Twitter rolls out changes to silence abuse on its service

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Twitter hinted last week that it would soon more thoroughly address the issues of safety and abuse on its network, and today it has announced a series of changes to its service as a result. The company says that it will now stop the creation of new, abusive accounts, offer safer search results, and collapse abusive or low-quality tweets.

Often, people who create abusive accounts on Twitter return time and again, setting up new accounts under different usernames.

Twitter this morning says it’s now working to identify those permanently suspended accounts whose primary purpose is to abuse and harass others, and stop them from creating new accounts on its service. This would effectively cut down on online trolling, where it becomes a game of whack-a-mole to silence the handful of abusers who keep returning. It would also make getting permanently suspended more of a dead-end, rather than a mere inconvenience.

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Additionally, Twitter is rolling out “safe search” which will remove the tweets that contain sensitive content and tweets from blocked and muted accounts. This content isn’t gone from Twitter, to be clear, but you as the end user will be able to control whether or not you want to see it. (This will be configurable in users’ settings.)

Finally, Twitter says it’s working on identifying and collapsing low-quality and abusive replies, which will make following longer conversation threads more productive and more relevant. Again, these replies are not gone from Twitter – you can see them if you want – but they no longer have as much prominence. Essentially, Twitter is playing the role of quality filter here – highlighting the worthy conversations, and hiding those that are offensive, abusive and unhelpful.

This could put Twitter into precarious territory in this combative political era, where what one person is offended by is something others perceive as free speech. Twitter can effectively opt out of that debate, however, by claiming it’s not actually silencing voices – their posts are still there – but rather, it’s giving power to users who choose whether or not they want to see it.

These changes are not all available as of this morning, but are rolling out over the course of the days and weeks ahead, notes the company. It suggests that others may be on the way, as well, noting “some changes will be visible and some less so” in the days ahead.