Twitter Inc. says it has come up with new ways to make abusive tweeters less effective: hiding their content and preventing banned users from creating new accounts. The updates, detailed in a blog post, come after years of criticism that the company hasn’t done enough to combat abuse and harassment. It’s part of a new push under Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey to clean up the social media service. On Twitter, where people don’t have to use their real names, the same environment that encourages open discussion also helps internet trolls thrive.
The changes will make it harder for abusers to be heard as they will be hidden in search results and replies, possibly decreasing their motivation. Twitter will not immediately delete the content that’s deemed harmful, just require more clicks to get to it. By preventing permanently blocked accounts from resurfacing under a different name, Twitter may decrease the amount of users who create multiple log-ins just to attack others.
Twitter’s failure to curb harassment has been a main complaint of users, and was one reason the company failed to get a bid from potential acquirers when it was exploring a sale last year. When Dorsey became CEO in 2015, he named user safety one of his top priorities.
Several prominent people have been banned, including Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial British writer at the conservative website Breitbart News. Known as @nero on the site, Yiannopoulos was excluded for leading harassment of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. Martin Shkreli, the brash former pharmaceutical executive, was suspended earlier this year after he harassed a female reporter online.
With the updates, Twitter is providing some technological solutions to a problem that in the past was mostly addressed by a team around the world reviewing content after it’s reported by users. The company is responding to its own research and feedback from users frustrated at the time between the abuse and when it’s dealt with by the company.
Twitter is trying to make its product more pleasant to use after several quarters of stagnant user growth.