Twitter Moves To Strengthen Its Abuse Blocking Policies & Enforcement
Twitter has turned up the heat on its battle against trolls. The company announced today several policy and enforcement changes that it hopes will curb the online harassment that has plagued the social media platform.
The first change is a tweak to the language of Twitter’s violent threat policy that will give the company’s support staff more leeway to go after violators. The previous policy prohibited “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” The new language dumps “direct” and “specific,” prohibiting “threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others” and will allow Twitter to target a wider range of threatening behavior.
“Our previous policy was unduly narrow and limited our ability to act on certain kinds of threatening behavior,” director of product management Shreyas Doshi wrote in a blog post. “The updated language better describes the range of prohibited content and our intention to act when users step over the line into abuse.”
On the enforcement side, the company is adding the ability to lock abusive accounts for specific periods of time — essentially a penalty box for problem users. Such users with locked accounts will often have to perform some additional penance — verifying their account with a mobile phone number and/or deleting abusive tweets — to regain access to their accounts.
Twitter also said it is testing a new feature that aims to better identify suspected abusive tweets and limit their reach. Twitter said it will use signals such as the age the account and “the similarity of a Tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive” to identify abusive messages.
“It will not affect your ability to see content that you’ve explicitly sought out,” the blog post stated, “such as Tweets from accounts you follow, but instead is designed to help us limit the potential harm of abusive content. This feature does not take into account whether the content posted or followed by a user is controversial or unpopular.”
Twitter didn’t specifically address how it would limit reach, but one scenario is that it will work to suppress the @message abuse that plagues many women on Twitter and has led to some high profile defections from the network. CEO Dick Costolo was thinking along those lines in an interview with BuzzFeed News in February, saying that “people should have a right to speak freely on the platform, but you don’t necessarily have a right to have your mentions of me show up in my mentions timeline with whatever you choose to say, and your response is that I can call you whatever I want to call you.”
Costolo has made it clear that solving the harassment problem is a priority for the company and that it needs to be fixed. The latest moves can be seen as a reaction to the Costolo’s strongly worded internal memo leaked in February: “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”