Twitter policy change might protect suicidal victims, like those of alleged serial killer

Twitter ideas

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was recently asked about an alleged killer who preyed on vulnerable people using Twitter, and how the company is working to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Last month, a man was arrested in Japan on suspicion of murdering nine people. Based on Twitter accounts linked to him, he may have lured in vulnerable victims by targeting those who expressed suicidal thoughts on Twitter, reaching out to them professing sympathy. Their bodies were found in his home.

Yesterday, Jack Dorsey gave his first on-camera opinion on the topic to Japanese site NHK, where he said, “We need to take on a responsibility to make sure that our tool is being used in positive and healthy ways.” At the same time, some officials in Japan are calling for stricter regulations on sites like Twitter where suicidal people might express their thoughts.

Earlier this month, Twitter updated its policy, with one of the changes being clearer rules regarding tweets about self-harm. According to the new rules:

You may not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm. When we receive reports that a person is threatening suicide or self-harm, we may take a number of steps to assist them, such as reaching out to that person and providing resources such as contact information for our mental health partners.

A Twitter spokesperson told the LA Times: “We did not rewrite the section on suicide and self harm because of this case, but we would like to avoid these types of cases from happening.”

I’m not sure what else Twitter could do, honestly. I’m all for holding large sites accountable for what people use them for, and deleting tweets promoting self-harm is commendable. But, as Dorsey points out in the same interview, it likely won’t stop anyone from committing suicide.

Hopefully these updates will help prevent people from being preyed on as this person’s victims allegedly were.

h/t Quartz

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