Twitter has for long been at the receiving end of very rightly and vocally directed criticism for not doing enough to curb abuse and harassment on their platform. And very rightly so too. The increased instances of very vehement and often vitriolic abuse on the platform have had many users either go silent or leave the platform. So Twitter has taken it’s first steps towards addressing that today.
They made an announcement about these steps, in summary, they will be
- You’ll now be able to mute specific words — including other usernames — from your timeline, not just your notifications. You can mute words indefinitely, or for a day, week or month.
- You’ll be able to mute “eggs.” That is, accounts that still use the default Twitter egg avatar because they haven’t uploaded profile photos or images. You’ll also be able to mute accounts without confirmed email addresses or phone numbers. This at least adds a few more steps for trolls to get through.
- Twitter is increasing proactive measures — “working to identify accounts as they’re engaging in abusive behavior, even if this behavior hasn’t been reported to us” — and taking action, such as allowing only a person’s direct followers to see their tweets for a specific period of time. This is the equivalent of a Twitter “timeout,” which some users first started reporting a couple of weeks ago.
- Twitter is trying to communicate more of the things it’s doing, including notifications if Twitter takes action after a harassment report, whether you report abuse that has happened to you or to another user.
These changes are not going to be sufficient to address the whole problem, but Twitter taking these steps is a good beginning. We need to wait and watch though about whether or not these are effective. The bigger conundrum that is technically the elephant in the room is how much control is fine till it comes in the way of Freedom of Expression. A platform like twitter needs to understand that opinions are relative and extremely contextual things, one person’s nectar is another’s poison and therein lies the problem. Let us see what twitter has next in this direction.