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Twitter overhauls rules on how it handles abusive behavior

The revamping of the rules doesn't alter fundamental policies but seeks to add greater context.


Twitter's new rules aim to shed more light on how it deals with abusive behavior, spam, and graphic violence and adult content.

James Martin/CNET

Twitter is revamping the rules for how it expects its users to behave following criticism of how the platform enforces its policies.

The new rules, which Twitter released Friday, don't alter the fundamentals of its previous rules but rather seek to clarify its policies and enforcement. The updates incorporate feedback from the company's global Trust and Safety Council to include more details and examples to provide greater context.

"We have worked on this clarified version of our rules for the past few months to ensure it takes into account the latest trends in online behavior, considers different cultural and social contexts, and properly sets expectations around what's allowed on Twitter," the company said in a statement.

The update comes roughly two weeks after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that the social network would be rolling out changes to how it monitors content and protects its 328 million users from online bullying and harassment. Abuse is nothing new to Twitter users, but the platform has been under increased pressure since October's  #WomenBoycottTwitter protest, which urged people to forgo tweeting for a day to prod Twitter into improving how it vets content.

Friday's revisions address areas including self-harm, graphic violence, adult content and spam. But the greatest attention will be on abusive behavior. The company explains that when evaluating alleged abuse, it will consider whether the "behavior is targeted, if a report has been filed and by whom, and if the tweet itself is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest."

The company has come under criticism for how it handles abusive behavior on the site, particularly in relation to how it deals with tweets from President Donald Trump. Many have wondered why some of his tweets aren't being deleted by the social media platform, despite their apparent violation of Twitter's rules.

One particular tweet in October was interpreted by many as a threat of violence against North Korea's leadership. Twitter acknowledged that Trump's tweet had caused an uproar but said it was allowed to stay because of its "newsworthiness."

Twitter's media policy Help Center page has been updated with examples of content the company considers to be "graphic violence" or "adult content." Twitter said the policy will be updated again on Nov. 22 to incorporate examples of prohibited hateful imagery

Twitter said it will discuss its enforcement options in a separate update on Nov. 14.

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