Twitter, the social media website best known for ignoring its abuse problem until it metastasised into a full-blown presidency, has as of late been trying to change its image. It’s stripped some far-right and white supremacist users of their verified badges and banned others, as well as rolled out what it says is harsher enforcement of rules against abuse, sexual and racial harassment, and threats of violence.
Today the company’s moderation department tweeted out that it will now be responding to reports of users telling others to engage in acts of self-harm – something that should have always been against the rules, but was historically so rarely acted against by Twitter’s team that the phrase “kill yourself” became one of the site’s longest-running motifs. (Seriously, everyone from Pittsburgh Steelers players to school psychologists and Drag Race winner Tyra Sanchez have gotten in trouble for this.)
While we continue to provide resources to people who are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, it is against our rules to encourage others to harm themselves. Starting today, you can report a profile, Tweet, or Direct Message for this type of content.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) February 13, 2018
“While we continue to provide resources to people who are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, it is against our rules to encourage others to harm themselves,” Twitter Safety tweeted. “Starting today, you can report a profile, Tweet, or Direct Message for this type of content.”
This is obviously an improvement – it’s not a funny joke and the link between cyberbullying, social media and self-harm is taken very seriously by mental health professionals – though it’s worth considering whether a more proactive approach could have prevented this from becoming such a glaring issue on Twitter in the first place. As the Establishment noted in 2016, online cyberbullying is disproportionately directed at women, minorities and LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ youth, and Twitter has a very bad track record on making the site less hostile towards those communities. Twitter has repeatedly promised to crack down on abuse in the past but failed to do so, and its moderation team continually seems susceptible to getting rolled by bad-faith trolls.
If depression is affecting you or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.