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Twitter's Head of UK Public Policy Katy Minshall Talks All Things Safety on Stop Cyberbullying Day

Twitter and Cybersmile are now in their 10th year of working together to make the internet a safer, more inclusive place. If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, follow the links to our various support services or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to start using Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.

Can you tell us a bit more about your role at Twitter and what you do day-to-day?

As Head of UK Public Policy, my role is twofold: first, to represent Twitter in working with policymakers, and second, to support charities and government organisations in the UK in achieving their objectives on the platform. My day to day consists of working closely with teams within Twitter like site integrity, communications and the wider public policy team on various campaigns and issues that are focused on the company’s number one priority – improving and protecting the health of the public conversation on Twitter.

How important is it for people to feel free to share content, views and opinions on Twitter and social media without fear of ridicule, abuse or harassment?

It’s of the utmost importance. . You should always feel safe expressing yourself on Twitter, and we’re committed to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression – it’s our responsibility and critical to us that everyone, everywhere can feel safe and express themselves freely on Twitter.

Since launching the Twitter Trust & Safety Council, what have you been able to implement that has made a difference to people’s digital wellbeing? What have you learnt from working with the members?

Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council brings together experts and organizations from around the world to help advise us as we develop our products, programs and the Twitter Rules. We have received feedback from the Trust and Safety council on a number of updates like giving account holders the option to hide replies to their Tweets and new rules to address synthetic & manipulated media. We are constantly learning from Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council as this group of experts allow us to better address emerging challenges.

What changes that Twitter has implemented has had the most positive impact in terms of feedback from users?

The product changes we’ve introduced recently have been game changing. Last summer, for example, we introduced a new prompt to encourage people to read articles before sharing them – our aim was to promote digital citizenship and prompt people to ensure they know what content they are amplifying. Subsequently, we saw a 33% increase in people reading the article and a 50% decrease in people sharing it. We’re now experimenting with a similar prompt to encourage people sending replies that look like they might be harmful to consider revising what they say.

Do you have any impact data from Twitter’s changes and improvements in terms of posts removed or accounts closed?

Every six months we publish a Transparency Report, which we’ve produced since July 2012 to share global trends across a number of areas of our enforcement on Twitter – we were one of the first in the industry to do so. This includes the number of accounts reported for different violations of our rules, and the number of accounts we’ve taken action on. The biggest trend we’ve seen over the past few years is how much we’ve been able to use machine learning to identify abusive Tweets – reducing the burden on the victim from having to report them.

Twitter has a number of safety features and tools designed to keep users safe while protecting meaningful conversation. Can you tell us a bit more about these?

Some of the most important tools available are not new, and have been around for many years – like mute, which hides accounts, words or hashtags from your Twitter feed, and block, which stops accounts from being able to interact with you. Others are more recent – you now have the ability to hide replies to your Tweet, and to choose who can reply to your Tweet in the first place. You can now even turn replies to Tweets off altogether. Most recently (this week) we announced some more safety tests that we’re undertaking and asking for feedback on – again, always trying to give people control of their own experience on Twitter.

Twitter is considered one of the most important social media and communications platforms of the 21st century. What do you feel is the future of online interaction and how do you see this evolving?

Twitter believes in an Open Internet that is global, and should be available to all, built on open standards. Giving people choice and control over their experience is the best way to empower people. We believe that people should have choices about the key algorithms that affect their experience online – that is why, since 2018, people using Twitter can switch to a reverse chronological order ranking of Tweets, giving them more control and providing greater transparency into how our algorithms affect what they see. Our work in this area will continue to evolve and the #OpenInternet is something that we will continue to advocate for, going forward.

Twitter’s support for Cybersmile and our mission for a truly inclusive internet is now in its 10th year – what would be your message to other brands and platforms that want to proactively cultivate a positive online community?

We are proud to support Cybersmile and your mission to create a truly inclusive internet is one which we feel very passionately about too. We look forward to our continuing partnership and guidance by Cybersmile’s expertise helps ensure that we’re focusing on the right problems. Twitter’s partnership with Cybersmile on education and campaigns means we can reach a wide range of audiences to create a better internet for all.

We would like to say a HUGE thank you to Katy for this incredible interview and Twitter for continuing to be such great partners. For more information about Cybersmile and the work we do, please explore the recommendations below:

What are you doing for Stop Cyberbullying Day? Let us know by contacting us or tweet us @CybersmileHQ.