Future Tense

Twitter Says It Will Crack Down on Abuse—After the Election

Twitter will unveil “meaningful updates” to its safety policy after the election.

Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

Twitter says it will be making some meaningful changes to its safety policy in order to clean up its notoriously toxic atmosphere and crack down on “targeted behavior that harasses or threatens others to silence another person’s voice.”

This is a good move for the beleaguered social media platform, which has found itself home to some of the nastiest trolls on the internet. But Twitter says the changes won’t go into effect until after the election, and considering much of Twitter’s most hateful rancor is politically motivated, this timing seems suboptimal.


Just ask David French, a conservative blogger who is part of the Never Trump movement. He faced months of abuse on Twitter earlier this year after he criticized the anti-Semitic, white supremacist political movement known as the alt-right. On Wednesday, French told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about his experience:


My Twitter feed basically exploded. I have—did not have that many followers—in the thousands, certainly not like the more prominent folks in politics, but it was unbelievable. I began to see images, for example, of my youngest daughter, who we adopted from Ethiopia many years ago, who at the time was 7 years old—images of her in a gas chamber with a—Donald Trump in an SS uniform about to push the button to kill her. I saw images of her Photoshopped or, you know, artist’s rendering of her face in slave fields.


“Freedom of expression is core to who we are,” Twitter wrote in its quarterly report, released Thursday. “For the past few months our team has been working hard to build the most important safety features and updating our safety policies to give people more control over their Twitter experience. Next month, we will be sharing meaningful updates to our safety policy, our product, and enforcement strategy.”

What those “meaningful updates” will be is unclear. But some suggestions to improve safety on Twitter have included creating a way to verify all accounts, thereby weeding out abusive trolls; evaluating reports of abuse more strictly; and using Twitter’s “quality filter” to scan for bots.

Twitter, which has been struggling to grow its userbase and revenues, also announced it will cut its global workforce by 9 percent. Though Twitter has been on the auction block for months, it has not yet been acquired, partly, Slate’s Will Oremus wrote, because of its reputation for online harassment.

So, will Twitter’s new safety policy—whatever it is—make the platform a safer, more pleasant place? We’ll have to wait until after the election to find out—until then, good luck.