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Twitter Explains How It Will Mute Online Trolls

Twitter has a new strategy to fight abusive trolling: The company plans top bury tweets from trolls, making them less visible in conversations and search results, even if these individual tweets don’t violate Twitter’s policies.

“Less than 1% of accounts make up the majority of accounts reported for abuse, but a lot of what’s reported does not violate our rules,” the company wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “While still a small overall number, these accounts have a disproportionately large – and negative – impact on people’s experience on Twitter.”

To catch trolls in the act, Twitter is now using algorithms that detect suspicious behavior regardless of the content of the actual tweets. This includes users who open up accounts without verifying their email address, users who open up multiple accounts at the same time, and users who repeatedly tweet at someone who doesn’t follow them. “We’re also looking at how accounts are connected to those that violate our rules and how they interact with each other,” the company said.

Once a company identifies a user as a troll, their tweets won’t show up in public conversations, and will be hidden from search results. However, other Twitter users can still read their tweets by clicking on “show more replies” within a conversation, or tweak their search settings to do the same. “The result is that people contributing to the healthy conversation will be more visible in conversations and search,” Tuesday’s blog post reads.

Twitter has been testing this kind of muting in select markets over the past couple of months, and seen a notable drop in abuse reports, suggesting that tweets from trolls simply don’t disrupt conversations as much anymore.

Whether that’s enough to solve the service’s abuse problems remains to be seen. In the past, Twitter users often complained that blatant hate speech and abuse remained on the service even after being reported. In March, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that the company’s past response had been inadequate. “We didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences,” he said.

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