Twitter’s New Abuse and Harassment Tools

Valerie Sprague post by: Valerie Sprague

twitterA visible, active presence on a massive social media platform like Twitter has its joys and perils. On one hand, brands have a golden opportunity to listen to and engage with customers “where they live,” but on the other, like celebrities and individuals who’ve found themselves in the middle of hot-button issues, brands can also be the target of repeated harassment, abuse, and threats of real-world harm.

(And some Twitter users seem to forget that brands are not monolithic corporate entities; real human beings are reading those terrible tweets.)

Major brands, like verified celebs, have the ability to view only mentions from other verified accounts, but that’s completely counterproductive if you’re on Twitter to interact with the people who keep your brand alive. In response to hostility many users experience, be they brands or celebrities or just us folks, the platform has introduced new tools to “make Twitter a safer place.”

The blocking function has been improved in a gradual rollout; brands will be able to log into Twitter and see the accounts they’ve blocked. Additionally, these blocked users will not be able to view your brand’s profile. They can still @ mention your account, but if they’re blocked, you won’t see it.

According to Twitter, more changes are on the way, including “additional user controls, further improvements to reporting, and new enforcement procedures for abusive accounts.” Be aware that access to these reporting tools is available through Twitter itself, not via third-party apps brands commonly use to post content and sift through mentions. You can also report problems here.

Dealing with Problem Users

In the meantime, here are some steps to take if your brand is experiencing issues with spammers and other problematic users on Twitter:

  • The user is spamming your brand over and over: “@abcdwidgets sucks”: Ignore and report for spam.
  • The user is @ mentioning your brand with no value attached, over and over, but without threats or harassing language and you prefer not to engage with them, you can also block them in the third-party platform tool you’re using to post. They won’t be aware that they’re blocked, and thus unable to claim “victory” with declarations that “@abcdwidgets blocked me!” This also has the benefit of allowing you to remove “noise” from your Twitter stream and concentrate on customers who need your attention. You can also block certain keywords and hashtags using various publishing tools, if those are cluttering up your mentions.
  • The user is threatening violence/physical harm (rape, bomb threats, etc.) Ensure the safety of your staff and facilities, report the user via Twitter, and report the issue to your local law enforcement. Twitter also recommends that you screencap and document abuse and threats; they may be deleted by the abusive account for your own records and real-world follow-up.

Note: Never engage with or publicly call out a spamming or abusive user by name on your Twitter account. Trolls crave the spotlight. Additionally, their followers, or your own, can see call-outs as petty “punching down” at the little guy. Brands are supposed to be able to take criticism, even if it’s worded in an inflammatory way.

However, be aware of the nuances of negative tweets. Are critics being rude or hyperbolic just out of boredom, for attention, to amuse their own followers by poking at your brand using snarky humor, or are they actually harassing or threatening your company and the people behind it? Often, you’ll have to take a gander at the user’s profile and other tweets to uncover their real intent.

It’s important to keep in mind that the volume of comments on the platform as a whole is so heavy, at 500 million tweets a day, that Twitter is not able to proactively prevent abuse; you do have to report it.

Arrow star Stephen Amell recently suffered a barrage of hurtful tweets and was advised to report the offender by fellow celeb William Shatner.

Final Thoughts

Though your brand may encounter crudely worded negative feedback, try not to take it personally; anonymity and a keyboard sometimes lead to incivility. If you do find yourself being negatively emotionally affected by comments directed towards you or your brand, talk to someone offline about what you’re feeling; cruel words on a computer screen are still cruel words, and bearing the brunt of hateful comments — even if they’re not technically abusive threats — on a repeated basis, can be difficult.

If your brand experiences a heavy volume of social mentions on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, consider professional moderation. LiveWorld can assist by sifting through replies, dealing with customer service issues based on your instructions, and escalating significant feedback to your corporate team. We also offer analytics and strategy solutions to maximize the value of your social media presence. Contact us.

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