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Twitter Feels the Heat in UK Over Response to Abusive Posts

Groups call on social network to be more aggressive in policing users

August 23, 2017 | Social Media

UK gender equality group The Fawcett Society and Reclaim the Internet, a cross-party campaign founded by a left-wing minister of parliament, are calling on Twitter to do more to remove threats as well as racist and misogynist content posted to the social network.

In a letter to Twitter, the two groups requested more information about the platform’s content review process, as well as details on company procedures to remove materials that violated its community standards. The groups also asked why numerous tweets with abusive language, threatening content or hate speech had not been removed after being posted on Twitter for about a week.

“Twitter claims to stop hate speech but they just don’t do it in practice,” said Yvette Cooper, a Labour parliamentarian and founder of Reclaim the Internet, in a statement. “Abusive content needs to be removed far more quickly, and the company should be doing more to respond immediately to complaints and to proactively identify content that contravenes their community standards.”

In a response to the letter made to HuffPost UK, a Twitter spokesperson said: “Abuse and harassment have no place on Twitter. We’ve introduced a range of new tools and features to improve our platform for everyone, and we’re now taking action on 10 times the number of abusive accounts every day then the same time in 2016.”

To be sure, in recent months Twitter has increased efforts to address abusive activity by its users. Between January and March, the social network announced several initiatives via blog post to improve user safety and reduce abusive content, while upholding a philosophy to support “the freedom to share any viewpoint.”

In June, Twitter held its first Trust & Safety Council Summit comprising safety advocates, academics, researchers, grassroots advocacy organizations and nonprofits to help create a safer climate on Twitter.

Those moves follow highly publicized companies pulling ads from some online platforms over brand safety concerns in the UK and elsewhere.

Despite the possibility that its users will encounter negative content, Twitter’s user base in the UK continues to grow, although slowly. eMarketer predicts there will be 12.6 million Twitter users in the UK this year, with their ranks climbing to 13.2 million by 2021.

comScore MMX Multi-Platform found significantly higher user figures for the platform in March 2017, reporting that Twitter was the country’s second largest social network behind Facebook with nearly 22 million users, according to data cited by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) – UK.

UK Social Network Users, by Platform, March 2016 & March 2017 (millions)

Twitter’s users in parts of the UK will also need to be more mindful of their activities on the social network for another reason. This week, the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales said that it would begin prosecuting online hate crimes the same way it did offline offenses, in response to the growth of hate speech on social media.

Cliff Annicelli

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