This week Robin Williams' daughter pulled back from social media following unbelievable harassment from the masses. For their part, today Twitter announced that it will finally be working toward changing the bullying and negative behavior that takes place in their domain. The positive thing is that they’ve publicly announced they’ll do something, but we’re just not exactly sure what that is yet.
The Verge reported two accounts in particular were responsible for much of the abuse directed at Zelda Williams. They sent her messages blaming her for her father’s death as well as edited pictures of her father that included bruising on his neck. Williams petitioned her followers to ask Twitter to have these two users removed.
And Twitter has, thankfully. Now they’ve also stated that they’re updating their policies. Twitter’s Vice president, Del Harvey, stated that abuse such as that demonstrated by these two users will not be tolerated. He stated that “a number of accounts” have been suspended for violating rules and that Twitter will now look into how they can improve policies to “better handle tragic situations like this one.” According to the statement, specifically they’ll be looking to expand support for family members of the deceased as well as redoing policies regarding self-harm.
Twitter has long had a problem with abuse and what they actually do, or can do, in terms of monitoring it. Think of how many Twitter accounts just one person can create in a day. Now think of how much damage just one abuser could do with hundreds and thousands of Twitter accounts if they’re dedicated to inflicting harm. Suspending one or two Twitter accounts is nice and it is absolutely is a move Twitter should have made, but it’s not an overall solution. It’s putting a band-aid on cancer.
Twitter has built a platform for everyone. Sadly, at this point it’s a platform for everyone and their ten email addresses and Twitter can’t possibly monitor it all. But it still has the responsibility of protecting those it invites into its realm. Serious changes are needed, and though it is sad that such a tragic and high-profile case is what brought Twitter out into the light to address it, we’re cautiously optimistic that Twitter will do right by its users to really reign in the abuse in an effective way.