Twitter promised earlier this year that it would have stricter policies regarding trolling and abuse that occurs online. Some of this new policy includes new privacy and security features. Specifically, tweets of “lower quality” will receive lower visibility on the platform. Other measures include safe search, temporarily banning accounts, and allowing users to choose the type of posts they want to view.
Overall, these new policies and features are small. Combined together though, these measures are much more impactful on the overall Twitter experience. These tools definitely allow users to choose what they want to see and make it much more open to people.
The newest feature that Twitter added was the ability to not see content deemed offensive and the ability to block accounts. Now, content deemed offensive can still be seen, but it will be covered by a warning stating that the post contains offensive content. This gives users an opportunity to not view the post if they do not desire.
Blocking accounts is a different feature and more contentious. It leaves the choice of blocking up to the user, which is great. Though the specific process behind some of the other features has led to more than a few questions from the Twitter community.
Specifically, users have complained that Twitter has not provided any notice that their accounts have been removed from the Twitter public sphere. More troubling, Twitter has not released anything specific about why an account might get flagged and effectively banned from the platform. It also does not mention when the feature has been used on an account. Both of these issues can be frustrating for a user.
This particular can really negatively businesses because they specifically want to have the biggest reach possible and target as many people as they can. However, they would not know the extent that their account has been hidden from other Twitter users. Again, this specific feature is only in the testing phase, which means that there is plenty of time for Twitter to figure out how to make this plan feasible for all their users.
Now, the reason behind this sudden push to make Twitter a friendlier place is that Twitter’s new goal is to make their platform a much safer place for users. Ed Ho, Twitter’s vice president of engineering, wants to balance freedom of expression with stopping online abuse and harassment.
Offensive Content Warnings
A major issue that Twitter faces is that they have an extremely high profile user that has been accused of abuse and harassment. In fact, this user is so high profile that he probably cannot be banned from the profile. The user is the President of the United States, Donald Trump. Twitter is in a tough spot with President Trump’s account. They surely like the attention that the President brings to the platform; many people visit Twitter just to check his account. However, it may cause other users to distress due to his biased and divisive tweets. These people actually retweets on their Twitter accounts so their content gets pushed even farther into the mainstream audience.
Twitter has been banning other far-right extremists though. They banned Milo Yiannopoulous, the former editor of right-wing website Breitbart News for instructing his followers to abuse specific Twitter users. Twitter has also suspended some leaders of the “alt-right” political movement.
The banning of accounts has not stopped with right-wing extremists. In fact, Twitter has banned many accounts that promote extremism and terrorism.
The new measures that Twitter has implemented have not come without a choir of critics. Tech pundits have said that Twitter has gone too far with its new anti-abuse features and stated that the system must protect free speech despite the fact that much of the content is offensive and trolling. These pundits have said that Twitter simply has to give users the option to block accounts, which would stop the user from seeing offensive and abusive content.
Overall, many Twitter users definitely feel happy that the platform has stopped the trolling and abuse. These issues have plagued the platform since its beginning despite many users calling for Twitter to do something. In fact, this lack of change and innovation is a big reason that the platform’s growth has stalled according to many experts.
No Easy Solution
Twitter is stuck in dilemma. If they fix the issues, then they get called out for restricting free speech at the expense of curbing offensive content. However, letting the issues fester on the site will only result in even more problems, but will satisfy the calls for keeping free speech on the platform.
Anyway, Twitter still faces the issue of their algorithm not being 100% perfect. Many users have discovered ways that they can get around the algorithm or bans. Some users will create second accounts, but a more popular method is to use the algorithm against Twitter. This can be done by mass blocking accounts, which will trigger a Twitter suspension.
Another popular method to manipulate the algorithm is to purchase artificial engagement. This is because Twitter still relies on engagement metrics to determine trending hashtags. Twitter is somewhat powerless to stop this type of abuse. They cannot simply ban accounts that purchase artificial engagement because competitors would do that to their competition. This leaves Twitter in a difficult situation with accounts being able to purchase engagement that can cause the rise of false stories or even the rise of trolling hashtags.
Twitter’s Strategy Going Forward
Twitter is in a difficult situation. They cannot simply ban all the hateful content as that will surely lower their active user count. However, they cannot allow the hateful users to swarm Twitter as that will drive off many users.
They really are in a tough spot with the environment that they have created. This is mostly caused by the hands-off approach that they took to managing their community for the past decade, which worked fine in the past. Times are changing though and people will not support a platform that harbors offensive users and does not anything about trolling.