Twitter Moves Again To Clamp Down on Abuse, Hate Speech
By Shirley Siluk / CIO Today. Updated February 07, 2017.
While other online sites like Google and Facebook struggle to find effective ways to stop "fake news" without censorship, Twitter's biggest challenge has always been stopping hateful and abusive comments without silencing freedom of expression.
Announced today, Twitter's latest effort includes a change designed to prevent suspended users from repeatedly returning under new account names. Twitter will also give users new abilities to filter out potentially offensive content via "safe search," and will work to hide -- though not delete -- conversations that might be abusive.
Twitter has faced criticism for years that it doesn't do enough to prevent attacks, threats and hate speech directed at some users, especially at women, people of color and other minorities. Last year, at least two potential buyers, Disney and Salesforce, reportedly backed away from acquisition plans due to such concerns.
Progress in 'Days and Hours'
"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," Twitter vice president of engineering Ed Ho said in a string of tweets last week. "We'll listen, learn and keep shipping until we've made a significant impact that people can feel."
Today, Ho provided more details about the latest changes Twitter is rolling out. For example, the company is taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended for abusive or harassing behavior so they cannot simply create new accounts to continue such behavior, he said.
Another change will allow users to opt for "safe search" results that hide potentially sensitive content as well as tweets from blocked or muted accounts. In the coming weeks, abusive and "low-quality" replies will also be collapsed in conversations, although those comments can still be viewed if users choose to do so.
Performance Update Later this Week
Like other social media properties, Twitter was used heavily in the run-up to November's presidential election. The company reported in November that U.S.-based users had sent 1 billion election-related tweets since the primary debates in August 2015, with foreign affairs, terrorism and the U.S. economy identified as the top three topics for tweets.
The site is also heavily used by President Donald Trump, although the president has also singled out the company for criticism. In December, for instance, Twitter was notably absent from a sit-down that Trump held with leading tech executives ahead of his inauguration.
Twitter has found it harder to grow its user base than competitors like Facebook or Instagram. However, Twitter reported in October that both revenues and daily usage had grown in Q3 2016, attributing those increases to product improvements and organic growth.
Another update on Twitter's performance is expected Thursday, when the company is set to report its Q4 and fiscal year 2016 financial results.