Twitter: Fighting Abuse By Helping Users to Hide It

Twitter has a harassment problem. While this isn’t new, recent exposés by Buzzfeed and WAM!, in addition to the very public barrage of hate aimed at comedian Leslie Jones last month, have all cast a renewed light on the troubles plaguing the social network and its inability to curtail online abuse.

As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told VentureBeat late last month, the company is “working on” improving the consistency of policy and technology to help curb harassment. On Thursday, fighting Twitter abuse was put slightly more into the hands of users with two new features: additional Notifications settings and a Quality Filter.

New Notifications Settings

Verified accounts have always had the ability to see Mentions from only select others; starting now, so does everyone else. Twitter is giving users the ability to limit Notifications to only those people they follow—removing spam and unsolicited Mentions from ever showing. Users need to opt-in to see only Mentions from Followed accounts by visiting their Notifications Timeline to make the change; otherwise, the user experience will remain unchanged.

Twitter is also bringing back a tabbed view to Notifications on desktop, showing users either All Notifications or just Mentions, depending on their selection.

Quality Filter

Also added to Notifications settings is a Quality Filter option. The Quality Filter appears to be a take on the filtered Timeline we’ve discussed before: Twitter will be algorithmically determining which tweets to show (and which to block) using “a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior”.

Twitter went on to say that automated and duplicate content may be filtered as well, which could, potentially, be bad news for brands using pre-schedulers for posting content. However, this may just be me reading too much into this statement, so don’t freak out just yet.

Unlike the Only Followers option for Mentions, the Quality Filter appears to be on by default.

Fighting Twitter Abuse: Will This Work?

Hiding the tweets of people that you or I do not follow, and algorithmically aiding in sorting out tweets based on “behavior”, is a great for step in fighting Twitter abuse for the average user. If we don’t see the harassment, can it really exist (cue tree falling in the forest gif)?

But, let’s look once again at Leslie Jones’ case. Celebrities, and others with Verified accounts, are on Twitter to interact with fans. Does the social network expect them to follow millions of them simply to see their Mentions? Because if they didn’t, those interactions, conceivably, either A) can’t exist or B) can only exist under the same threat of harassment there is today.

I don’t claim to have a better solution—and, for millions of us, this is certainly going to help—but, to be clear, fighting Twitter abuse will take more than this. It’s just good to see the company finally taking steps in the right direction.