Twitter Adds New Features To Hide, Possibly Prevent Some Abuse

Image courtesy of Tom Raftery

Twitter’s own CEO once candidly declared that the social media network “suck[s] at dealing with abuse and trolls,” and the company — as recently as last week — has repeatedly made promises to do something to curb the ugliness. Today, Twitter announced a trio of new tools that it hopes may mitigate the widespread abuses.

First, Twitter says, is a back-end change that most users won’t see: preventing new abuse-driven accounts from being made in the first place.

When an account or set of accounts goes on a harassment tear against a particular target, other users (including the victim) usually flag the tweets and report the account quickly. If the abuse is substantial enough, Twitter will usually suspend or ban the account committing it.

But of course, Twitter is a free service with an incredibly low barrier of entry: It takes all of 60 seconds to create a new account and start in on abuse from it all over again, which is what the worst abusers often do. So Twitter’s trying to nip that in the bud to begin with by “taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts.”

This “focuses more effectively on some of the most prevalent and damaging forms of behavior, particularly accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others,” Twitter writes.

The second and third changes are end-user facing, and may seem like familiar ideas to folks who have used little ol’ sites like Google, Facebook, or Reddit. (So, basically everyone.)

One is a safe search filter, for better searching of Tweets. Not only will it “remove tweets that contain potentially sensitive content” from your search results, but also it will (finally) hide results from accounts you have blocked or muted.

You can still see the content if you want to, by disabling the safe search filter, but it won’t automatically pop up in your search results anymore, Twitter promises.

The last change Twitter’s introducing today takes advantage of the sometimes-confusing way Twitter now threads conversations and replies on its website and mobile apps. If you’re looking at a popular tweet with a lot of replies, the useless and abusive ones should now be collapsed by default.

You can still expand the conversation and view any hidden replies if you want to, Twitter reiterates, but your default view will no longer be the one with the racist and sexist epithets being hurled at the original speaker.

Once again, Twitter promises, this is the beginning and not the end of their change. “In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to roll out product changes – some changes will be visible and some less so – and will update you on progress every step of the way,” Twitter VP of Engineering Ed Ho writes.

“With every change, we’ll learn, iterate, and continue to move at this speed until we’ve made a significant impact that people can feel.”