Twitter reveals new plans to crack down on abusive trolls

A study has found that the majority of social media abuse occurs on Twitter.

Twitter has announced new steps it is taking to reduce the abuse it says "stifles and silences" voices on the social media platform.

The site has developed an unwanted reputation of being a forum for hate speech and harassment, and said that while it still stands for freedom of expression and varied debate, its primary focus is now "making Twitter a safer place."

In an announcement Tuesday, the social media site said freedom of expression is "put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence ... voices," adding that "we won't tolerate it."

In November, Twitter expanded its "mute" button to include notifications, enabling people to filter out certain words, phrases and even entire conversations, and also launched a new system for users to report abusive conduct.

This week it is introducing three new measures, which are as follows:

  • Stopping the creation of new, abusive accounts: The company has taken steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended from the platform and will stop them creating new accounts, which are often created solely to abuse and harass others.
  • Safer search results: Introducing a "safe search" will remove tweets that contain potentially sensitive content.
  • "Collapsing" potentially abusive or "low-quality" tweets: This won't censor abusive or harassing tweets as such, but will make them harder to find by basically hiding them from your timeline and conversations, leaving the user to choose to view them if they so wish. Twitter doesn't give any guidelines on what it considers "low-quality" tweets, however.

Twitter already has a "hateful conduct policy" that prohibits tweets that target people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease, and threatens violence or harm, though it relies on people reporting such conduct to its monitors.

The firm has been criticized in the past for failing to act even when abuse is reported.

Analysis by Women, Action and Media found in 2015 that Twitter chose not to take action on 45 percent of reported online abuse, according the Washington Post, with victims generally receiving an email stating "we’ve investigated the account and found that it’s not violating Twitter Rules."

Also in 2015, a study of 134,000 instances of online abuse found that 88 percent of them occurred on Twitter, Business Insider reports, with only a small fraction happening on other sites like Facebook, where it is harder to conceal your identity.

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