Twitter has a set of rules that highlight what is not allowed on the platform. Here are the categories included in those policies:
On Twitter, what counts as abuse must fit one or more of these criteria:
Twitter prohibits many forms of abusive behavior including:
You can find further details here.
Twitter says “people are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, as long as they’re not violating the Twitter Rules. Personal disagreements and political debates do not count as abuse and the platform does not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users. Twitter’s Help Center contains guidance about handling offensive content through tools and controls.
If you are receiving unwanted, targeted, and continuous content on Twitter, and feel it constitutes online abuse, consider reporting the behavior to Twitter as soon as possible.
Remember that it is important to document the violent or abusive messages with print-outs or screenshots, as this can be useful for future investigations.
After reporting and documenting the episode, there are more steps you can take to protect yourself – and others – from being harassed:
Block the harasser’s account:
When you block an account on Twitter, that user will not be able to follow you or view your tweets when they’re logged in to that account. Additionally, their replies or mentions will not show in your Notifications tab (although these Tweets may still appear in search). Blocked users do not receive any notification alerting them that their account has been blocked, but if they visit your profile they will notice they have been blocked.
Blocked users cannot:
For more information on how to block a Twitter account from the website or from your phone or device, click here.
Be aware that blocking can mask threads and it might make risk assessment more difficult. If you’re scared for your physical and mental safety, consider getting a trusted friend or family member to monitor your account instead.
Mute the harasser’s account:
Some important things to know about mute:
For muted accounts that you follow:
For muted accounts that you do not follow:
For more information on how to mute a Twitter account from the website or from your phone or device, click here.
Being harassed can be hurtful and traumatic. Remember that you are not alone in the struggle, and our community at Right To Be is ready to support you – visit Right To Be’s Storytelling platform to share your story and request help. See our security guide to learn more about what to do if you experience online harassment.
You can report harassment via this online form. The report will be reviewed by the Trust & Safety Team.
On the form, you will be asked for:
For directions on how to find a tweet’s URL, click here. Tweet URLs are critical to the report because they provide evidence of harassment and advise Twitter on how to best handle the issue. Keep in mind that you can attach tweet URLs from deleted tweets. If the harassment occurs outside of a Tweet (e.g., account bio, header, profile picture, etc.), then you can explain it in the Further description field of the form.
You can also report abusive content directly from a Tweet, List, or profile. Learn more here.
You should report the abuse as soon as possible to prevent further harm. If the behavior does not fit Twitter’s criteria for abuse, you may want to unfollow, block, or mute the user instead.
When someone submits a report, a Twitter representative needs to evaluate it before making a judgment. According to Twitter’s policies, when determining the penalty for violating this policy, Twitter considers “a number of factors including, but not limited to, the severity of the violation and an individual’s previous record of rule violations”.
They may ask someone to remove the violating content and serve a period of time in read-only mode before they can Tweet again.
“Subsequent violations will lead to longer read-only periods and may eventually result in permanent suspension. If an account is engaging primarily in abusive behavior, Twitter may permanently suspend the account upon initial review“, says Twitter.
For accounts engaging in abusive behavior on their profile, the abusive profile policy determines that an account could be suspended on a first violation if it includes any of the following abusive behaviors:
According to Twitter,
“If an account uses a hateful symbol in its profile information, the account-holder will be required to remove the symbol before they can use their account again. Repeated violations will lead to permanent suspension.”
Other ways in which Twitter might take action include:
Twitter does not accept screenshots as evidence of harassment without a corresponding URL. Their preferred mode of documentation is to copy/paste a tweet’s URL. However, if you choose to work with local law enforcement authorities, then you can choose to provide screenshots of tweets as proof of harassment.
The following individuals can report abuse on Twitter using this form:
Bystander involvement helps to curb harassment on Twitter and shows the person targeted that they have the support of other users. Learn more about bystander’s role here.
Twitter keeps each reporter’s information confidential in all cases, except for those that directly concern identity or trademark violations. For example, if someone is impersonating you, you must authenticate your identity. In such cases, Twitter will inform you prior to communicating with the owner(s) of the account(s) in question.
Twitter will notify you when they have received your report, and they will inform you if they take further action. This will all be visible in your notifications tab on the app. You’ll get these notifications whether the harassment you reported was targeted at you or at someone else. (Ho, 2017)
If Twitter hasn’t suspended the harasser’s account or removed the abusive content, it’s for one of two reasons: either the harassment doesn’t meet Twitter’s criteria for abuse, or the case is still pending. Sometimes Twitter asks users to remove abusive content, and only suspends their account. You can find out whether the tweet is still there by navigating to its URL and seeing if it loads. If it was deleted, the page would read, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”, If it’s still there, Twitter may still be giving that user time to take it down before suspending them.
Beyond this information, Twitter has no clear path for when you aren’t satisfied with their response. They encourage you to review their rules and criteria for abuse, and unfollow, mute, or block the harasser’s account. If that same user repeats the abusive behavior, you can submit a new report.
Additionally, you should encourage your friends and family to report the harassment because more reports make it more likely that Twitter will take it down.
Finally, keep in mind that you are not alone in the struggle, and there is a community that could support you – visit Right To Be’s Storytelling platform to share your story and request help. Try to remember that even if the harassment doesn’t meet Twitter’s criteria, your experience and feelings matter and you deserve support. For instance, on our platform, bystanders can submit third-party reports to Twitter if you think Twitter made the wrong call.
If you feel you are in danger, consider finding legal support and report it to your local authorities as soon as possible. Check out our resources and learn more about how to deal with online harassment.
To block from a Tweet:
To block from a profile:
Protect your tweets:
Use “safe search:”
Twitter has recently added the ability to limit a user’s account for a certain time period, or until they register a phone number and delete abusive tweets. Previously, Twitter only suspended a user’s account and prevented login, and abusers could easily create a new account and continue harassing other users. (Weinberger, 2015).
In July 2015, Twitter introduced the new Safety Center, a resource with information about online safety, on Twitter and elsewhere. It is organized around Twitter’s tools and policies to address safety, with sections created especially for teens, parents, and educators (Cartes, 2015).
In 2016, Twitter established the Twitter Trust and Safety Council, which brings together more than 40 experts and organizations to help advise the platform as they develop their products. At the beginning of 2020, Twitter announced that the Council will be made up of several groups, “each focused on advising Twitter on specific issues”. The company will set up groups focused on:
Like other social media platforms, Twitter has also been relying on automated moderation tools to identify abusive content. In a letter to shareholders in October 2019, Twitter reported that 50% of all abusive tweets on the platform are being removed by these tools before users have a chance to report them.
Twitter has partnered with the National Network to End Domestic Violence to develop a new resource: Safety & Privacy on Twitter: A Guide for Survivors of Harassment and Abuse. This guide provides specific tips and guidance for Twitter users on increasing their privacy and responding to other users who misuse the platform. Twitter offers several online resources to help combat harassment. The social media platform is also partnered with the following organizations, which you can follow on Twitter or otherwise refer to for assistance:
For specialized information on how to deal with offensive content, here is a list of organizations Twitter partners with:
You can also visit Twitter’s Safety Center to learn more about online safety, on Twitter and beyond. The Center is organized around Twitter’s tools and policies to address safety, with sections created especially for teens, parents, and educators.
Do not forget to visit our resources where you can find information about your rights and digital safety.
Doshi, S. (April 21, 2015). Policy and product updates aimed at combating abuse. Twitter Blog.
Weinberger, M. (April 21, 2015). Twitter gets serious about online harassment with new rules and punishments. Business Insider.
Cartes, P. (July 20, 2015). Introducing the new Twitter Safety Center. Twitter Blog.
Cristina, M. (December 30, 2015). Fighting abuse to protect freedom of expression. Twitter Blog.
Southworth, C. (July 26, 2016). Safety and Privacy on Twitter: A Guide for Victims of Harassment and Abuse. Twitter Blog.
Twitter. (November 16, 2016). Progress on addressing online abuse. Twitter Blog.
Ho, E. (February 7, 2017) An Update on Safety. Twitter Blog.
Ho, E. (March 1, 2017) Our Latest Update on Safety. Twitter Blog.