The @name is one of Twitter’s most powerful mechanisms for generating conversation and the @ convention has transcended their platform to become identity shorthand (if not actual protocol). Last summer in the midst of Leslie Jones’ harassment episode, I suggested that Twitter doesn’t do enough to think about how @names (and intent of the tagging) factor into their abuse policy. Basically the concept that when an @name is inserted into the tweet, it becomes targeted, the difference between just expressing an opinion about a person and the desire for that person to see the opinion. For example imagine these two tweets:
“Hunter Walk is an asshole” vs “@hunterwalk is an asshole”
The former doesn’t appear in my mentions. The latter does. I never see the first unless I’m actively searching for my name on Twitter. The latter does regardless of my desire to interact with the sender. Accordingly, once an @name is included, the standard for harassment should be lower, because intent can be assumed.
I still don’t understand why this seemingly doesn’t factor into Twitter’s policies and why they’re not stricter about harassing messages including @names. But witnessing a woman I follow on Twitter deal with yet more harassment gave me another idea that builds off of this previous post: Twitter users who troll should lose the ability to use @names in their tweets. That is, if you tried to include @hunterwalk in your tweet after being put into this purgatory, it would either be blocked all-together (ie you’d have to remove it in order to send the tweet) or it wouldn’t register as a link/mention. (While the second option makes more sense IMO, I think it’s much harder to implement technically).
So a Twitter account state in-between “in good standing” and “suspended” would be “lost @name privileges.” These accounts would lose the ability to hurl their invectives and vileness in a manner which forces their victims to see the words through their normal use of Twitter.
Generally, Twitter continues to miss their chance to rebuild trust that they’re working to combat harassment on the platform. Outside of some high profile banning of racists, I’m struggling to think of major commitments made by the executive team. I know Twitter management cares but there’s more to be done. Why not start 2017 with a public roadmap of what’s going to be delivered and the appointment of an Ombudsman/PublicEditor employed by the company who will blog periodically about their view of how Safety at Twitter is functioning?