Twitter takes on trolls in latest move to curb abuse
Published 23/04/2015 | 02:30
Twitter is to lock abusive users out of their accounts as part of a new initiative to combat abusive messages and threats to users.
Support team members now have the option to block users seen to be sending abusive messages for specific periods of time from their accounts, and may ask the offender to delete certain tweets before they can continue using the service.
The site said it was also updating its violent threats policy to include "threats of violence against others or promoting violence against others", whereas its past policy was limited to "direct and specific" threats of violence.
Shreyas Doshi, Twitter's director of product management, said identifying and limiting the incentives for trolls to send abusive messages was a priority for the site, and that it would monitor how the changes discourage abuse.
A new filter designed to prevent abusive messages from newly created accounts, or that use language that has been previously determined to be harmful from reaching users has also been implemented. If users actively want to see all their '@' mentions, they can search for their handle.
Last month the site introduced a filter designed to "remove all tweets from your notifications timeline that contain threats, offensive or abuse language, duplicate content, or are sent from suspicious accounts" for verified users.
The filter could result in celebrities and other public figures receiving significantly fewer abusive tweets.
Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry and Robin Williams' daughter Zelda are among those who have previously announced their intent to leave the site after receiving abusive messages.
Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo recently admitted that the platform "sucks" when it comes to tackling online trolls.
"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years," Mr Costolo said in a leaked memo to staff.
"It's no secret that the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."
The company recently banned its users from posting 'revenge porn', updating its privacy section to state: "you may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject's consent."
Users who violate the new revenge porn rules will have their accounts locked unless they delete the offending information. Those who repeatedly post such material will see their accounts suspended.
Meanwhile, all Twitter users can now receive direct private messages from people they don't follow following a change to the service announced yesterday. Previously users could only direct message users they followed, and who followed them back. Users will have to opt out of the update, by turning off the 'receive direct messages from anyone' option on the site's privacy settings.
Tech sites have suggested the new private messaging option could allow big companies - and even celebrities - to advertise directly into your inbox. This could appeal to those who worry their messages are rapidly lost in Twitter's constantly updating feed. But it also heightens the risk of spam. And many are concerned about the potential for heightened online abuse.
Former Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins have introduced bills aimed at tackling online abuse.