Twitter is introducing changes to its service to combat harassment this week, according to vice president of engineering at the company Ed Ho. Ho said that the company would rollout product changes that fix the mute/block feature and stop repeat offenders from creating new accounts.
This week, we’ll tackle long overdue fixes to mute/block and stopping repeat offenders from creating new accounts.
— Ed Ho (@mrdonut) January 31, 2017
According to Ho making Twitter a ‘safer place’ is the company’s primary focus now, saying “We heard you, we didn’t move fast enough last year; now we’re thinking about progress in days and hours not weeks and months.” CEO Jack Dorsey also confirmed the development.
Measuring our progress against abuse daily. Need to improve every day https://t.co/ZdrakWVkIW
— jack (@jack) January 31, 2017
This is a remarkable departure from Twitter more traditional 3-4 times a year updates. The company, at various times, has got flak for being slow in taking down hateful content. Twitter said in November that “because Twitter happens in public and in real-time, we’ve had some challenges keeping up with and curbing abusive conduct. We took a step back to reset and take a new approach, find and focus on the most critical needs, and rapidly improve.” At the time the company started allowing users to selectively mute words, and report abuse directly.
However, we had said then that Twitter’s approach shied away from censoring hateful content itself, rather leaving it up to the user to view the content, and then decide to mute it. Hopefully the new updates will take a more proactive policy like automatically filtering out hateful content, especially the really bigoted stuff, which would be more useful.
In August last year, Twitter said it suspended 235,000 accounts for promoting terrorism and had done the same with 125,000 accounts in February. In 2015, it improved its harassment-reporting process which included issues like “impersonation, self-harm and the sharing of private and confidential information”. The company recently also suspended the accounts of notable trolls like Martin Shkreli and Milo Yiannopoulos in cases of high profile harassment.