Twitter Adds New Punishment for Abusive Accounts

Twitter has a new strategy to crack down on abusive behavior on its service: The company started to temporarily limit the reach of accounts that are found to be abusive, preventing them from further harassing users that don’t follow them. The new policy was first reported by BuzzFeed.

A number of users that were deemed to have violated Twitter’s rules got notified in recent days that their tweets would only be displayed to their followers. This effectively renders retweets useless, and also makes it impossible for potential abusers to tag users who don’t follow them in order to show up in their mentions.

Effectively, the new policy introduces a kind of penalty box. Screenshots shared on Twitter show that some users were under these restrictions for 12 hours, after which normal privileges are being restored.

Twitter users have long urged the company to do more against hate and harassment on the platform, and the company has struggled to fight the right response to these concerns. Earlier this week, Twitter briefly introduced a new safety feature that immediately was criticized by many of its users, leading the company to roll back these changes just hours later.

However, this new penalty box could actually go a long way towards curtailing targeted harassment, especially if these kinds of restrictions are being enacted in a timely manner. Twitter told BuzzFeed that it is not just looking at a list of words, but also specific patterns of behavior, to determine whether an account should be limited. This suggest that the company may be able to quickly detect certain patterns of abuse — for example users who prompt their followers to target a certain person — and then respond appropriately.

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