June 10, 2023

Twitter moves forward on its plan to fight harassment and spam


Twitter’s new plan to tamp down harassment and spam on its platform is finally beginning to take shape.

Following last week’s slightly underwhelming update that allows users to report tweets that mention them even if they have been blocked, the company unveiled a set of new updates aimed at reducing the spread of harassment of spam and keeping the worst offenders off the platform.

To start, the company is “taking steps” to prevent those who have been permanently suspended from Twitter from creating new accounts. Now, Twitter is vague on the details around what these “steps” actually are (presumably to prevent people from circumventing them), but the move appears to be targeted at some of the site’s worst offenders.

“This focuses more effectively on some of the most prevalent and damaging forms of behavior, particularly accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others,” VP of Engineering Ed Ho, writes in a blog post.

If successful, the change could help address what has long been one of users’ chief complaints about abuse on the platform: that the worst harassers never really go away because they just make a new account once they are banned.

Twitter also identified two new features it’s working on to make it easier for people to control what they see on the platform. A new “safe search” feature blocks “potentially sensitive” tweets from search results, as well as those from accounts that you have muted or blocked.

Similarly, the company is also working on a feature that would minimize “potentially abusive and low-quality replies so the most relevant conversations are brought forward.” Meant to address spam as well as harassment and abuse, this would filter out replies Twitter deems as “low-quality,” though users could still choose to view these if they wished (you can see a preview of how it might look in the GIF, above.)

It’s not clear exactly when this will roll out — Twitter says users can expect to see it “in the coming weeks” — but the change is yet another sign Twitter is looking for more ways to algorithmically rank what its users see.

Though far from the first time Twitter has attempted to take on abusers head-on, CEO Jack Dorsey, who earlier said abuse is now a daily priority, is hoping the renewed effort in the fight against harassment will address some of the platform’s biggest issues and quiet the more vocal critics.

“Measuring our progress against abuse daily. Need to improve every day,” he wrote last month.

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