Cyberbullying at Work: How to Combat Twitter Abuse


In case you’re not obsessively following all things Twitter, scary behavior has been taking place on the site. As Business Insider reported in February, “high-profile figures who speak out — especially women — are subjected to torrents of anonymous abuse on the social network.”

They were referring to behavior in the UK, but of course it’s not limited to Britain; Lena Dunham and Zelda Williams are two high-profile American women who have quit Twitter in the past year. The abuse was so bad and widespread that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo got fed up and issued a memo to employees that read in part,

“I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.

“We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.”

Sure enough, Costolo made good on his word. In April, Twitter issued a new abuse policy that addresses prohibited content and enforcement of policy violations.

  • Prohibited content: Their violent threats policy was previouslylimited to “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” Now it includes “threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others.”
  • Enforcement: Abusive accounts can now be locked for specific periods of time.

In addition, Twitter is testing a new product feature that can identify suspected abusive Tweets and limit their reach.

The question remains: Is this going far enough? I do not know the answer, but I can provide some tips on how to combat Twitter abuse:

Report it to Twitter

  • Click on the abusive tweet so it appears as a single page.
  • Click “Contact” in the footer > “Customer Support” > “Report a Violation”
  • Under “Reporting violations,” click How to File Terms of Service or Rules Complaints”
  • Scroll down to Harassment and Violent Threats, and click “Harassment and Violent Threats help page.”
  • Scroll down and click “submit a ticket request.”

Report it to the local police

When I was being harassed by a would-be client (via email and nonstop phone calls), I called the local police department and filed a report with the very nice officer who came to my home office. Even though the client was in Canada, his behavior scared me, and I wanted it on record. I would not hesitate to do the same for Twitter abuse.

Share what’s happening with your community

If you are thinking of quitting Twitter, tell your community – and tell them why. If they only follow you on Twitter, tell them where else they can connect with you, whether it’s signing up for your newsletter, subscribing to your blog, following you on Instagram, or connecting on LinkedIn.

Seek therapy

Twitter abuse is a form of emotional abuse, and the effects can be devastating. If you are losing sleep or weight, sinking into depression, or, God forbid, feeling suicidal, find a therapist who specializes in emotional abuse and/or cyberbullying.

Quit Twitter

At the end of the day, you need to protect yourself. Quitting Twitter will not be the end of the world. Leaving one part of social media is not the be-end-end-all.

Have you or your company been subject to harassment, via Twitter, social media or elsewhere? What did you to address it – and save your sanity?


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