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An official Twitter account on a smartphone. Photograph by Damien Meyer—AFP/Getty Images

Twitter Is Bringing In Reinforcements to Help Fix its Harassment Problem

Feb 09, 2016

On Safer Internet Day, Twitter wants you to know that it's taking online harassment seriously.

The social networking platform announced in a blog post on Tuesday that it is launching the Twitter Trust & Safety Council, a partnership of more than 40 organizations and experts from 13 regions.

"With hundreds of millions of Tweets sent per day, the volume of content on Twitter is massive, which makes it extraordinarily complex to strike the right balance between fighting abuse and speaking truth to power. It requires a multi-layered approach where each of our 320 million users has a part to play," reads the post.

The council includes safety advocates, academics, grassroots advocacy organizations, and community groups that focus on things like preventing bullying and promoting mental health. The intention is for Twitter "tap into the expertise and input of organizations at the intersection of these issues more efficiently and quickly" as it develops products, policies, and programs, according to the post.

This new initiative comes a few months after Twitter (twtr) revised its safety policy. The updated guidelines specify that users "may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism" and "may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others." Punishment for violating these rules ranges from requiring that a certain tweet be deleted to permanently locking the user's account.

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 40% of adults have experienced some form of online harassment, while 73% have seen it happen to others on the web.

Young women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely to experience severe forms of harassment: 26% of young women have been stalked online, while 25% were the target of online sexual harassment, according to Pew. They are also just as likely as men and women of other age groups to experience less severe forms of harassment like name-calling and embarrassment.

The problem is especially pronounced on Twitter, where 27% of women report experiencing hate speech and 12% report threats of violence, according to a 2014 report by Women, Action and the Media, a non-profit dedicated to gender equality in media.

Safer Internet Day is a yearly initiative that started thirteen years ago under the European Commission’s Safer Internet Program. It is now celebrated in over 100 countries.

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