Here's how Twitter is finally helping to stop rampant harassment on their site.

"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years," said former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in a leaked 2015 memo.

"It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day," he continued. "We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."

It was a surprising admission about one of the service's biggest flaws. On Twitter, sharing other users' posts as easy as a single touch, but that also creates the opportunity for regular people going about their day on Twitter to wind up the target of harassment from thousands of other users at a moment's notice.


Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Since the memo leaked, Twitter has been trying to solve some of the more obvious problems by adding a quality filter meant to weed out threatening messages from spam accounts and creating a path to account verification. Still, these steps weren't enough, and the torrent of abuse its users experience was hurting the company financially.

This week, Twitter announced a number of new tools meant to address the abuse problem, and they look like they might be pretty helpful.

(Trigger warning: Hate speech and transphobic slurs follow below.)

For one, they're expanding the mute feature so users can opt out of conversations and notifications including certain words. This is a big step forward since one of the bigger problems targets of harassment deal with is the aftermath of a tweet that's getting too much attention from the wrong crowd.

More importantly, Twitter is clarifying its terms of service, making it easier for users to file a report, and providing training to support staff to ensure they're up to date on the latest policies. The hateful conduct policy bans abusive behavior targeting people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.

What does online harassment look like, anyway? Here's some of what I get sent my way on a regular basis:

It's not especially fun, but while hurtful, it's usually not too bad.

Other times, though, the messages contain violent threats. For example (and this gets a little graphic):

The problem is that in many of these cases, there hasn't been anything a user could do to prevent these messages from coming.

You can block a single user, but once they've shared your tweet with everyone who follows them, chances are their followers will come after you. It's an infinite loop of blocking people. You can also report violent threats as abusive, but once Twitter goes through the process of reviewing the report, they often reply with a simple note saying that the tweets reported didn't violate their terms of service.

This is by no means limited to Twitter. Facebook has a similar problem with its reporting process, coming off as ineffective and sometimes arbitrary.

It's all somewhat understandable. As businesses, Facebook and Twitter have to find a balance between protecting free and open speech and shielding users from harm. Within hours of the announcement of new anti-harassment tools, Twitter suspended a number of high-profile accounts known for engaging in targeted harassment — that's certainly a start.

With new technology changing our world all the time, it's important that we remember to treat one another as human beings. Anti-bullying efforts will play a crucial role in years to come.

Whether it's on Twitter, Facebook, or in virtual reality spaces, online privacy and harassment protection plays an important role in society. It's easy to forget that there is a real human being on the other end of these online conversations. It's easy to treat them as undeserving of respect. It's easy to lose empathy for the world.

It's harder to do the right thing, but that doesn't change that it is, in fact, the right thing.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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via @Kingkeraun / Twitter

Keraun Harris, who goes by the name King Keraun, is a popular comedian on social media who's appeared as an actor on HBO's "Insecure" and ABC's "Black-ish."

On Monday, he posted a video on Twitter sharing the story of how a white woman had his back during a recent traffic stop.

"I just got pulled over, and for the first time, I watched a white woman record my whole traffic stop," she said.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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