Twitter gets tough in tackling internet trolls

Reuters/Kacper Pempel
Twitter has announced it is initiating new measures to stop users from receiving violent threats and abuse. These will include a new message filter and blocking the accounts of abusive users.

The new filter is being designed to prevent abusive messages from ever making it to anyone’s Twitter feed. The feature is still being tested, according to Shreyas Doshi, Twitter’s director of product management.

“We have begun to test a product feature to help us identify suspected abusive Tweets and limit their reach,” Doshi wrote in a Tuesday blog post, which announced the changes.

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So far, Twitter’s policy against abuse has been purely reactive, so if someone complains, then Twitter investigates. The new feature will help to prevent the harasser from making contact with the intended target.

Twitter is also introducing “an additional enforcement option”, which will allow its team “to lock abusive accounts for specific periods of time”.

“This option gives us leverage in a variety of contexts, particularly where multiple users begin harassing a particular person or group of people,” Doshi’s statement reads.

Twitter has also updated its policy on violent threats. In the past it was just “direct and specific” threats of violence, now this will be upgraded to “threats of violence against others or promoting violence against others.”

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Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo has been critical of the company’s poor record in dealing with abuse.

"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years,”
Costolo said in a leaked memo to staff. “It's no secret that the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."

Costolo has promised to get tough on trolls using the social media platform.

“We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them,” he wrote.

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A number of celebrities, including Stephen Fry and Matt Lucas, have recently announced they will leave the site after receiving abuse.

In March, in another move to protect its users from negative experiences, Twitter banned its users from posting ‘revenge porn’.

Its privacy section now says, “You may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subjects consent.”