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Twitter Finally Responds To Harassment With More Than A Shrug

Twitter users can now use quality filters to keep abusive content out of their mentions.

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Twitter has answered the wishes of everyone who ever wanted to hide a troll’s hateful tweet from creeping up in their mentions. The micro-blogging site rolled out a new quality filter feature Thursday that allows users to control what content they see.

The feature, which was first released in 2015 but only available to verified users, works almost like a protective bubble — blocking messages from unfamiliar accounts. In a blog post announcing the change, Twitter wrote:

When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience.

The quality filter doesn’t work on people you follow or accounts the user recently interacted with. That includes messages from accounts with which you debated or argued. Twitter released a second feature, however, that lets users limit their notifications to only the people they follow. These changes will likely be most effective against spam, bots, and accounts of people who primarily sling obscenities or slurs at other users.

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The new features comes after much public debate and pleas for more tools that prevent harassment. Just last month, actress and comedian Leslie Jones threatened to leave Twitter after receiving a barrage of racist and sexist tweets following the Ghostbusters reboot. Jones was the latest celebrity motivated to leave the platform because of harassment.

But such celebrity departures only punctuate what Twitter users, particularly women, have experienced for years and criticized the site for not addressing. Twitter has responded by tweaking its policies to make it easier to report abuse, cracking down on bullying accounts, and rolling out anti-harassment tools for more than a year.

Twitter’s features debuted Thursday stand to be some of the strongest tools available that will strain the more egregiously offensive or threatening messages users get unsolicited. But that won’t cure the platform’s rampant harassment problem.

Buzzfeed recently chronicled Twitter’s 10-year history with harassment and abuse and found that the site’s reluctance to create better user tools was at the root of the problem. Twitter retorted in a statement, saying Buzzfeed’s exposé had “inaccuracies” and “unfair portrayals,” but that the site has “a lot of work to do.”