New report says self-harm posts are surging on Twitter

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A Twitter person in obvious misery turned to the social media platform earlier this month to mull their subsequent steps: “might just let my Razors win tonight” the person stated in a Tweet that racked up greater than 1,500 likes, 20 feedback and 25o retweets.

The put up was an instance of what researchers from Community Contagion Analysis Institute and Rutgers College say is a dramatic rise in latest months of tweets associated to self-harm. In a brand new report, the researchers stated they’ve detected a Twitter group that’s more and more posting graphic photographs, with hashtags, that reveal bloody self-injury practices. The tweets are garnering unusually excessive engagement given the small variety of followers of the accounts, the report discovered.

Among the many disturbing statistics within the report is that since October, hashtags associated to self-harm reminiscent of #shtwt,” which is brief for “self-harm Twitter,” have elevated roughly 500 p.c, the report discovered.

At the least among the content material additionally seems to flout Twitter’s longstanding guidelines towards glorifying suicide and self-harm regardless of warnings about from activists a number of months in the past that these tweets had been rising on the location, the report stated.

“When you glorify cutting and poking and these forms of self-harm, you’d probably have the effect of sort of validating and affirming it. I suspect that is encouraging more of it,” said Lee Jussim, a psychology professor at Rutgers University who helped write the report. “It smells to me like social media contagion.”

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Twitter spokeswoman Lauren Alexander said in a statement the company takes self-harm content very seriously and would work to build a safer internet.

“We are continuing to review our policies in conversation with external experts and research like this report to ensure we are striking a balance between giving a voice to people who are struggling, and removing content which exploits those struggles,” Alexander stated.

The analysis illustrates how social media firms reminiscent of Twitter wrestle to disrupt problematic content material. Whereas social media firms search to encourage connections amongst customers with like-minded pursuits, critics say they typically fail to catch and handle dangerous content material that may unfold quickly amongst clusters of customers.

The customers posting to Twitter generally use acronyms and coded language to debate their reducing strategies, the report stated. Along with “shtwt,” they’ll consult with superficial self-cuts as a “catscratch” as a result of it typically appears to be like like cat scratches or “beans” to consult with deeper cuts. The time period “raspberry filling” refers to blood, while “moots” is a reference to “mutually engaging in self-harm,” according to the report.

The number of users with #shtwt in their bios has doubled since October 2021. Meanwhile, monthly mentions of “shtwt” increased from 3880 tweets in October 2o21 to close to 30,000 in July 2022, according to the report. Similarly, the number of mentions of beanstwt, which refers to extremely deep cutting, increased from less than 1,000 in October to over 4,500 tweets in August, the report said.

The researchers said that this kind of jargon and insidery language may foster a sense of community in which people who are feeling distressed end up encouraging each other to increase the depth or severity of their self-inflicted wounds.

In a single latest instance, the report cites a Tweet that stated “this is the deepest I’ve done someone be proud of me,” accompanied by a picture of the injuries. That tweet, which garnered over 2,000 likes and 165 retweets, elicited responses reminiscent of “that’s so pretty,” or “how beautiful,” according to the report.

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Under Twitter’s rules, users are barred from promoting or encouraging suicide. Users can’t ask for encouragement to engage in self-harm or suicide, including seeking partners for such activities. Users are allowed, however, to share their personal stories or coping mechanisms to address self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Child advocacy group 5Rights Foundation submitted research to regulators in the United Kingdom that showed, among other findings, that Twitter users were sharing images and videos of cutting themselves, and telling others which razors they should use for self-harming and where to buy them, according to the Financial Times. Last October, the company told the newspaper that it was blocking #shtwt, #ouchietwt’, and ‘#sliceytweet’ from appearing in future trends on the apps.

Experts said young people are particularly vulnerable to the potential harmful effects of self-harm content on Twitter. Jussim said the onset of cutting tends to happen in early and mid-adolescence and then slows down by early adulthood.

“A lot of what you see on Twitter is likely to be 13, 14, 15 year-old kids looking for affirmation and meeting people like themselves,” Jussim said. “But it is possible and even likely that some of these people are predators trying to encourage these these young teens to do more of this.”

If you happen to or somebody you realize wants assist, name the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Craig Timberg contributed to this report.

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