Twitter Inc. (TWTR) - Get Report CEO Jack Dorsey has promised to take swift action to curb abuse and harassment on the platform, but it's unclear if his pledges are doing much to reassure users and investors.
Apparently taking notice of last week's #WomenBoycottTwitter protest, the Twitter chief tweeted on Friday that the company would introduce new rules centered on "unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups and tweets that glorify violence." Dorsey added that changes will begin rolling out this week; a Twitter spokesperson said that the company had no additional comments for now beyond Dorsey's tweets.
The tweets seemed to be in response to the #WomenBoycottTwitter protest that began on Friday after Twitter temporarily suspended the account of actress Rose McGowan. Last week, McGowan took to Twitter to speak out about sexual violence against women, specifically accusing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment. Twitter said it locked McGowan's account because she tweeted a personal phone number (it's unclear whose), which violated the company's terms of service.
The hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter rose to become the number one global trend on Twitter on Friday and attracted the support of high-profile users such as actors Rosario Dawson, Kerry Washington, Alyssa Milano and Mark Ruffalo.
"I think [Rose McGowan being blocked] actually gave the idea of a boycott even more power because it really concentrated it to be about Twitter's rules governing speech and how women's speech is treated on the platform," said Heidi Moore, a business editor in New York who was among the first to popularize the movement. "It pointed to something that could be changed."
More said the movement "struck a chord" among users, in part because Twitter has promised for several years now to take a firmer stance against abuse on its platform. The company has announced a seriesof anti-harassment efforts, some of which have been successful in scrubbing abusive or hateful accounts, but faces ongoing criticism about how it responds to individual user reports.
Earlier this month, co-founder Biz Stone, who returned to work at Twitter full-time earlier this year, became defensive after Twitter users argued that the company wasn't doing enough to minimize hate and abuse on the platform.
Moore said she was encouraged by the fact that Dorsey and other Twitter executives responded on the same day as the protest, but she's skeptical of whether the company needs to introduce additional anti-harassment rules. Instead, Twitter might be better off simply strengthening its enforcement of current policies, she suggested.
Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, said Dorsey seems to agree that the company needs to improve how it enforces its rules, but his continued promises are "hard to take seriously" at this point.
"The big problem isn't that Twitter's policies don't go far enough -- it's that too often there are clear breaches which go unchecked even when flagged to Twitter," Dawson explained. "If the changes made in the past year were the result of making dealing with the abuse the top priority, it's not clear how making it even more of a top priority now is going to make a difference."
Like Facebook Inc. (FB) - Get Report , Twitter is struggling to figure out how to balance free speech with prohibiting or getting rid of hateful content. But the microblogging site has to zero in on how it can quickly and effectively make Twitter a safer space for users, lest it risk losing them, Moore said.
"If Twitter doesn't figure it out, it is hurting its own business," she said. "A lot of what fueled the movement toward the boycott was wanting respect for women, but also that everyone wants a shared, respectful discourse. And we're not getting that."
Twitter's stock was down 1.2% to $18.38 on Monday afternoon. The stock has climbed 12.7% so far this year, compared to the S&P 500's year-to-date gain of just over 14%, but is down roughly 75% from its peak reached at the end of 2013.
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