Twitter Implements 'Report Abuse' Button
Twitter has always been a fairly hostile place, especially for women with opinions, but it's about to get a little more manageable. After a particularly nasty stream of misogynistic bile, the microblogging platform has agreed to add a "Report Abuse" button.
Although Twitter is implementing the new system right now, the issue stretches back 238 years. In 1775, famed British novelist Jane Austen was born in Steventon, England. Austen's bold attitude and incisive novels have inspired countless generations of Britons, and one British novelist believed it was time to honor Austen by placing her picture on the £10 note.
Caroline Criado-Perez, a self-described "feminist campaigner," organized the Austen initiative months ago, and finally found success. On July 25, the Bank of England announced that Jane Austen would replace another one of England's greatest cultural heroes, Charles Darwin, on the tenner.
Darwin fans were understandably a little upset, but they were positively princely compared to the slavering horde of misogynists who took to Twitter to bemoan the fact that a woman was responsible for another woman replacing a man on a ubiquitous piece of currency.
In addition to the usual chorus of "get back in the kitchen," Criado-Perez's Twitter account nearly drowned under a deluge of rape and death threats. While these are technically a violation of Twitter's terms of service, Twitter usually encourages users to block disagreeable commenters instead.
That was hardly possible for Criado-Perez, who received approximately 50 trolling messages per hour for a solid two-day period. Even now, a week later, she can hardly tweet anything without some bastion of masculinity calling her an opportunist or threatening to harm her. [See also: 10 Tips for Staying Safe on Twitter]
Kim Graham, a British student and fan of Criado-Perez, started a petition for Twitter to add a "Report Abuse" button so that administrators could respond to threats more efficiently. Within five days, the petition surpassed 100,000 signatures, and Twitter agreed to Graham's proposal.
At present, Twitter already has a button to efficiently report abusive users on its iOS apps, but over the next few weeks, Twitter will add this functionality to its Android and Web platforms as well. If enough people report a threatening user (and Twitter verifies that the user actually poses a threat — a rape threat is a clear violation of its terms of service, obnoxious trolling is not), Twitter will eventually disable the account and delete all of its content.
Trolls are a persistent lot, and even with this new functionality, they will find a way to continue threatening women. They will create alternate accounts, mask their IP addresses and seek out platforms other than Twitter. However, the "Report Abuse" button will bring a small measure of accountability, and could help make Twitter a more hospitable place.