Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Twitter is pretty awesome and everyone needs it in their lives. But like with any technology, there are safety concerns, privacy concerns, kids’ security concerns, and so on. Twitter has launched a new initiative to address all these matters.
Twitter Safety Center is a comprehensive resource built by the social network to address all of the ways its users are protected, as well as how teens, parents and teachers can use the tools better. You can access the Safety Center at any time by visiting safety.twitter.com.
Twitter has introduced several tools over the years which have made it a stronger app than before. But you’ve probably missed some of these. It’s best to visit the Tools section of Safety Center to find out what these are.
For example, you could learn of the Mute feature and clean up your timeline with a game of Mute, Block or Unfollow. And Twitter will also keep you safe by recommending how to set a password and switching on two-factor authentication, which everyone should use. All of these are important factors to stay safe on Twitter.
You can also find out what information about yourself you are sharing on Twitter, and opt out of things like being discovered by your email address, or being wrongly tagged in photos.
Even if you are a long-time Twitter user, I’d recommend going through the policies section once to discover what Twitter stands for today, how it deals with abusive users, and so on.
For example, even though I’m an active Twitter user, I had no idea that you can report a user who you think is at risk of self-harm or suicide.
The policies section also carefully identifies what Twitter sees as spam, private information, or abuse and harassment. These are important to know because online harassment for women is a serious issue, so it’s good to know what you are allowed to report. Remember, this is an area where free speech, one of the principles of the social network, goes up against hate speech, an oft-debated topic. To know how Twitter differentiates between the two is half the battle.
Twitter has also published an Enforcement section to guide you through the process of what happens when you file a report, how the social network will respond from their end, and the possible outcomes. Again, important information since some of these can be legal matters and it’s best to be prepared.
Teens, Families and Educators
In an important step, the Safety Center outlines best practices and guidelines for teenagers, parents, and educators on how to deal with problems.
Teens: Twitter wants to focus on being a positive experience for teens, so it emphasizes what is okay and what isn’t. More importantly, there’s an entire section dedicated to dealing with bullies. While adults can learn how to handle bullying tweets like celebrities do, it’s far different when you’re in school and have to face your online bully every day. This section should be mandatory reading for any teenager using the social network.
Parents/Families: As a parent, you want to ensure your child’s virtual world is as safe as the physical world you protect them in. It’s debatable whether you should spy on your kids, but it’s important to recognize that for them, virtual relationships are as real as those in the real world. Twitter does a good job of explaining to families what place the social network has in the lives of their loved ones. Importantly, it has three sections everyone should read—how to teach critical thinking and build media literacy, and even use online safety to connect with your kids.
Educators: Teachers and tutors can use Twitter in amazing ways, but it’s important to remember that it’s more difficult to monitor your students’ online activities. In fact, online lives and offline lives tend to overlap for students, and Safety Center helps educators understand how that happens, what they can do about it, and how they can build their students to be ready for adulthood.
When to Ask the Experts
Twitter and the law is a confusing subject, which differs based on the country you live in, the content of a tweet, and several other factors. To their credit, Safety Center is trying to help you understand when to report violations to Twitter by understanding the rules.
The Safety Center also has the guidelines for law enforcement, which can help you better understand when to call in the authorities and take the matter out of Twitter’s hands. This also includes how Twitter complies with the authorities on several matters, such as when it will hand over your private information to the authorities, what level it will go to, and so on. If you care about your privacy, spend some time understanding the rules here.
The Best Ways to Protect Yourself Online
Twitter’s new Safety Center is similar to Google’s new My Account page to understand the privacy and security implications of using the service. And it’s important to know these. After all, just like you should be well-versed with the basic laws and customs of a place you live in, the same applies to a virtual place you spend a lot of time in.
What else do you think Twitter can do to make it easier to protect yourself and safeguard your loved ones online?