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Twitter Says It Will Ban Threatening Accounts, Starting Today

Twitter's official account on a smartphone. The platform has announced it will enforce a new set of rules aiming to curb abuse and harassment.
Damien Meyer
AFP/Getty Images
Twitter's official account on a smartphone. The platform has announced it will enforce a new set of rules aiming to curb abuse and harassment.

In an effort to curb a reputation of faulty policy enforcement — and to "make Twitter a safer place" — Twitter says it will enforce a fresh set of guidelines to reduce abusive and violent content, beginning today.

The new rules target hate symbols, abuse and unwanted sexual advancements. One clause effectively prohibits accounts from associating with hate groups:

You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people. This includes, but is not limited to, threatening or promoting terrorism. You also may not affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.

Twitter says any accounts that fail to abide by this rule will be permanently suspended.

So far, Twitter appears to be actively enforcing this clause. The official account of Britain First, a far-right, ultra-nationalist British political organization, has been suspended, as well as the accounts of Britain First leaders Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding. The group's explicitly anti-Muslim videos caused a diplomatic storm when they were re-tweeted by President Trump last month.

Twitter has long been criticized as an avenue for abusive language and behavior online. As the platform rolled out new features such as longer tweets and the ability to "thread" posts, some users were exasperated that the company wasn't also making moves to combat abuse and harassment by its users.

In October, Twitter temporarily banned actress and activist Rose McGowan after she posted a private phone number, which was a violation of the platform's terms of service.

McGowan had also been using the platform to call out sexual harassment in Hollywood, posting a series of tweets about Harvey Weinstein. Thousands of female Twitter users, including Chrissy Teigen and Elizabeth Banks, were quick to condemn Twitter's decision to suspect McGowan and boycotted the platform in a coordinated protest.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to the boycott directly on Oct. 13.

"Today we saw voices silencing themselves and voices speaking out because we're *still* not doing enough," he tweeted. "We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them ... These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. "

As for those changes, Twitter pointed to past controversies in a statement today addressing the new rules.

"In our efforts to be more aggressive here, we may make some mistakes and are working on a robust appeals process. We'll evaluate and iterate on these changes in the coming days and weeks, and will keep you posted on progress along the way."

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