×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Twitter Adds New Ways to Block, Report Abusive and Racist Trolls

Twitter is finally taking more aggressive steps to address one of its biggest pain points — introducing new tools to curb hateful and abusive attacks on the service — although it remains to be seen if the efforts will help the social-media player jump-start growth in its user base.

Over the past few years, the “amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment we’ve seen across the Internet has risen sharply over the past few years,” Twitter said in a blog post Tuesday. “Because Twitter happens in public and in real-time, we’ve had some challenges keeping up with and curbing abusive conduct.”

Now Twitter says it has moved to thwart trolls in three ways: It’s letting users “mute” notifications based on keywords, phrases, and entire conversations; it is making it easier to report abusive users by specifically flagging hateful conduct; and the company says it has retrained its support team to identify hateful conduct on Twitter.

However, Twitter said, it doesn’t expect the steps will “suddenly remove abusive conduct” from the service. “No single action by us would do that. Instead we commit to rapidly improving Twitter based on everything we observe and learn,” the company said.

The steps come after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this summer acknowledged that the company’s efforts in cracking down on hateful and abusive attacks on the social service haven’t gone far enough. “No one deserves to be the target of abuse on Twitter,” he said on the company’s quarterly call in July. “We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we need to do better.”

Twitter’s troll problem hasn’t just hurt user growth: It was a factor in Disney’s decision last month to abandon talks to acquire the company, because the Mouse House was concerned its family-friendly brand would be tarnished, according to a Bloomberg report.

For Twitter, one of the highest-profile examples of abusive behavior occurred earlier this year, when actress Leslie Jones (of “Saturday Night Live” and “Ghostbusters”) was targeted with numerous racist comments on Twitter — prompting her to leave the service. Twitter subsequently banned conservative columnist Milo Yiannopoulos and other accounts over the attacks, after which Jones resumed tweeting.

Twitter has previously provided the “mute” feature, which lets users filter out tweets from specific accounts. Now, Twitter users will be able to screen out notifications for undesirable tweets based on keywords, phrases, and conversations; the company said it will roll the feature out to all users over the next few days.

In addition, Twitter said it is giving users a more direct way to report hateful conduct — not only for tweets directed at their own accounts, but for any posts on the service. That will help “reduce the burden on the person experiencing the abuse, and helps to strengthen a culture of collective support on Twitter,” the company said.

The company also said it has retrained all support teams on its hate-speech policies, including hosting special sessions on “cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct.” Twitter’s terms of use prohibit posts that target people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.

“We honor our role in protecting your right to speak freely, and our collective responsibility to human dignity,” Twitter said in its blog post Tuesday.

Making Twitter a safer place should help boost its number of active users and increase engagement on the service. Its user growth has remained stuck in low gear, especially compared with gains by Facebook: Twitter tallied 317 million monthly active users worldwide for the third quarter of 2016, up only 3% year-over-year.

More Digital

  • Vaccination

    YouTube Yanks Ads From Anti-Vaccination Conspiracy Channels

    YouTube, under fire for facilitating the spread of conspiracy theories and other misinformation, said it will no longer serve ads on channels that espouse anti-vaccination rhetoric. The Google-owned video giant cited its advertising policy that bans “dangerous and harmful” content from eligibility in its monetization program. “We have strict policies that govern what videos we [...]

  • Evan Williams, Twitter founder (R) and

    Twitter Co-Founder Evan Williams Steps Down From Company’s Board

    Twitter co-founder Evan “Ev” Williams is stepping down from the company’s board, Twitter announced in a SEC filing Friday afternoon. Williams will depart from the board at the end of this month, according to the filing. “It’s been an incredible 13 years, and I’m proud of what Twitter has accomplished during my time with the [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Facebook Shuts Down Controversial Ovano VPN App

    Responding to a continued backlash over its data collection practices, Facebook pulled the plug on its Ovano VPN app Friday. Ovano, which promised users an added level of privacy while using public Wifi hotspots, was used by Facebook for market research purposes. Facebook removed the app from the Google Play store Friday, and the company [...]

  • Smosh

    Smosh Acquired by Rhett & Link's Mythical Entertainment

    UPDATED: Smosh, the long-running YouTube comedy brand, has been acquired by Mythical Entertainment, the company formed by Rhett & Link, hosts of comedy show “Good Mythical Morning.” As first reported by Variety last week, Mythical emerged as the leading candidate to buy Smosh, which was left stranded after parent company Defy Media shut down without [...]

  • China Video Streaming Giant iQIYI Loses

    Chinese Video Giant iQIYI Loses $1.3 Billion in 2018

    Chinese video streaming firm iQIYI lost over $1.3 billion in 2018, as revenues and subscriber numbers ballooned. The deepening losses reflected ever higher spending on original content production. Announcing its first full-year financials since a March IPO that launched it onto the NASDAQ, iQIYI said that it lost $1.3 billion (RMB9.1 billion) last compared with [...]

  • Roku headquarters

    Roku Aims to Top $1 Billion in Revenue in 2019, Beats Holiday Quarter Earnings Expectations

    Roku wants to become a billion-dollar company in 2019, and invest more in its ongoing international expansion. The streaming-device maker told investors on Thursday that it expects to generate between $1 billion and $1.025 billion this year, and that international growth was one of its key investment areas for 2019. Roku made these announcements as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content