Twitter Improving Tools To Hide, Report Harassment And Abuse

Image courtesy of Tom Raftery

It’s been the better part of two years since Twitter then-CEO Dick Costolo admitted, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.” And finally, it seems, Twitter is trying to suck less.

Costolo stepped down from the position barely four months later and was replaced with Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey. Dorsey, too, has acknowledged that Twitter has a people problem but the company hasn’t taken that many steps to provide targeted users — many of whom are from vulnerable or marginalized populations — with better tools to stem the tide.

So that’s the background against which Twitter today posted a corporate blog entry called “Progress on addressing online abuse.”

Twitter cannot, of course, stop some people from being thorough jerks. But they can try to stop that wretched, abusive behavior from hitting the intended targets.

Rumors swirled over the summer that Twitter would basically be expanding the “mute” feature that allows users to quiet other users (or, for those using TweetDeck, to banish certain keywords) to include certain terms.

That feature is now indeed real. One more benefit for heavy users? It also allows you to mute an entire conversation — so if you keep getting tagged back in to something you want no part of, you can silence it from your notifications for good.

Twitter is also expanding its report function to include more of the kind of negative behavior users actually experience. If someone is the target of hate speech and targeted harassment, Twitter now includes a reporting option explicitly to cover that. Additionally, its “hateful conduct” policy has expanded to acknowledge that abuse isn’t limited to certain keywords in isolation; it can also come in the form of, for example, disturbing images, targeted image tagging, or constant piling-on.

This won’t fix the problems in their entirety. Even Twitter acknowledges that, saying, “We don’t expect these announcements to suddenly remove abusive conduct from Twitter. No single action by us would do that.”

But while they won’t reduce the population of jerks in the world, the changes may at least be able to reduce some of their negative impact.

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