If this widely-publicized story about what happened to Robin Williams' daughter, Zelda Williams, isn't enough to make Twitter change its weak harassment policy, we're not sure what will.
Tagging her @zeldawilliams account, trolls tweeted an image of Robin Williams that was photoshopped to place him in a morgue with bruises around his neck, The Washington Post reports, and one wrote "look at what he...did to himself because of you, you heartless bitch."
In a since-deleted tweet, Zelda begged Twitter to do something: "Please report @PimpStory @MrGoosebuster. I'm shaking. I can't. Please. Twitter requires a link and I won't open it. Don't either. Please." Twitter requires victims to file a detailed report on each incident of abuse, and users have reported that it can take two months to hear back from Twitter Support.
In Zelda's case, both @PimpStory and @MrGoosebuster were quickly suspended, but she announced last night that she'll be taking a break from the service:
I'm sorry. I should've risen above. Deleting this from my devices for a good long time, maybe forever. Time will tell. Goodbye.— Zelda Williams (@zeldawilliams) August 13, 2014
Zelda also posted a similar statement on her Instagram account, which you can read in full here. She writes that her account on the photo-sharing service has been mined for images of her father and also been subjected to abuse about the number of photos she had posted with him.
Her previously active Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr are still up at the time of writing. The actress, who reportedly lives in San Francisco, has spoken out about Internet abuse in the past, most recently in June when she posted a Tumblr entry titled “Dear Trolls,” in which she writes "I am not a ‘dyke’ or a ‘yid’. I’m not a man in drag nor a failed abortion."
Pacific Standard wrote about "Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet" in January, citing a study from the organization Working to Halt Online Abuse, which reveals that of the 3,787 people who reported online harassment from 2000 to 2012, 72.5% were female.
Women who are threatened and harassed on Twitter often feel forced to leave, as Lainna Fader explains in this recent Medium post: "If your Twitter experience included angry anonymous strangers hurling insults at you every time you voiced your opinion, how long would you stick around? What about rape and death threats? This is the reality for a lot of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups on Twitter. It’s terrifying and exhausting and for users unable or unwilling to stomach the rampant abuse, the only solution is to leave the platform."
Update: Twitter has responded to the Washington Post, saying it plans to improve its policies.
Del Harvey, Twitter's vice president of trust and safety, said in a statement: “We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter. We have suspended a number of accounts related to this issue for violating our rules and we are in the process of evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one. This includes expanding our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.”