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Twitter teams with women's group on anti-harassment tool

Women, Action & the Media -- one of the groups behind the #FBrape campaign that prompted a policy change from Facebook -- is working with Twitter to improve the social-media service's response to online harassment.

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An image from the WAM website. The group, now working with Twitter, helped prompt Facebook to change its approach to online harassment.Photo by WAM

One of the groups behind the #FBrape campaign, which compelled Facebook to change its policy on the posting of "cruel and insensitive content" on the world's top social network, has partnered with Twitter to study how the microblogging service can better police sexual harassment on its site.

Women, Action & the Media (WAM) said this week that it's created an online form that lets "users report gendered harassment details that have never before been tracked and analyzed."

"WAM will escalate validated reports to Twitter and track Twitter's response to different kinds of gendered harassment," the group said in a release. "At the end of the pilot test period, WAM will analyze the data collected and use it to work with Twitter to better understand how gendered harassment functions on their platform, and to improve their responses to it."

The announcement arrives as online harassment has become a renewed topic of discussion in recent months. The "Gamergate" debate in the video game industry has seen some feminist critics of sexist imagery in games receive online death and rape threats. On Friday, the head of Blizzard Entertainment -- makers of the popular game World of Warcraft and one of the most influential video game developers in the industry -- made a public statement decrying such threats, saying the gaming community needed to "redouble [its] efforts to be respectful."

Twitter has also been working on policies after its members have complained about harassment. In July 2013, it simplified the reporting process for abusive tweets after an outcry over rape threats -- a female journalist in the United Kingdom had received them after starting a campaign to feature author Jane Austen on the British pound. The following month, in response to posted rape and bomb threats, Twitter updated its rules for users and added more staff to vet flagged tweets.

WAM, along with the Everyday Sexism Project and author-activist Soraya Chemaly, last year launched the #FBrape campaign against violent sexist images on Facebook. That campaign persuaded 15 brands to pull their advertising from the social network. In response, Facebook said users who share "cruel and insensitive content" would have to post it using their real names. Facebook also promised to update its policies and improve training for those it employs to moderate content that's been called out by users.

"We're always trying to improve the way we handle abuse issues, and WAM is one of many organizations we work with around the world on best practices for user safety," Twitter said. The service has a webpage that lists various groups it works with to combat online abuse, offensive content and other issues.

In other Twitter news, former COO Ali Rowghani has become a part-time partner at startup-incubator Y Combinator, where, according to a blog post by the incubator, he'll help "alumni that are a few years out of YC scale their companies." Rowghani stepped down as Twitter's COO in 2012 amid criticism that the company wasn't growing sales fast enough.

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