Twitter goes on the offense against trolls

Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco. Image: IDGNS

2 March 2017

Twitter is taking the offensive in its ongoing battle online trolls and keep users from being abused.

“We’re continuing our work to make Twitter safer, moving faster than ever to do so,” Ed Ho, Twitter’s vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog post. “This week we’re introducing additional updates that leverage our technology to reduce abusive content, give you more tools to control your experience, and communicate more clearly about actions we take.”

In principle the plan is smple enough: Once Twitter detects a troll, it will work to limit their reach.

“We’re taking action by limiting certain account functionality for a set amount of time, such as allowing only their followers to see their tweets,” wrote Ho. “For example, this change could come into effect if an account is repeatedly Tweeting without solicitation at non-followers or engaging in patterns of abusive behaviour that is in violation of the Twitter Rules. Our platform supports the freedom to share any viewpoint, but if an account continues to repeatedly violate the Twitter rules, we will consider taking further action.”

Ho stressed that the company is focused only on accounts that its algorithms prove to be abusive.

Twitter also is giving users more tools to filter notifications so that they only see those from users that have profile pictures or with verified e-mail and phone numbers.

“We’re also expanding the mute feature to build on the work we did in November which lets you remove certain keywords, phrases, or entire conversations from your notifications,” added Ho. “Now, you’ll be able to mute from your home timeline and you can decide how long this content is muted – one day, one week, one month, or indefinitely. This was another big request from you and we’re looking forward to rolling it out.”

Twitter also is looking to communicate more with people who report abuse.

For instance, users should now expect to be notified when Twitter receives their abuse reports and if action is taken against the reported account. The messages will be visible in the user’s notifications tab.

“We’re learning a lot as we continue our work to make Twitter safer – not just from the changes we ship but also from the mistakes we make, and of course, from feedback you share,” wrote Ho. “We appreciate your patience and support, especially as we roll out these changes globally and in every language represented on the platform in the coming days and weeks.”

IDG News Service

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