Pando

Twitter makes it easier for verified users to avoid trolls

By Nathaniel Mott , written on March 24, 2015

From The News Desk

Twitter is testing a new feature that allows verified users to prevent abusive tweets that contain "threats, offensive or abusive language, duplicate content, or are sent from suspicious accounts" from cluttering their notifications tab.

ThinkUp co-founder Anil Dash first reported the feature. He says that he was prompted to check out the new filtering mechanism when he opened Twitter's iPhone app. It's not clear how many other verified users can access the feature; incoming verified Pando staffer Dennis Keohane said last night it's not available to him.

The feature is part of Twitter's continued efforts to address its harassment problem after CEO Dick Costolo said the company hasn't "effectively dealt with this problem even remotely to the degree we should have by now" in a series of posts made on Twitter's internal communications tool in February.

Some of those efforts include improvements to tools that make it easier to report "doxxing" or to share reports with law enforcement, a requirement that forces known trolls to confirm their phone number before allowing them to make an account, and updating Twitter's terms of service to ban revenge porn.

This feature differs in that, if it works like it's supposed to, it automatically improves a user's experience on Twitter. They don't have to report abuse or wait for the company to ban trolls from its service -- all they have to do is flip a switch and watch the vitriol algo-magically disappear from their notifications.

There are some risks associated with this feature. Preventing someone from hearing from their abusers on Twitter doesn't make that abuse disappear, and in some cases, it might follow people into their everyday lives. (Teenagers who are somehow verified, or use this feature when it expands to other users, come to mind.) And it's not clear how Twitter will determine what "abuse" really is.

But at least the company is doing something about its harassment problem that doesn't require more work on its users' part. Providing better reporting tools is great; making it so Twitter users aren't dragged into a digital cess pool every time they check their notifications would be even better.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]