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Twitter Says It’s Trying Three Things to Combat Trolls

For starters, once you’ve been banned for abusive content, you won’t be allowed back.
February 7, 2017
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

Trolls have flourished on Twitter, and on Tuesday the social network outlined changes it is making to fight harassment perpetuated by some of its users. The changes include preventing those who have been banned from getting back on the site, and concealing nasty tweets from search results.

In a blog post, Twitter’s vice president of engineering, Ed Ho, said that Twitter is “taking steps” to stop people who have been permanently suspended from the site due to abusive behavior from making new accounts (he did not identify what these steps are, however). He also said the company is building a feature called “safe search” that leaves out tweets from accounts that have been blocked and muted as well as “potentially sensitive content,” and that Twitter will start picking out and concealing “potentially abusive and low-quality” replies to tweets by collapsing them.

“We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic. That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices,” he said.

Though it’s still small compared to Facebook—it has just 313 million active users each month compared to Facebook’s 1.9 billion—Twitter hosts a range of hateful attacks, many of which sprung up in tandem with the political ascent of President Donald Trump, who is known for his rejection of political correctness. For example, a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League noted that there were 2.6 million tweets containing anti-Semitic language alone between August 2015 and July 2016, and a “significant uptick” from January to July 2016.

The changes, which will be rolled out in upcoming days and weeks, come a week after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that the company was “taking a completely new approach to abuse.” Ho admitted via tweet that Twitter “didn’t move fast enough” last year to crack down on abusive behavior, which has flourished on the social network.

In November, the company expanded its “mute” feature to go beyond simply hiding accounts users don’t want to see to letting them choose words and phrases they don’t want to view in notifications. And last week, the company started allowing users to report tweets that mention them, regardless of whether that user has been been blocked by the person who wrote the tweet.

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