Twitter Expands Fight Against Abuse

The company made clear the changes wouldn't eliminate all abuse.

— -- Twitter announced today that it is taking steps to try to combat abuse on the social network, outlining improvements to the way that users can control visible content and report abuse to the network, as well as how Twitter enforces its own policies.

The moves come amid criticism that the company allows abusive speech to spread throughout the network with few checks.

In a blog post on its website, Twitter said that it had “seen a growing trend of people taking advantage of that openness and using Twitter to be abusive to others,” and admitted that it “had some challenges keeping up with and curbing abusive conduct.”

To address this, the company said that it is focusing on three areas for improvement: controls, reporting and enforcement.

On the controls front, it said that it was expanding the the ability of users to mute content that they did not wish to see. The expansion sees users able to mute phrases, words or whole conversations. It said these abilities would be “rolling out to everyone in the coming days.”

The company also said that it is “giving you a more direct way to report” prohibited conduct as outlined in its hateful conduct policy. It did not detail what the new “direct” method for reporting this conduct is.

When it comes to enforcement, the company said that it has “retrained all of [its] support teams” on its policies and has included training on “cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct.” The company said that it was improving “internal tools and systems in order to deal more effectively with this conduct when it’s reported to us.”

For some time, the company has been the subject of criticism over its handling of abuse.

In June, New York Times Deputy Washington Editor Jonathan Weisman wrote an article explaining his decision quit the network amid anti-Semitic abuse.

“For weeks, I had been barraged on Twitter by rank anti-Semitic comments, Nazi iconography of hook-nosed Jews stabbing lovely Christians in the back, the gates of Auschwitz, and trails of dollar bills leading to ovens,” he wrote.

Weisman, who has since returned to the network, said that when a colleague collected the worst of the abuse and sent it to Twitter, the company said it wouldn’t take action because it “could not determine a clear violation of the Twitter Rules ( surrounding abusive behavior.”

In making its announcement on Tuesday, Twitter cautioned against thinking that the developments would be a watershed for hate speech on the network.

“We don’t expect these announcements to suddenly remove abusive conduct from Twitter,” the company wrote. “No single action by us would do that.”