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 983.

    @ 975.DeeplyConcerned:
    "...the Violence Against Women Act applies to all victims of domestic
    violence, irrespective of their gender. Nothing in the act denies services, programs, funding or assistance to male victims of violence...VAWA funds continue to be available for services provided to victims regardless of gender...and male victims frequently receive help from VAWA-funded programs"

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    Any businessman that bows to political pressure is weak and should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

    He is a complete disgrace!

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    I'd really like an answer to the first question too, why is Twitter apologising for the actions of other people?
    It is taking a stance against abuse. By apologising for the abuse, they distance themselves from it. Make trolls paria's/outcasts/undesirables and you undermine their impact. They are not equals any more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    I don't understand why Twitter feels the need to apologize. They didn't write these messages.

    The people that wrote defamatory comments has broke libel laws. The recipients of the abuse should and probably have sued.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    976 - Thanks

    I'd really like an answer to the first question too, why is Twitter apologising for the actions of other people?

    More specifically, why does Twitter owe anybody an apology for giving them a platform to air their views?

    Does the maker of a blackboard have to apologise whenever someone writes something offensive on it?

    Why do people demand that Twitter apologises?

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    10 Minutes ago
    Not familiar with VAWA but a quick google search would suggest that gay not straight men are protected.
    Maybe you should do more than a "quick google search". The official statment says that "men are covered", it doesn't specify gay or not gay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    I can't wait to see what would happen to music if censorship of the kind being discussed here today came in.

    Probably the best way to spare everyone's sensitivities is to allow only mute performers on radio.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    973. christhechameleon
    And also why is it only apologising to women?
    Because in this specific case the victims were women. The anti-abuse measures are generic though, they will tackle all forms of abuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    Not familiar with VAWA but a quick google search would suggest that gay not straight men are protected.

    But your point raises an interesting problem with the internet - under whose laws would we prosecute offenders? In some countries there is no law against making threats, in others the threat must be credible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    If we insist on creating a society where people never get their feelings hurt, we will end with something other than a democracy. What to one person (say an Israeli) is unjustifiable hate speech is to someone else (say a Palestinian) simply a cry for justice. Even the worst of people can write things worth reading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    I do not understand why Twitter is apologising for the actions of other people.

    Could someone explain please?

    And also why is it only apologising to women?

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    Feminism has got everything it deserves
    More rights for women you mean? I agree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    The answer is quite simple. If people, particularly celebrities, don't want to be abused or ridiculed by anonymous posters on social networking sites then don't join them.
    Society managed to function perfectly well before the advent of the likes of Twitter & Facebook, indeed it functioned without any problems before the internet too.

  • Comment number 970.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    How about the others, the abused men?

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    966. DeeplyConcerned
    But when have you ever heard someone from a feminist organisation fighting to end domestic/work/sexual abuse mention male victims?
    Doris Lessing and Fay weldon have spoken out in the past. Also, in the States, men are covered under VAWA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    The authors of the abuse tweets should be made an example of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    My issue with feminism is the umbrella subjects they use to fight their cases.

    40% of domestic abuse victims are men
    18% of workplace sexual harassment is perpetrated by women
    3% of men in the UK have been raped.

    Yes, in all cases women fare much worse than men. But when have you ever heard someone from a feminist organisation fighting to end domestic/work/sexual abuse mention male victims?

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    Some on her actually seem to condone these tweets - if only because the recipients are a Labourite and a feminist. Yet the outrage when some people on HYS dared to criticise Thatcher after her death was deafening. So forgive me if I don't take you too seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    That's exactly what it is - petty squabbles and idle threats...Join the real world self-appointed "Mr Ladies' Man"!
    I live in the real world. A much more pleasant place than the sinister, dark, gloomy world you inhabit. Cheer up.


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