SOCIAL CHANGE: Celebrities speaking out against cyber bullying and sexual harassment online have foisted the spotlight on social media companies in recent weeks. Last month, for instance, actress Ashley Judd said she would press charges against those who sexually harassed her via Twitter. Judd’s pronouncement followed an outcry from celebrities such as Lena Dunham and Iggy Azalea, who were also taunted on the social media network.

The groundswell of bad press rattled Twitter, and on Tuesday, the company issued updated guidelines aimed at “combating abuse.”

Those changes entail how Twitter enforces certain policy violations, including violent threats.

“We are updating our violent threats policy so that the prohibition is not limited to ‘direct, specific threats of violence against others’ but now extends to ‘threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others,’” general counsel Vijaya Gadde said. “Our previous policy was unduly narrow and limited our ability to act on certain kinds of threatening behavior. The updated language better describes the range of prohibited content and our intention to act when users step over the line into abuse.”

In order to enforce the new rules, Twitter said it is introducing an additional measure that gives its support team “the ability to lock abusive accounts for specific periods of time.”

“This option gives us leverage in a variety of contexts, particularly where multiple users begin harassing a particular person or group of people,” Gadde said, adding that it complements current enforcement measures, which include requiring users to delete content or verify their phone number.

Twitter said it has started testing a product feature to help it “identify suspected abusive tweets and limit their reach.”

While the feature will use clues that correlate with abusive content, the company said it wouldn’t affect users’ ability to see content that they’ve “explicitly sought out,” such as Tweets linked to accounts they follow.

“This feature does not take into account whether the content posted or followed by a user is controversial or unpopular,” said Gadde. “We’ll be monitoring how these changes discourage abuse and how they help ensure the overall health of a platform that encourages everyone’s participation. And as the ultimate goal is to ensure that Twitter is a safe place for the widest possible range of perspectives, we will continue to evaluate and update our approach in this critical arena.”

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