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Twitter will show users its rules to discourage abuse

You may be less likely to break the rules if you know what they are.
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Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Twitter just promised to watch breaking events closely to curb trolling and fake news, but how does it stop users from getting trouble into first place? The answer might be simple: show people the rules before they do something wrong. It's launching a study that will try publicizing its rules to see if it "improves civility." Research shows that people are more likely to honor rules if they can clearly see them, Twitter argued, so it stands to reason that the same would be true for social networks.

The company wasn't clear about how the test will work, but that's intentional when publishing the details could theoretically skew the results. Twitter is keeping itself accountable by seeking approval from university ethics committees and submitting its strategy to the Open Science Framework. All results will be anonymized (there's no risk of being singled out), and they'll be published in an academic journal.

There's no guarantee this will work, of course. A determined abuser could just ignore the rules and hope that Twitter fails to catch them (which, let's be honest, happens often). A Russian bot operator certainly isn't about to have a change of heart. However, this might dissuade 'casual' abuse by people who may only be dimly aware that there could be consequences for hurling insults and threats. As it is, this is just one part of a broader solution that includes better enforcement and technology -- there's no one obvious fix.

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