Twitter's Quality Filter Finally Lets You Control The Spam In Your Notifications — And Hopefully The Harassment, Too
If you're anything like me, your Twitter notifications are a muddled combination of spam, mentions from people you don't know, spam, the odd new follower, and — wait for it — more spam. If you're tired of getting excited by new notifications only to have your bubble of happiness punctured by yet another bot account (or worse), you're in luck: Finally, Twitter has introduced a quality filter as part of their plan to make the site more user-accessible.
On Thursday, Twitter announced the arrival of two new features designed to help control your account: The ability to limit notifications to people you follow, and a quality filter. In a blog post, Twitter explained that the latter works by hiding content from potential bots, based on factors like their origins and behavior. Although you don't have to turn it on, the site wrote that the feature "filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience." Accounts you follow and users with whom you've interacted in the past won't be touched, but all those nonsensical bots that clutter your feed with gibberish (sometimes in hilarious ways) should start to disappear from your account. Twitter even included a handy GIF explaining how to turn on the setting for those who are interested. (It can be found under your "Settings" tab in mobile.)
Twitter's bot problems extend back for years; in 2014, they were so widespread that the site introduced the anti-spam system BotMaker. While it was initially successful, bot creators are nothing if not persistent, and within a year, Twitter spam was back like it had never left. Admittedly, bots are largely harmless, and sometimes they prove to be more interesting than you'd think. The Twitter account Pentametron, for instance, retweets anything written in iambic pentameter, with results that range from absurd to oddly profound. (Emphasis is on the absurd.)
But as anyone who has found themselves in the midst of a bot swarm knows, Twitter spam is obnoxious at best, and it can hide more important content under a flood of useless notifications. Furthermore, these changes will make Twitter more welcoming for the ever-growing number of regular users who find themselves the target of abuse. By allowing users to limit their notifications to people they follow, the new settings should hide notifications from random, potentially hateful strangers as well as irritating bots. According to The Verge, the features have been available to verified users for some time, but Twitter has only recently begun offering them to non-verified accounts.
There's another important element to the quality filter, too: As the Daily Dot notes, it might help cut down on the harassment so many users experience at the hands of trolls. Twitter has acknowledged in the past that it doesn't have the best track record when it comes to dealing with harassment —as then-CEO Dick Costolo put it in February of 2015,"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years" — but the company seems to be stepping up to the plate these days in some important ways, particularly after the horrific racist abuse actress Leslie Jones experienced on Twitter in July. The launch of the quality filter might help keep such horrible things out of everyone's timeline — whether they're a public figure or not — and it's been a long time coming.
According to Twitter's announcement, the changes will roll out universally over the next few days, and they've been designed to improve over time. Here's hoping that it learns quickly and well.