New Twitter tool makes it slightly easier to report threats to police

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Twitter's new harassment-reporting tool is making it easier for users to report threatening tweets to the police. Sort of.

Users who report threatening tweets now have the option of receiving an emailed report, summarizing the tweet, when it was sent and other information that may be relevant to law enforcement.

It's still up to individual users, however, to bring these reports to the attention of police and other officials. It's not clear what, if any, impact this will have for police investigations. The emailed reports don't provide information Twitter users couldn't find on their own, though it will save users some time from having to find the information themselves.

Twitter also provides a series of guidelines and recommendations to officials, which include their policies for how they handle requests for non-public information (which require a subpoena or court order) and emergency disclosure requests.

But outside of how to make official requests, Twitter doesn't provide extensive information on how to help users. For example, in the "assisting a Twitter user" section of its guidelines, Twitter suggests that "most issues" can be handled by Twitter itself, which seems a little circular given that these reports are meant to give users facing threats new ways to get help from police.

An example of one of the reports.

Image: Twitter

"We can't compel law enforcement to act on threats (the user will have to do that him/herself), but we can provide users with the information law enforcement will request from them," Twitter's Nu Wexler said.

Tuesday's update is the latest in a series of steps the social network has recently taken to combat threats and abuse on its platform. The company has come under increasing scrutiny for its failure to effectively deal with these issues, which the recent Gamergate debacle brought into sharp focus.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told employees in an internal memo, which was later leaked to the media, that the company needs to fix how it handles issues of trolling and abuse on the platform. Last December, the company introduced better reporting tools, and just last week the site updated its privacy guidelines to address revenge porn.

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