While Twitter provides a quick and easy-to-use forum for sharing breaking news and other important information, it's also proven to be an effective weapon for trolls, harassers and anonymous haters. With several recent high-profile incidents highlighting the need for stronger abuse protections, Twitter on Tuesday announced that it is rolling out some changes to "make your Twitter experience safer."
Starting this week with a small group of users, Twitter is introducing a more streamlined and mobile-friendly way for users to flag tweets and accounts for content violation reviews. It's also adding more features and controls to its blocked accounts page that shows users which accounts cannot view their profiles.
The company will roll out those changes to all users in the coming weeks, said Shreyas Doshi, Twitter's Director of Product Management and User Safety, in a blog post. He added that additional changes to user controls, reporting and enforcement procedures will be made over the next few months.
Reporting Enabled in 2013
The ease of using Twitter enables people to create multiple accounts under numerous user names, which some have used to target and harass others online. Even after Twitter suspends an account for violating its rules and policies, a user can quickly create and launch a new account under a different name to continue the harassment.
Such users have been blamed for ongoing verbal attacks and threats against a number of women in the gaming community, called GamerGate. Comedian Robin Williams' daughter, Zelda, was also the target of abuse from a number of Twitter users following her father's suicide in August.
Under pressure to do more to prevent such online abuse, Twitter initiated a process for reporting incidents in 2013. However, critics have noted that the reporting process was not especially quick or easy to use, especially on mobile devices.
Targeting 'Targeted Abuse'
"Everything that happens in the world, happens on Twitter -- to the tune of more than 500 million Tweets every day," Doshi said in the blog post. "That can sometimes include content that violates our rules around harassment and abuse . . . So, we're improving the reporting process to make it much more mobile-friendly, require less initial information, and, overall, make it simpler to flag tweets and accounts for review."
Doshi added that Twitter is also making changes to "improve the reporting process for those who observe abuse but aren't receiving it directly."
Twitter has 284 million monthly active users, 80 percent of whom use mobile devices. Its rules and policies outline a number of behaviors that users should not engage in, including impersonation of others, "specific threats of violences against others" and "targeted abuse." However, policing these through its review process has sometimes proven difficult or time-consuming.
"We are nowhere near being done making changes in this area," Doshi noted. "We'll continue to work hard on these changes in order to improve the experience of people who encounter abuse on Twitter."