Calling it “long overdue,” Twitter vice president of engineering Ed Ho has announced a plan to combat harassment and trolling on the platform. Ho didn’t go in to specifics, but said in a series of Tweets that more would be revealed in the coming weeks as changes actually roll out.
If you’ve been on social media for any length of time, browsed the comments section on a news article, or read a personal blog, you know online harassment is nothing new. But Twitter has long been criticized giving users an unprecedented voice for hatred and harassment, especially when it comes to celebrities and notable public figures. Want to send a hateful, racist straight to a celebrity? It’s just a click away. Former CEO Dick Costolo even went so far recently as to apologize for not taking efforts to curb harassment sooner. But it looks like that’s about to change.
Likely the most important aspect of the new feature is the ability to go beyond blocking or deleting a profile, but to prevent repeat offenders from just creating new accounts. Some changes will be immediately visible, he said, some less so.
As another step towards combating harassment, Twitter recently updated their “hateful conduct” policy to include stronger wording – how and when Twitter can crack down on what it deems hate speech. In the future, users will have more options to flag offensive or abusive Tweets, giving Twitter an opportunity to act faster.
Noting that Twitter needs to be a “safer place” Ho assured users that the issue of harassment on the social platform would be investigated with “more urgency than ever.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey added that the company was “taking a completely new approach to abuse on Twitter. Including having a more open and real-time dialogue about it every step of the way.”
One of the more interesting features is the ability for a user to block a specific word or topic from appearing in their feed. Don’t want to see arguments about politics? You can turn that topic off.
Ultimately though, Twitter execs want to make sure the platform remains as a way for people to share their voice – just without being abusive. “Twitter has delivered on that promise of showing more of the conversations,” CEO Jack Dorsey said. “The best of democracies and also the worst.”