Twitter outlines clean-up plans: intercepting abuse and a mute tweet button

New algorithms and tools mean Twitter can now intercept an estimated 38% of all abusive tweets

Twitter has switched from a passive to a proactive stance on offensive tweets by beginning a process of pre-emptively deleting tweets deemed to be abusive, ending its reliance on citizen sheriffs to weed out bad actors.

New algorithms and tools mean Twitter can now intercept an estimated 38% of all abusive tweets which were subsequently taken down, a marked improvement on the year before when the service was entirely reliant on member tip-offs of abusive tweets.

Between January and March, 100,000 accounts created by previously suspended members were also snared in Twitter’s net, an improvement of 45% versus the same period a year ago. These trends have fed through to a 16% fall in abuse reports following an interaction with an account not followed by the complainant.

Chief executive Jack Dorsey is to trial a planned mute button which will enable members to hide responses to their own tweets at their discretion. In practice, this will empower the author of a tweet which sparks a subsequent conversation to hide comments thought to be objectionable. Readers will then have to click on the hidden tweet to reveal its content.

In a blog post explaining the moves Donald Hicks, vice-president of Twitter service and David Gasca, senior director of product, wrote: “This encompasses a number of policies, such as abusive behaviour, hateful conduct, encouraging self-harm, and threats, including those that may be violent.

“The same technology we use to track spam, platform manipulation and other rule violations is helping us flag abusive tweets to our team for review. With our focus on reviewing this type of content, we’ve also expanded our teams in key areas and geographies so we can stay ahead and work quickly to keep people safe. Reports give us valuable context and a strong signal that we should review content, but we’ve needed to do more and though still early on, this work is showing promise.”

Twitter has been spurred into action by a desire to detoxify the brand to make it more appealing to advertisers and placate nervous investors.

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