Twitter steps up fight against sexual harassment

A portrait of the Twitter logo in Ventura, California on December 21, 2013. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2017
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Twitter steps up fight against sexual harassment

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter has announced tough new rules on tweets containing “non-consensual nudity” and sexual harassment, which could be seen as fallout from the Harvey Weinstein abuse scandal.
The rules will come into force in the coming weeks, Twitter said in a statement late Tuesday, after company co-founder Jack Dorsey on Friday posted a series of tweets promising policy changes.
The San Francisco-based social media giant will “immediately and permanently suspend any account we identify as the original poster/source of non-consensual nudity and/or if a user makes it clear they are intentionally posting said content to harass their target,” the statement read.
Twitter defines “non-consensual nudity” as including “content like upskirt imagery, ‘creep shots,’ and hidden camera content.”
Since people appearing in these pictures “often do not know the material exists, we will not require a report from a target in order to remove it,” the statement said.
Twitter said that while it recognizes that there is “an entire genre of pornography dedicated to this type of content, it’s nearly impossible for us to distinguish when this content may/may not have been produced and distributed consensually.
“We would rather error on the side of protecting victims and removing this type of content when we become aware of it,” the statement read.
Twitter also said that sexually charged conversations and the exchange of sexual media will now be “unacceptable,” and promised to take action when such exchanges are reported by participants or by observers.
Twitter’s statement follows an uproar caused by the temporary suspension of the account of Rose McGowan, an actress who says that Weinstein raped her.
The account was suspended after McGowan posted an obscenity directed at actor Ben Affleck, whom she said lied about his ignorance of Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse.
Twitter however said her account was suspended because McGowan broke usage rules by including a personal phone number in a tweet.
Weinstein was fired from his job as co-chairman of The Weinstein Company on October 8, and resigned from the company board of directors on Tuesday.
Some 40 actresses, including stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Mira Sorvino, have come forward saying they were sexually harassed by the Hollywood film producer.
The revelations sparked an avalanche of messages on platforms like Twitter and Facebook from women all over the world, using the hashtag #MeToo to speak out on and condemn experiences of sexual harassment.


Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

  • Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability
  • Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is not close to launching a search engine app in China, its chief executive said at a companywide meeting on Thursday, according to a transcript seen by Reuters, as employees of the Alphabet Inc. unit called for more transparency and oversight of the project.
Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told staff that though development is in an early stage, providing more services in the world’s most populous country fits with Google’s global mission.
Hoping to gain approval from the Chinese government to provide a mobile search service, the company plans to block some websites and search terms, Reuters reported this month, citing unnamed sources.
Whether the company could or would launch search in China “is all very unclear,” Pichai said, according to the transcript. “The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options.”
Disclosure of the secretive effort has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations. They are concerned that by agreeing to censorship demands, Google would validate China’s prohibitions on free expression and violate the “don’t be evil” clause in the company’s code of conduct.
Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability,” according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday.
After a separate petition this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the US military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.
The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, “makes clear” that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate “are not enough.”
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” states the document seen by Reuters.
The New York Times first reported the petition on Thursday. Google declined to comment.
Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly, and their remarks at the company-wide meeting marked their first about the project since details about it were leaked.
Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.
Pichai told employees: “We’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here” on Dragonfly, according to the transcript. He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can “cause issues.”
Three former employees involved with Google’s past efforts in China told Reuters current leadership may see offering limited search results in China as better than providing no information at all.
The same rationale led Google to enter China in 2006. It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyberattacks against Google and other large US firms.
The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google. A Chinese official, who declined to be named, told Reuters this month that it is “very unlikely” Dragonfly would be available this year.