Twitter's Tony Wang issues apology to abuse victims


Stella Creasy: ''An apology [from Twitter] is not the end of the matter''

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The boss of Twitter UK has said sorry to women who have experienced abuse on the social networking site.

Tony Wang said the threats were "simply not acceptable" and pledged to do more to tackle abusive behaviour.

The apology came as Twitter updated its rules and confirmed it would introduce an in-tweet "report abuse" button on all platforms, including desktops.

Police are investigating eight allegations of abuse including bomb and rape threats made against women.

Two people have been arrested in relation to rape threats against Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who received the threats after a campaign to have Jane Austen on the new £10 note.

The Guardian's Hadley Freeman, the Independent's Grace Dent and Time magazine's Catherine Mayer all said they had received identical bomb threats on Wednesday.

The revelations sparked a backlash online, with a petition calling for Twitter to add a "report abuse" button to tweets attracting more than 125,000 signatures so far.

'Protect users'

In a series of tweets, Twitter UK general manager Mr Wang said: "I personally apologize to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through.

"The abuse they've received is simply not acceptable. It's not acceptable in the real world, and it's not acceptable on Twitter.

Tony Wang Tony Wang said Twitter would do more to tackle abusive behaviour

"There is more we can and will be doing to protect our users against abuse. That is our commitment."

Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said unchecked Twitter abuse had been a problem for a long time and she was "delighted" the company was apologising and taking action.

Ms Mayer, Europe editor of Time magazine, said she had yet to receive a personal apology from Twitter, despite contacting the website on Wednesday evening.

"I've been deeply amused by the phrase I've received a personal apology from Twitter," she said.

"If he [Mr Wang] would like to make an apology to me, he can direct message me if he doesn't want to do it publicly."

She added: "We're not being targeted because we're activists, we're being targeted because we're female."

'Panic button'

Ms Creasy said she had received a "very welcome" apology in an email from Mr Wang - but it had taken a week.

She said stalking was taking a new form online and called for a mechanism similar to a panic button system to be put in place.

Screen-grab of Grace Dent's Twitter page, showing a retweet of the threat Journalist and broadcaster Grace Dent received a bomb threat on Twitter

"We need to get round the table with the police and experts to identify the best way we can keep people safe online," she said.

In an earlier message posted on the Twitter UK blog, the company's senior director for trust and safety, Del Harvey, and Mr Wang, said the company had clarified its anti-harassment policy in light of feedback from customers.

They said: "It comes down to this: people deserve to feel safe on Twitter."

Twitter has clarified its guidance on abuse and spam - reiterating that users "may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment".

The "report abuse" button already available on the iOS Twitter app and mobile site will also be rolled out to the main website and Android app from September, Twitter said.

The bosses said in the blog that additional staff were being added to the teams that handle reports of abuse and the company was working with the UK Safer Internet Centre, which promotes the safe and responsible use of technology.

"We are committed to making Twitter a safe place for our users," they said, adding: "We're here, and we're listening to you."

'Sustained attack'

Ms Criado-Perez, 29, welcomed Twitter's response but said the process for reporting abuse should be further simplified to take the onus off the victim.

She said: "Twitter's 'report abuse' button on the iPhone application goes through to the old reporting form. What we're looking for is an overhaul of the system which sits behind the button.

"Right now, all the emphasis is on the victim, often under intense pressure, to report rather than for Twitter to track down the perpetrator and stop them."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I don't have twitter, it's a waste of time as far as i'm concerned but it seems to me that people just can't control there inner most thoughts and feel the need to type them out for all to see. You'll never be arrested / charged for thinking something but let it all out for the world to see and you have to face the consequences. Tough luck. Get over yourselves.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    In response to Knick Knack Shop, #20, I would expect anyone who was offensive and aggressive to the point of threatening to be reported, regardless of gender. If you feel so strongly about the comments from that tweeter you mentioned meet that criteria, hit that button now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I thought this issue was about "Threats" and very unpleasant ones at that. Now it seems it has been expanded to include "Abuse", which is quite a different matter all together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    "if you don't want people to have a go at you it is simple....don't go on twitter or facebook and keep your life and opinions to yourself".

    Hear Hear.

    And the same praise goes for all contributors who have seen this for what it is - a hypocritical counter-campaign by self-important, self-promoting people who tweet posts that are equally as offensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Are facebook issuing new rules after the aggravation caused by a woman

    I suppose that is completely different though isn't it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The correct response, to an explicit threat, to make someone the victim of a crime, is to put the matter before the police, as this is also rightly a crime.

    Distracting people with touchy-feely IT gimmicks is irrelevant, and worse, could result in the wrong action being taken, allowing criminals to escape preosecution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Glad to see Twitter responding with a 'report abuse' button. For far too long the only option has been a 'report spam' button, which doesn't help much when abuse gets personal.

    Re: "don't use Twitter/FB" & "keep your opinions to yourself" - you're using a similar open forum & writing your opinions on it. Why can't others do the same? Should we all stay at home, offline & never speak?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    If you go online seeking attention over your political and religious beliefs no doubt you will attract all kinds of unwanted attention.

    -If it was confined to disagreeing with people's politics and beliefs that's fine however,gratuitous personal insults and threats simply because you don't like what someone looks like or their gender or sexual orientation is unacceptable on or off line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Anything that stops the police getting involved. It really is a waste of police time when they get involved in this sort of nonsense - there are far more important things to investigate than online name calling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Talk to people? Do you mean face to face? I cannot imagine how awful that experience would be, rather you than me. If you're rude, sick and abusive you could get a smack in the mouth. No thanks, I'll stick to the Twits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    If somebody sent you a letter threatening to rape you you would have the right to expect the police to treat it seriously - but you would expect to invest some time and trouble in complaining, not to be able to click once and it's done. And Twitter are not even the police, they are more like the Royal Mail. So let's keep expectations under control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    What a waste of effort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Crossed my mind that there can't be a hell of a lot wrong with this country when we have so much time to devote to thought crime. And there can't be a hell of a lot in the police's statements that they are understaffed when they spend so much time investigating 'words'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    The only people who won't yawn at this "story" are politicians, journalists, and those minor celebs who think the rest of us are even remotely interested in their hum-drum, 140-character, gossip-filled lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    About time. Let's hope the 'report abuse' feature prioritises reports from female users and other vulnerable groups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    @Adam How can filling out a 4 page form to report abuse be considered "adequate"? It takes longer to fill out than to create, post a hateful tweet and delete an account!

    If you feel that the abusive comments were so trivial, I'm sure these lovely ladies would be more than happy to have them directed at you instead of at them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.


    What fantasy world are you living in? So you don't tolerate abuse in the Street? Who are you going to complain to? The Police? Because the Police aren't interested in verbal abuse or even in physical violence otherwise called "rough and tumble". Have you ever been mugged and tried to prosecute the mugger?

    It's very likely that if you "diss" a gang member you'll get stabbed...

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Adam, there was also the small matter of a multi-thousand-signature petition. I do agree, though, that she seems to have had her own personal lobbying audience with Del Harvey; strange, that one person's view should be deemed more important than anyone else's.


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