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Twitter is setting up a safety council to tackle abuse

People on Twitter are mean.
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Image Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty

If there's one thing that's hampering Twitter's adoption in the wider world, it's that it's become a pretty toxic place for some people. The firm has decided to tackle this problem by announcing the formation of the Twitter Trust and Safety Council, a group tasked with reforming the service. The council's stated intention is to ensure the social network is a platform where "anyone, anywhere can express themselves safely and confidently." The site's head of global policy, Patricia Cartes, revealed that the body has recruited advocates from a wide network of advocacy groups. There are more than 40 listed contributors, many of which are legitimate anti-abuse organizations like GLAAD, the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Samaritans.

Twitter has also sought out representatives from child protection agencies, anti-racism / anti-semitism groups and one of the service's biggest targets: Feminist Frequency. Frequency, led by critic Anita Sarkeesian, is more experienced than most at seeing what Twitter's ugly side looks like. Her series, Tropes vs. Women -- an examination on how women are treated in video games -- led to a series of threats ranging from assassination through to acts of domestic terrorism.

The site's abuse problem has been growing for a while, with the site seemingly incapable of taking positive steps to mitigate it. Recently, Canadian journalist Veerender Jubbal was advised by law enforcement to stay off Twitter after an anonymous figure turned up at his former home with a gun. Jubbal, another games journalist, has been previously targeted by gamergaters who objected to his call for greater ethical standards in the industry. Those with long memories will recall that a picture of him was photoshopped to make him appear to be a terrorist, accused of perpetrating the Paris attacks.

Twitter has often been accused of not doing enough to deal with online abuse, with former CEO Dick Costolo admitting that "we suck at dealing with trolls." It's a state of affairs that may have only now reached the site's rank-and-file staff after developer Brandon Carpenter felt the full full force of the site's ire. He tweeted a message in response to the #RIPTwitter meme and was met with a hurricane of piss and vinegar and led him to the following conclusion:

Yup, they are.

The formation of the safety board does seem like a strong, positive step to remedying one of Twitter's least-desirable facets. But, an advisory panel can only suggest so many things and there's no guarantee that their advice will be heard. Much like Uber's safety panel -- formed to tackle the company's dwindling reputation -- it remains to be seen if any action will actually come out of the move.
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