• Twitter has updated its online abuse rules. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Social media platform Twitter has threatened to temporarily lock and/or permanently suspend user accounts that engage in homophobic and transphobic abuse.
Drew Sheldrick

5 Jan 2016 - 10:03 AM  UPDATED 5 Jan 2016 - 10:03 AM

New year, new rules - or at least where Twitter's online abuse policy is concerned. Last week the social media giant announced changes to its "Twitter Rules" regarding abusive behaviour and hateful conduct. It now has a ban on homophobic and transphobic abuse, which could lead to a user's account being temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.

Twitter's director of trust and safety Megan Cristina said the updated language emphasised that Twitter will not tolerate behaviour intended to "harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice".

"As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs – but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse," Cristina said.

The Twitter Rules on abusive behaviour now state that users may not "promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people" on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, alongside a number of other categories, including race and disability.

It further states that it reserves the right to immediately terminate an account without further notice in the event that it violates these rules or the Terms of Service.

There has been some confusion about what type of language falls under the "homophobic" abuse category however, with at least one user questioning Twitter's consistency on derogatory gay terms.

Instructions for reporting online abuse are detailed here. Once reports are submitted, Twitter reviews the reported account and/or tweets to determine any violation of its policies before it takes any action.

It's been a rough start to the year for social media platform in regards to its diversity credentials, with criticism of its appointment of a white man to oversee inclusion at the company, despite his history of LGBT initiatives in the corporate sphere.