upcoming policy and enforcement changes. Some of these have already been discussed with you via previous conversations about the Twitter Rules update. Others are the result of internal conversations that we had throughout last week.

Here’s some more information about the policies Jack mentioned as well as a few other updates that we’ll be rolling out in the weeks ahead.

Non-consensual nudity

  • Current approach *We treat people who are the original, malicious posters of non-consensual nudity the same as we do people who may unknowingly Tweet the content. In both instances, people are required to delete the Tweet(s) in question and are temporarily locked out of their accounts. They are permanently suspended if they post non-consensual nudity again.
  • Updated approach *We will immediately and permanently suspend any account we identify as the original poster/source of non-consensual nudity and/or if a user makes it clear they are intentionally posting said content to harass their target. We will do a full account review whenever we receive a Tweet-level report about non-consensual nudity. If the account appears to be dedicated to posting non-consensual nudity then we will suspend the entire account immediately.

*Our definition of “non-consensual nudity” is expanding to more broadly include content like upskirt imagery, "creep shots," and hidden camera content. Given that people appearing in this content often do not know the material exists, we will not require a report from a target in order to remove it.

*While we recognize there’s an entire genre of pornography dedicated to this type of content, it’s nearly impossible for us to distinguish when this content may/may not have been produced and distributed consensually. We would rather error on the side of protecting victims and removing this type of content when we become aware of it.

Unwanted sexual advances

  • Current approach *Pornographic content is generally permitted on Twitter, and it’s challenging to know whether or not sexually charged conversations and/or the exchange of sexual media may be wanted. To help infer whether or not a conversation is consensual, we currently rely on and take enforcement action only if/when we receive a report from a participant in the conversation.
  • Updated approach *We are going to update the Twitter Rules to make it clear that this type of behavior is unacceptable. We will continue taking enforcement action when we receive a report from someone directly involved in the conversation. Once our improvements to bystander reporting go live, we will also leverage past interaction signals (eg things like block, mute, etc) to help determine whether something may be unwanted and action the content accordingly.

Hate symbols and imagery (new)*We are still defining the exact scope of what will be covered by this policy. At a high level, hateful imagery, hate symbols, etc will now be considered sensitive media (similar to how we handle and enforce adult content and graphic violence). More details to come.

Violent groups (new)*We are still defining the exact scope of what will be covered by this policy. At a high level, we will take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause. More details to come here as well (including insight into the factors we will consider to identify such groups).

Tweets that glorify violence (new)*We already take enforcement action against direct violent threats ("I'm going to kill you"), vague violent threats ("Someone should kill you") and wishes/hopes of serious physical harm, death, or disease ("I hope someone kills you"). Moving forward, we will also take action against content that glorifies ("Praise be to for shooting up. He’s a hero!") and/or condones ("Murdering makes sense. That way they won't be a drain on social services"). More details to come.

We realize that a more aggressive policy and enforcement approach will result in the removal of more content from our service. We are comfortable making this decision, assuming that we will only be removing abusive content that violates our Rules. To help ensure this is the case, our product and operational teams will be investing heavily in improving our appeals process and turnaround times for their reviews.

In addition to launching new policies, updating enforcement processes and improving our appeals process, we have to do a better job explaining our policies and setting expectations for acceptable behavior on our service. In the coming weeks, we will be:

  • updating the Twitter Rules as we previously discussed (+ adding in these new policies)
  • updating the Twitter media policy to explain what we consider to be adult content, graphic violence, and hate symbols.
  • launching a standalone Help Center page to explain the factors we consider when making enforcement decisions and describe our range of enforcement options launching new policy-specific Help Center pages to describe each policy in greater detail, provide examples of what crosses the line, and set expectations for enforcement consequences
  • Updating outbound language to people who violate our policies (what we say when accounts are locked, suspended, appealed, etc).

We have a lot of work ahead of us and will definitely be turning to you all for guidance in the weeks ahead. We will do our best to keep you looped in on our progress.

All the best,

Head of Safety Policy

Image credit: Ink Drop / Shutterstock

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