Growing up, we were all taught by our parents, our teachers, our elders, countless fairy tales and after school specials,
it’s not nice to call people names.
(special shout out to Tommy S. – I’m sorry for calling you a “stupidface” in Mrs. Lazarus’ first grade class!)
Well it took 10 years, but it seems Twitter finally agrees.
In 2012 Twitter called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” but after endless problems with online bullying and harassment, the company has put new rules in place to monitor and regulate offending (and offensive) users.
Not everyone is feeling warm and fuzzy about the change. Some folks are saying that it’s a slippery slope to censorship (read: How Twitter’s New Censorship Tools Are The Pandora’s Box Moving Us Towards The End Of Free Speech) but whether you agree or disagree, for the time being you’re going to need to learn to play by the (new) rules. So here they are.
First off, let’s take a look at what has changed.
According to a recent blog post, the new Twitter policies focus on a trifecta:
- preventing abusive users from creating new accounts
- returning safer search results
- hiding abusive tweets.
Preventing abusive users from creating new accounts.
Twitter trolls beware – Twitter is now taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended (particularly for harassment and abuse) and stop them from creating new accounts.
Returning safer search results.
Much like a Google search of “what does this hand gesture mean”, Twitter searches can often be a spin of the roulette wheel, with potentially wildly inappropriate (or offensive) results. But now, thanks to ‘safe search,’ sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts will no longer show up in search results. To learn more, visit the Twitter help center.
Hiding abusive or low-quality tweets.
This is the biggie, and the one change that will potentially affect every user, regardless of the content of your tweets.
When Twitter determines that an account is being abusive – using criteria that, as of yet, remains unclear – it will temporarily decrease the reach of the tweets, by limiting visibility only to an account’s followers. Even if the account @-mentions someone, unless that person is following the account, they won’t see it in their notifications.
Let’s break it down with a real world example.
A few weeks ago, developer Victoria Fierce tweeted her displeasure at the current administration with this: “F*ck you, I gotta piss, and you’re putting me — an American — in danger of assault by your white supremacist brothers.”
Almost immediately, she received notification that Twitter had detected “potentially abusive activity” on her account, and given her a temporary timeout. For the next 12 hours, the only people who would see her tweets were her followers. And important to note, as Fierce told The Verge, it’s “certainly not the first time I’ve told an elected official to fuck off.” Why is that important? Because Twitter says its new rules look for patterns of abuse, not just a single instance.
Maybe you’re not planning to flip the bird to the Veep, but since one of the key elements of Twitter (and all social media) is the reach and the ability to share your content with an audience far and wide, what do you need to consider for your own account (personal or business) to make sure you don’t get a time out?
Stay nice. Stay relevant.
Our two biggest tips are these:
We’re not saying you need to tweet sunshine and unicorns 24/7, but even when you feel the need to tweet something less than positive, keep it smart, intelligent, and above the belt. Remember the motto now made famous by the former FLOTUS, Michelle O: When they go low, we go high.
Make it your personal credo.
Threats, harassment, hateful prose, sharing others’ private information, and so on are all officially off-limits (as if you need to be told). Automated or repeated tweets are still fair game (and the world’s social media marketing managers release a collective sigh of relief).
As for tip #2? Relevance is your trump card, Every. Single. Time.
Tweet interesting and relevant content and you’ll be rewarded with more followers and greater engagement, helping catapult your business or brand to success.
Like Mrs. Lazarus told me in that classroom under the harsh fluorescent lights, with the smell of white glue filling the air, “you don’t get ahead by calling other people names.” Nice is the name of the game.
What do you think of Twitter’s new rules?
Do you think they will help prevent abuse and harassment on Twitter?
Do you worry that they might affect your own account?
Is there another approach you think could work better?
Do you share our worry that this will lead to the end of Celebrities Read Mean Tweets? 🙁
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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