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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Twitter to revise rules after suspension of Weinstein accuser triggers boycott

Social media platform will act on unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups and postings that glorify violence

Twitter is changing its rules after an outcry over the suspension of the account of an alleged victim of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, seen here at the 25th anniversary screening of 'Reservoir Dogs' in New York on April 28, 2017. Charles Sykes / Invision / AP
Twitter is changing its rules after an outcry over the suspension of the account of an alleged victim of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, seen here at the 25th anniversary screening of 'Reservoir Dogs' in New York on April 28, 2017. Charles Sykes / Invision / AP

Twitter will tighten rules on issues such as hate speech amid a boycott over the social-media platform’s handling of actress Rose McGowan’s postings on Harvey Weinstein and criticism of its approach to users who target women with sexual or violent content.

“We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them,” chief executive Jack Dorsey said in a tweet.

The platform will introduce new rules in the next few weeks on unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups and postings that glorify violence, Mr Dorsey said.

Celebrities including Chrissy Teigen and Mark Ruffalo were among those to join a boycott of the platform on Friday after Twitter briefly suspended McGowan’s account last week. McGowan had posted a series of messages related to allegations that Mr Weinstein sexually assaulted numerous women and says she was among the victims.

Twitter said her account had been temporarily locked because one of her tweets included a private phone number, which violates its terms of service. Its existing rules bar users from inciting the abuse of others, promoting violence and publishing other people’s private and confidential information.

Critics have contrasted Twitter’s swift action against McGowan with what they say has been a more sluggish approach to tackling users who troll others with sexual and violent messages. The platform has also been warned that in silencing any sexual assault victim, others may be discouraged from reporting their experiences.

Progress has been made in efforts to prevent “voices being silenced on Twitter”, which has been a top priority for the company this year, Mr Dorsey said. However, Friday's protest had shown that users believe the company was still not doing enough, he said.

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Regarding the launch of the new policy, Mr Dorsey said: “Day doesn’t matter. We spoke when we had something to say.”

He said the decision was announced late on Friday “because we spent the whole day working on it and wanted to announce as soon as we were ready”.

Mr Dorsey said Twitter was reconsidering its verification policies as well. “Not as high a priority as enforcement, but it’s up there,” he said.

Twitter’s approach to policing content has been under more intense scrutiny in recent months. Users have debated the company’s decision not to suspend US president Donald Trump after tweets that they argue violate the platform’s terms of service.

The platform is also being questioned over the role it played in Russia’s efforts to meddle in the US presidential election last year. The US house intelligence committee is asking officials from Twitter, Facebook, and Google to testify publicly as part of its Russia probe on November 1, the same day as a planned senate intelligence committee hearing on the topic. The senate panel’s top Democrat, Mark Warner, said this month that social media companies did not initially take the threat of Russian interference seriously enough.