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Twitter roundup: Policy update and “While you were away” Highlights

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Twitter has updated its product and policy in order to address abuse and prohibited content. The first policy update will deal with violent threats. The company will be monitoring and evaluating the changes in real time to keep track of abuse and ensure greater participation from its users.

It will now include “threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others” to add to the previous policy of prohibition of “direct, specific threats of violence against others”. This inclusion, Twitter adds, will address the company’s actions on abuse better. Twitter will also lock abusive accounts for specific periods of time which includes cases where multiple users harass a person or group of people.

Twitter is also testing a product feature which will help in identifying suspected abusive tweets and “limit their reach”. It will identify these on the basis of “signals and contexts” co-relating to abuse. Some of the factors will include age of the account and similarity of tweets to previously identified abusive tweets. The company said that this would not affect the user’s ability to see content which the user intends to follow but will limit the “potential harm of abusive content” from reaching a user. It says that through this feature, the content will not be discriminated against on the basis of controversy or unpopularity.

Ars Technica reports that this feature description appears to focus on “sockpuppet” accounts- accounts created for the purpose of amplifying other users’ statements with flippant “normal” tweets attached in order to make the account appear legitimate.

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In February, Twitter updated its harassment-reporting process which included issues like “impersonation, self-harm and the sharing of private and confidential information”. Temporarily banned users would need to verify their email or phone number in order to start using Twitter again and some users could also be banned permanently. Blocked account users would not be able to see the profile of a user who had reported them, the company had announced in December.

A month later, Twitter updated its privacy policy to take down non-consensual nude photos as well as non-consensual videos of sexual acts. In the same month, Twitter made it easier to report threatening tweets directed at its users which could need attention from law enforcement. It said that Twitter’s summary report “hoped to ease the process” where its users, in need of physical safety, were looking to file police reports about the threat/harm to them.

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Twitter has introduced Highlights, a feature which will push rich notifications to its users to catch up on stuff relevant to its users. This is possible for Twitter by checking the user’s following accounts, popular conversations among following users, tweets from people “the user is closely tied to”, topics and events trending in the user’s area or network and popular or trending people from accounts the user follows.

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For this, a user needs to opt in to receive Highlights. Upon opting in, you will receive a notification up to twice a day on the phone informing that the Highlights are ready. Opening the notification will take the user to the app where Highlights will be displayed in a new interface. You can view them by swiping right to left and on hitting the last Highlight, the user will be taken to his timeline after a swipe. The company said that these will be available for all Android users in English and it will “consider bringing the feature to other platforms in the future”.

Image Credit: Flickr user Robert Scoble and Twitter

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