Twitter tries to stop abuse as issues crop up in India


Dhanya Rajendran, the editor-in-chief of an influential Indian website called The News Minute who was harassed on Twitter. PHOTO/TWITTER


Seems like every time Twitter tightens its rules for abuse and harassment, a new problem rears its head. After the #WomenBoycottTwitter action last Friday, CEO Jack Dorsey said rules would be tightened, and a recent memo from Twitter’s Head of Safety Policy outlined those changes.

The memo was leaked to Wired’s Erin Griffith, and included stronger measures against unwanted sexual advances, and hiding hate symbols behind warnings. But at the same time that memo was leaked, BuzzFeed’s Pranav Dixit detailed how pervasive harassment on Twitter is in India.

This past August, one female journalist, Dhanya Rajendran was inundated with death and rape threats, and the attackers’ hashtag was even a trending topic for hours. Not until the journalist contacted someone directly at Twitter did the social platform take action.

Dhanya Rajendran, the editor-in-chief of an influential Indian website called The News Minute, is used to being trolled on Twitter. Still, she wasn’t prepared for what happened on a Sunday evening in August. A few minutes past 6, a coordinated deluge of rape and death threats flooded Rajendran’s Twitter mentions. One of the abusers wanted to penetrate her with a metal rod. Another wanted her to be a part of a gang bang.

Rajendran’s crime? Tweeting about how she had walked out of a movie starring Vijay, a South Indian superstar.

Within minutes, more than 31,000 notifications crashed Rajendran’s phone. Trolls had orchestrated the harassment campaign using a hashtag, #PublicityBeepDhanya (replace “beep” with an expletive of choice), which became one of the top five trends in India for hours.

The fact that a hashtag crafted specifically to abuse someone trended for hours became national news in India. Vijay, whose fans started the campaign, condemned the incident. The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), an organization that aims to promote gender equality within the Indian media, urged Twitter India to be “more sensitive to online abuse, specifically of women.”

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