28/07/2013 11:15 | By Matt Farrington Smith, editor, MSN Tech

How Twitter could add tools to report abuse

Twitter UK General Manager says the site is testing ways to "simplify" reporting abuse

Twitter icon

A petition calling on Twitter to add a "report abuse" button has so-far received 12,000 signatories.

The spark that started the Twitter storm concerns a campaign to get Jane Austen on a new £10 note. The effort was championed by journalist and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who has since been subjected to vile taunts by Twitter trolls and at the height of abuse received 50 rape threats in the space of an hour.

Sadly such abuse is rife across social networks, but in this instance supporters of Criado-Perez drew Twitter into the crossfire, placing pressure on the service to introduce measures to protect against such activity. Speaking to The Independent, Criado-Perez is quoted as saying: "Trolls don't run the internet... neither do abusive men."

The petition also recommends users to boycott Twitter for a 24 hour period on 4 August.

Twitter could introduce a report button

General Manager of Twitter UK, Tony Wang clarified Twitter's position on users who abuse the platform in a series of Tweets.

Tony Wang's Tweets

How could Twitter introduce these new measures?

Wang has addressed this latest spate of online abuse but more needs to be done. Let's take a look at another social network to see how it's been set up to handle abuse.

Facebook has changed its reporting process a number of times, but in its current incarnation it asks the user to specify where they've seen the abusive post. The site offers comprehensive safety advice and information, it provides useful visual clues like the one shown below.

Reporting abuse on Facebook

Facebook also allows you to report something offensive in a friend's status and report a conversation if the message is threatening, harassing or from someone whose account was hacked.

Reporting abuse on Facebook

In contrast, a quick visit to Twitter's help pages (at the time of publication) offers a rather limited support solution.

Twitter has numerous policies that outline its stance on privacy, child sexual exploitation, copyright, impersonation, harassment and threats of violence - but in all cases it asks the user to send details of the offending Tweet(s) in an email. The long-winded process calls for the Twitter username of the person sending the report, a detailed description of the issue and direct links to any Tweets under the spotlight.

Twitter requires an abuse solution that works across platforms - gone are the days where we solely sit at a computer to send our Tweets, mobile apps mean we can share our thoughts from just about anywhere with a phone signal. If Twitter is serious about its stance on abuse it will need to ensure 'all' users are able to use these tools. Although it's heartening to hear Wang talk about support for mobile devices, there is clearly a lot more that needs to be done to ensure Twitter doesn't find itself back down this road.

How should Twitter curb the advances of the internet trolls? Let us know in the comments below.

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