Twitter has recently rolled out a new suite of anti-abuse features aimed at tackling online bullying on the platform. Twitter has attracted a lot of controversy in recent years for being a platform some use for the harassment and online lynching of certain individuals. Some of these events have even made international news, such as when Milo Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter after being accused of inciting harassment of Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.
One of the tools developed to tackle online bullying is a “time-out” feature. What this means is people who are identified as sending abusive tweets will have the accessibility of their tweets restricted for a certain period so that only people who follow them can see their most recent tweets as they are posted.
Twitter has also put a stop to the creation of new abuse accounts. A common tactic of online bullying was to create new accounts intended for harassment every time one was banned, often complete with Twitter handles that are designed to mock their victims. Those found to purposely create abusive accounts and evade bans will now find themselves unable to create new accounts, hopefully silencing the small minority of online abusers that make up a large percentage of online abuse.
Twitter has also announced that it has been rolling out safer search results. The new search results will filter out any tweets “that contain potentially sensitive content” as well as those from banned accounts. This will probably be one of the most impactful changes as it will help to halt the spread of damaging or offensive tweets by restricting their prominence.
Related to filtering certain tweets from search results, Twitter have also worked to collapse low rated or abusive replies in conversations. This will require the user to manually open these tweets, reducing their impact on a conversation. Twitter may also group these low rated posts and display them at the bottom of the page, placed below replies deemed more appropriate to the conversation.
As always, these recent anti-abuse features have not been without their criticism. Twitter was developed as a platform that enables free speech and gives a global voice to everyone. The use of Twitter has been vital to the spread of information in countries with heavily controlled media and has even contributed to revolutions. However, it has also been used to harass, intimidate and bully individuals. By blocking accounts and filtering search results, Twitter has opened itself up to accusations of censorship. Meanwhile, others believe these features don’t go far enough and only limit bullies instead of completely blocking them.
While Twitter struggles to balance the value of free speech, as a publicly traded company it must be careful not to frighten investors or advertisers, who don’t wish to be associated with online platforms known for harassment and bullying. This is an on-going process that Twitter has been seeking to combat for a long time now, so no doubt there will be more changes and new features in the future.