One of the biggest complaints against Twitter is how easily harassment can spread and exacerbate on the network — and there was no better test of this hypothesis than political rhetoric surrounding recent global elections. Historically, tweets aimed at threatening or scaring individuals on Twitter have gone unfettered and caused a number of users to delete their accounts or even fear for their safety — as blogger Ariel Waldman has chronicled.
Twitter Rules prohibit the kind of abuse we mean here — threats, hate speech, bullying, and harassment on the basis of users’ race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability, disease, or nationality. However, until as recently as March 1, 2017, there weren’t a lot of options for users report and stop abuse they were experiencing in real-time. Twitter began to respond to harassment and threats on the network with a series of features and services aimed a keeping people safe. These additions included:
- Notification filtering: Users can specify which accounts they don’t want to receive notifications from. For example, you can filter out notifications from accounts without profile photos and with unverified email addresses.
- Mute option: Users can mute specific keywords and phrases, and they can choose how long they don’t want to see that type of content.
- Reporting transparency: Users now receive notifications when — and if — Twitter intervenes on an abuse report the user files.
- Time-out: Users who are reported are sometimes temporarily put in “time-out” while Twitter investigates the report to prevent the further dissemination of abusive content.
- Safe search: Machine-learning technology will prevent users from being served potentially abusive content when they search for tweets on the platform.Hiding abusive tweets: Twitter has started identifying low-quality tweets from potentially abusive accounts so users see high-quality content first. The tweets will still be on Twitter — they’ll just be harder to find.
- Preventing new abuse: Twitter has started preventing reported and flagged users from creating new accounts with the same contact information in an effort to prevent repeat offenders on the platform.
These updates were critical to ensuring Twitter stays a welcoming place for all users. In a leaked memo in 2017, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo underscored the importance of this move, saying:
I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.
We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them. Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.”
Let’s keep Twitter a place for civil conversation! Charity demands it!