Four of the world’s biggest social media platforms — Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok — pledged on Thursday at the UN Generation Equality Forum in Paris to bring in improvements to their services that would make women safer online.
The promises come after over a year of consultations run by Tim Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation, in which over 120 women experts from 35 countries came together to discuss their experiences online and workshop solutions. Centering the experiences of these women was crucial to developing the commitments the companies have signed up to, said the Web Foundation’s senior policy manager for gender and data rights, Azmina Dhrodia, in an interview.
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In an open letter, also published Thursday, a long list of prominent women including Emma Watson, Gillian Anderson, Maisie Williams, Ashley Judd, Annie Lennox, Thandiwe Newton and FKA Twigs asked the heads of the companies, including Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to “prioritise the safety of women.”
The signatories pointed to statistics that show 38% of women globally have experienced online abuse — a figure that rises to 45% when it comes to Gen Z and Millennials. “The commitments you make today should be seen as a promise to women and girls around the world that you will decisively deal with the abuse that they are subject to on your platforms,” the letter said.
The commitments focus on improvements in two different areas: reporting and curation. In terms of curation, companies have promised to offer more granular settings that will give women more control over who can interact with their posts. They’ve also said they will use easier and more accessible language throughout the user experience and provide straightforward access to safety tools.
One of the standout commitments is a promise to lessen the burden on women by proactively reducing the amount of abuse they see. Some platforms, including Twitter, already have tools that allow users to filter replies by quality and therefore mean that women aren’t directly hit with abusive comments, but each platform will have to approach this challenge differently based on how it functions.
When it comes to reporting, platforms said they will offer more features that allow women to track and manage their reports, allowing them to track the journey of posts they’ve reported to give them greater insight into how they’re being handled. They’ll also enable greater capacity to provide context and address language, as well as equipping women with product and policy guidance when reporting abuse. Help and support will be made easier access during the reporting process.
The Web Foundation will be tracking the companies against their pledges and reporting annually on their progress, and it’s also expecting the companies to proactively publish regular data and insights on how they’re implementing the commitments.
But the pressure to act is coming from all angles, including the celebrities, politicians and activists who signed the letter, and the women and civil society groups involved in the consultation. “It’s not just the Web Foundation that will be holding these companies to account,” said Dhrodia. “We have women and girls around the world who are demanding action on this issue.”
She added that there has already been movement from some of the companies on implementing changes. “One of the companies has said that they’re already going be testing some of the prototypes that we co-created together later this year,” she said. “That just shows that these companies can move fast when they prioritize a problem.”
The reach and resources of the four companies making the commitments could have a massive ripple effect on the experiences of women online, said Dhrodia — something, she added, that’s a vital part of ensuring that women have meaningful and equal access to the internet around the world.
When abuse gets left unchecked, the consequences can be “devastating,” she said. “It leads to women silencing or censoring their voices on these platforms, it can lead to psychological harm after experiencing a tirade of abuse and and violent threats and it also has economic consequences for women who are reliant on these platforms for their livelihoods.”
Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures
Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.
Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.
It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.
“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.
Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.
Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.
“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.
But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”
By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”
“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.
Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream
At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”
On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.
Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.
Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.
The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.
Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.
The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.
The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.
Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.
In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.
Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.
Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.
But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.
“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
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Twitter Bans Sharing Personal Photos, Videos of Other People Without Consent
Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent, in a tightening of the network’s policy just a day after it changed CEOs.
Beginning today, we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people’s private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.https://t.co/7EXvXdwegG
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 30, 2021
Twitter said this policy does not apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”
“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service,” the company added.
The right of Internet users to appeal to platforms when images or data about them are posted by third parties, especially for malicious purposes, has been debated for years.
Twitter already prohibited the publication of private information such as a person’s phone number or address, but there are “growing concerns” about the use of content to “harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals,” Twitter said.
The company noted a “disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”
High-profile examples of online harassment include the barrages of racist, sexist,and homophobic abuse on Twitch, the world’s biggest video game streaming site.
But instances of harassment abound, and victims must often wage lengthy fights to see hurtful, insulting or illegally produced images of themselves removed from the online platforms.
Some Twitter users pushed the company to clarify exactly how the tightened policy would work.
“Does this mean that if I take a picture of, say, a concert in Central Park, I need the permission of everyone in it? We diminish the sense of the public to the detriment of the public,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.
The change came the day after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving the company, and handed CEO duties to company executive Parag Agrawal.
The platform, like other social media networks, has struggled against bullying, misinformation, and hate-fuelled content.
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