Every half term the Childnet Digital Leaders Programme runs a webinar for Digital Leaders on issues and platforms that are relevant to them. With Twitter receiving 500 million tweets a day, Childnet ran a poll on the platform asking the Digital Leaders what they would like to ask Twitter in a webinar. The options included, a) reporting; b) how to run a successful campaign and gain new followers; and c) how to get a job at Twitter. The Digital Leaders responded with ‘reporting’ as the number one topic that they would like to discuss.

And so, just over a month ago, Caroline (Digital Leaders Programme Manager) and Kate (Education Officer), went to Twitter’s offices in London to meet with Kira O’Connor, a member of their Public Policy Team.  The webinar ran for a highly informative and lively 45 minutes with Kira answering in-depth questions from secondary school Digital Leaders from across the UK.

Here are some of the main issues that arose and Kira’s responses.

What happens when you report to Twitter and who looks at it?

The reports are checked by people rather than machines so it is not necessarily based on the number of reports an account gets. One person will look at the report initially but they will often discuss with a member of their team to ensure that the context is understood. Twitter have reporting teams in San Francisco, Dublin and Singapore and so they maintain 24/7 coverage. This might mean that a report is handled by more than one person as things are handed between teams as one office shuts down for the night. This is particularly if the reporter was asked to supply more context to their reason for reporting.

How are reports prioritised?

Twitter take a common sense approach. For example, reports threatening life and depicting self-harm are going to be dealt with first.

How do Twitter differentiate between free speech and hate speech?

Kira advised users to see Twitter’s Rules as a point of reference for unacceptable online behaviour.

Do Twitter store personal information and demographics of reporters?

Twitter has very little personal information on their users as they just need an email address to sign up and do not collect any other information such as gender of reporters. Twitter do work closely with the police however, and police are able to fill out a law enforcement request form if they need information from us.

Can under 13s access Twitter without joining as it can be a useful source of information?

Anyone can access the Twitter homepage to follow news without signing up. Kira mentioned that she knew of class accounts being used for children between the ages of 5-7 (with teacher supervision) to look at tweets and have discussions around critical thinking and to follow news stories.

Sometimes reporting can be used as a threat against users. What does Twitter do about this?

Kira recognised that this had been happening. For example users report each other to back up their favourite celebrities. Twitter are very aware that reporting is also sometimes being used to be abusive or as a form of cyberbullying. However, unless the comment actually breaks Twitter’s terms and conditions, the account will not be taken down. This is where the reporting team at Twitter look at context and they will know if the ‘report’ is genuine or not.

Two important points to remember when reporting…

  • Provide lots of context to why you are reporting. The member of the Twitter team that sees your report may not know the local context so the more ‘evidence’ you provide the more likely they will be able to deal with the situation quickly and effectively.
  • Twitter can only ever take action on their own platform. They can’t change the behaviour of the person who has been tweeting or commenting negatively online. If you have a reason to report another user’s behaviour on any social media platform make sure you tell a trusted adult too.


Since this webinar, Twitter have also launched a new feature, ‘Muting’, which allows users to remove an account’s Tweets from their timeline without unfollowing or blocking that account. This means you will also no longer receive push notifications from that account. Muted accounts will not know that you have muted them.

If you want to report a comment or someone online then read Childnet’s helpful guidance on how to make a report across various online platforms.

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