2015 in review: Public Policy in EMEA

By Ian Plumps
Wednesday, 23 December 2015

During 2015, we stepped up our efforts to place Twitter at the heart of public policy discussions and to provide support to movements for change across the world. Whether we were engaging with government officials to protect users across six continents, or working directly with civil society organizations to protect human rights and civil liberties, it’s been a busy year.

In the words of our CEO Jack Dorsey, “Twitter stands for freedom of expression. We stand for speaking truth to power. And we stand for empowering dialogue.” So having the opportunity to partner with passionate people across the globe has undoubtedly been the highlight of our work this year.

Here is a short list of some of the projects our EMEA team has had the privilege of working on over the past 12 months:

Safety Center
Last autumn, we launched The Safety Center, a resource built for anyone to learn about how to stay safe online, whether on Twitter or elsewhere. The Safety Center is a direct outcome of our engagement with online safety experts who continuously help us to promote positive digital citizenship around the world. This interactive tool helps people quickly understand how to tailor their Twitter experience and better understand how the community — and Twitter — can take action when our policies are violated.

Empowering dialogue
Given the public nature of Twitter, we’ve seen how people can use it to great effect to challenge and counter negative or bad speech. In light of this, in 2015 we increased our engagement with civil society organisations so they can better use Twitter to counter hateful or harmful content. To date, working with over 250 organisations and activists, we have participated in 35+ events dedicated to countering violent extremism (CVE) and held training sessions in 15 countries across EMEA. In the UK alone, more than 500 representatives from NGOs have been trained on using Twitter to run effective campaigns.

Protecting our users
We engaged with governments and stakeholders across EMEA on issues of data protection, privacy, net neutrality, surveillance, and how to create a more robust framework for protecting the rights of our users. These are ongoing areas of focus in 2016.

Improved safety features
Working with many NGOs — especially women’s groups — we crystallized feedback to introduce a new core function to protect people using our service. Our engineering team shipped import and export functionalities for blocking, which enables people to block multiple accounts that may be subjecting them to unwanted interactions. Read more here.

Friday for Good
Our recent #FridayforGood campaign connected 15 Twitter offices with over 50 NGOs across EMEA, making it a truly global day of service. With countless hours invested and thousands raised, the public policy team worked behind the scenes to make sure #FridayforGood 2015 had the greatest possible impact for the organisations we support.

Ads for Good
Our #AdsforGood programme provided strategic support to NGOs across EMEA on our platform, including a promotion to the tune of $50,000 for Turkish civil society organisations alone. We also provided direct support to Reporters Sans Frontières’ campaign to raise money for the families of the Charlie Hebdo victims.

Anti-bullying campaign
As part of our wider #Back2School campaign, in September we hosted an event with the Diana Awards Anti-Bullying Campaign​. This Q&A featured popular YouTube star Marcus Butler, who was bullied as a youngster. The discussion focused on advice on how to deal with bullying and cyberbullying when going back to school.

Marriage equality
In Ireland, the Twitter team stood shoulder to shoulder with those campaigning for marriage equality. Stephen McIntyre, our Irish MD and VP of EMEA Online Sales, penned this op-ed in The Irish Times, making the business case for a ‘Yes’ vote and offering some personal perspective. The campaign emphatically demonstrated the importance of Twitter as a means of political and social debate: over the course of 24 hours, the hashtag #HometoVote was mentioned 72,000 times as Irish people from across the globe made the pilgrimage home to tick the ‘Yes’ box.

Paris attacks
In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris last month, we sent a prompt to French users asking them to follow authorities to get official information as the situation unfolded. From @TwitterFrance, we also shared important information such as recommendations from French police and emergency numbers.

General Outreach
In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, we worked with NGOs directly and held a Frontline Defenders workshop in Dublin; facilitated productive sessions across the region as part of EU Codeweek; joined the global #RefugeesWelcome discussion; sent 21 orphaned female students to science and technology summer camps in Turkey; and facilitated the conversations of over 350 million people across the globe.

Stay tuned for updates from our public policy team elsewhere around the world in 2016, and join the conversation by following @policy and @TwitterforGood.