In its ongoing battle to reduce online abuse, Twitter is now making it possible for users to share lists of blocked accounts with one another. The new feature began rolling out Wednesday and is expected to be available to all users over the next few weeks.
Twitter has made a number of changes in recent months aimed at curbing harassment and abusive behavior on its site. The moves have come in the wake of several high-profile users leaving Twitter after becoming targets of trolls and attack Tweets.
Zelda Williams, daughter of the late actor/comedian Robin Williams, for example, deleted her Twitter account after receiving numerous abusive messages following her father's suicide last year. A leaked internal memo from CEO Dick Costolo earlier this year included an acknowledgment that the company "sucks" at "dealing with abuse and trolls."
Need for 'More Sophisticated Tools'
Twitter already offers mute and block tools to help users avoid unwanted, offensive and abusive comments from other accounts. The ease of setting up new Twitter accounts, however, can allow blocked trolls to quickly get up and running again.
"While many users find [mute and block] useful, we also recognize that some users -- those who experience high volumes of unwanted interactions on Twitter -- need more sophisticated tools," Twitter user safety engineer Xiaoyun Zhang said Wednesday on the company's blog. "That's where this new feature comes in."
The new Twitter feature allows users to export their block lists to share with other users on their community lists. Users can also import others' block lists into their own accounts. The feature enables blocking of multiple accounts all at once, rather than on an individual, account-by-account basis.
Also Useful for Developers
Additionally, the new block list sharing feature "will prove useful to the developer community to further improve users' experience," Zhang said. "This feature is yet another step towards making Twitter safer for everyone."
In December Twitter launched a new settings page for blocked accounts and changed its rules to prevent blocked users from being able to view the blockers' profiles. In April, the company also strengthened its definitions of prohibited content and added new enforcement powers that let its support team lock abusive accounts for specific periods of time.
Zhang said Twitter is "also working on additional user controls and we look forward to sharing more information about those in the near future."
Online abuse and harassment is a common part of online life, according to an October survey by the Pew Research Center. Some 73 percent of adult Internet users in the U.S. have reported witnessing online harassment, while 40 percent have experienced it personally, according to the survey.