Earlier this week, Twitter made an announcement it was removing a feature often used for online harassment. And then they brought it back just a few hours later after users complained.
Making the announcement from their Twitter Safety account, Twitter said Monday morning that users would no longer receive notifications when another user added them to a list. “We want you to get notifications that matter,” Twitter said, implying that the site’s “list” feature wasn’t useful. And given how hidden the feature was, it’s likely most users weren’t taking advantage of it anyway.
In the past, Twitter allows users to create custom “lists” on their account and add any other user to it. Once another user was added, they received a notification and saw the name of the list they were on. Here’s how it led to harassment: say you Tweeted something in support of Donald Trump. Another user could add you to a list titled “Ignorant Racists,” and you’d see that. Support Hillary Clinton on Twitter and maybe you’re added to a “Stupid Trash” list by another user. While those two examples are mostly innocuous, it’s not hard to see how a user could create a much more offensive and abusive list to add people to.
But then just two hours after they announced they were taking the feature away, Twitter announced lists would return. “This was a misstep,” Twitter’s safety account said. “We’re rolling back the change and we’ll keep listening.” Dozens of people voiced concern that the list notifications were useful in helping target people who habitually participated in harassment online.
One of the biggest complaints Twitter faces today is that harassment on the site goes largely unchecked. So even if this change didn’t stick, it’s nice to see that Twitter is taking initiative to weed out the trolls.