Twitter tackles cyberbullies, and it’s about time

Avery Hulong

Twitter recently upped their game against online bullies by making it easier for users to block and report abusive behavior on the popular social networking site.

It’s about time.

Bullying is an age-old problem, but its form has evolved since our playground days. It is no longer as simple as sneaking away from the jerk after the last bell has rung. Today, bullies are able to continue their threatening presence after school and work hours directly on the Internet.

Cyberbullying has been an increasing problem especially now that much of our social communication is dependent on popular networking sites like Twitter or Facebook. While many of us use the sites to send funny cat videos to our friends, it is just as easy for some users to utilize the website as a tool for hatred. Online bullies are able to send their threats at lighting speed, and their reach has increased as technology evolved with smart phones, computers and tablets.

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey regarding online harassment and found that young adults between the ages of 18 to 29 are more likely than any other demographic group to encounter online harassment. 65% of young internet users have been the target of at least one of the six elements of harassment: name-calling, efforts to embarrass someone, physical threats, long-term harassment, sexual harassment, and stalking.

In the past, Twitter’s process for reporting abuse was a tedious multi-page form, discouraging users from even mentioning the harassment. Now the reporting process has been made much simpler, and victims of cyberbullying or other users can identify who is being targeted and how they are being victimized: offensive remarks, threats of physical violence and encouraging suicide or self-harm.

Twitter has also changed up their user-blocking system. If a user chooses to block someone, they are truly hidden from that user. Before, Twitter users were able to block other people from interactions, but the “blockee” could still view the profile and tweets of the blocker.

Sarah Perez, a writer for TechCrunch, writes that the new blocking change “doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll have no way to view the abuse victim’s content, as other users could still quote or retweet it, or the abusers could simply log out. However, it makes things a bit more difficult for a harasser to respond in real-time to what someone is saying and continue to fuel the fire of hate on Twitter.”

These may seem like minute steps against online harassment, but they are steps in the right direction. Twitter deserves a little credit for recognizing that cyberbullying is a legitimate problem and something is needed to be done to tackle it.

Shreya Doshi is Twitter’s Director of Product Management and oversees user safety. In last Tuesday’s Twitter blog post she writes, “We are nowhere near being done making changes in this area. In the coming months, you can expect to see additional user controls, further improvements to reporting and new enforcement procedures for abusive accounts.”

Way to go, Twitter. Keep fighting the good fight.