Twitter updates its privacy policy against revenge porn and Rep. Katherine Clark discusses online harassment.

Twitter Moves to Prohibit Revenge Porn

Twitter Moves to Prohibit Revenge Porn

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 12 2015 7:09 PM

Twitter Moves to Prohibit Revenge Porn

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Be nice to each other. Please?

Photo by Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

Last month, Reddit took steps to ban revenge porn in response to a situation, the Fappening, in which private nude photos of female celebrities were shared widely on the site in August. "Last year, we missed a chance to be a leader in social media," Reddit said. The move faced some criticism. And now Twitter is taking similar action.

The social media company updated its terms of service Wednesday to prohibit users from posting explicit images without the subject's permission. The two new passages read, "You may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject's consent," and "users may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject's consent."

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The decision is part of a broader effort by Twitter to address online abuse, particularly against women. After the Verge published internal company communications in which CEO Dick Costolo said "we suck at dealing with abuse," the company started rolling out harassment surveys and better abuse-reporting options. Users who violate the terms of service can be locked out of their accounts, and Twitter said in a Q&A—based on questions BuzzFeed originally posed to Reddit—that it is working on technology to remove posts flagged as prohibited.

Some say that decisions like this are a way for companies to avoid working with government on harassment issues, though. Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami, told Slate last month that Reddit's similar initiative might stem from “a desire to demonstrate that private companies can handle this problem themselves.”

And government action may, in fact, be on the horizon. Rep. Jackie Speier has plans to double down on revenge porn through federal legislation. And in an opinion piece for the Hill on Monday, plus a similar letter to the House Appropriations Committee, Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts urged "the Department of Justice to intensify their efforts to investigate and prosecute the federal laws that criminalize the worst of this behavior."

She wrote:

In 2006, Congress recognized the real-life dangers of online harassment and amended the Violence Against Women Act to make online threats of death or serious injury illegal. Yet, even though it is a federal crime, federal prosecutors pursued only 10 of the estimated 2.5 million cases of cyber-stalking between 2010 and 2013. Of course, money and personnel are always needed to investigate crimes, but the truth is, online threats and harassment of women are just not a law enforcement priority.

These changes won't end revenge porn, but this is still a relatively good week to be hopeful about the future of mutual respect on the Internet.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.