Announcing a crackdown on online abuse, micro-blogging giant Twitter has announced a new filter function that will automatically prevent the users from seeing threatening messages, The Guardian reports. The social media company is also banning indirect threats of violence and introducing temporary suspensions for the accounts that violate its policies.
The new feature, which can't be turned off, will filter all the notifications of Twitter's 288 million users for any abusive content and messages directed at them, marking the company's effort to tackle online abuse.
According to The Guardian, the latest overhaul of Twitter’s safety features comes after a leaked memo from the company’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, laid out in frank language its failures to get on top of harassment on the site. "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we’ve sucked at it for years," Costolo wrote.
"I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing."
The filtering function will work on the premise of matching language of tweets to the previously flagged messages, thus preventing the abusive tweet to appear in the directed user's notifications. However, the filtered tweets will still exist on the service, and won't be deleted.
"This feature takes into account a wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse including the age of the account itself, and the similarity of a Tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive," said Shreyas Doshi, the company’s head of product management, the report says.
In addition to the new filter, the company has also rolled out two further changes to its policies - firstly, the tightening of rules against making threats and secondly, introduction of a new tier of sanction for the users who breach the company's terms of service.
While the "direct, specific threats of violence against others" have always been banned on the service, the policy change will extend the prohibition to "threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others."
Temporary suspension of users
The second policy change is sort of a middle ground for dealing with the violating user's account. Before this, the company had only two ways - ban an account or refrain from taking action - if a user violated the company's terms of service, but with the new move Twitter will temporarily suspend those users who it does not feel justify a full ban from service.
Twitter's rolling out of new safety measures to act tough on the cases of abuse, racist comments, threats of violence and misogynistic remarks might have come as a respite for victims of online abuse but the company is currently in the midst of a raging debate about allowing direct messages from any Twitter user to another, irrespective of following that user or not.
While the option to receive direct messages from non-followers is currently turned off by default, a user has to change his settings manually in order to receive messages from any and everyone.
Direct Message feature expanded
However, many Twitter users have expressed their anguish over the Direct Message feature saying the company has not disclosed any framework for tackling the issues of abuse and online harassment under this feature.
According to New York Times , Twitter says that to protect users from unwanted messages, if a person deletes a message string from someone who is not a mutual connection, that essentially blocks the other party from sending further private messages.
It could have upped security protocol to make sure that users sending DMs have some accountability by requiring a phone number or a minimum time as a registered user on the site. It could have been more transparent about how exactly blocking and reporting within DMs will work, or it could have fixed any of the myriad other problems with the product, a report in The Vox says. "We have lots more in the works to improve Direct Messages on Twitter, so that the private side of Twitter is just as fulfilling as the public side," a Twitter blog reads.