Twitter's Update Gets A Handle On Harassment

by Megan Grant

Cyberbullying is a problem across the board for social media platforms, and it only seems to be getting worse. In fact, individual sites are going to greater measures to stand up to trolls — and Twitter is next in line. The new Twitter anti-harassment update is going to give us all more control when it comes to protecting ourselves from hateful users and shutting down hurtful online speech.

The very nature of Twitter, with its real-time feed and never-ending streams of conversation, makes it tough to keep bullying under control. The platform's 140-character limit is the perfect environment for quick bursts of emotional name-calling and online harassment, and it comes as no surprise that this problem experienced an enormous increase throughout this volatile election season. So, Twitter announced on Tuesday that it's going to be more proactive in stopping online harassment and hate. "Because Twitter happens in public and in real-time, we've had some challenges keeping up with and curbing abusive conduct," the company wrote in a blog post published today. "We took a step back to reset and take a new approach, find and focus on the most critical needs, and rapidly improve."

How exactly does Twitter plan on taking control of trolling happening on their platform? According to them, there are three parts of this update, which will be rolling out over the next couple of days: controls, reporting, and enforcement.


Twitter already offered a mute option that you could apply to accounts you don't want to see tweets from; now, though, they're taking it one step further by applying it to notifications. You'll be able to mute keywords, phrases, and whole conversations that you don't want to get notifications about. You can access your muted words in your Settings, and add hashtags, usernames, emojis, and words that you don't want to see. Note that using this new feature will not prevent you from seeing these words in your timelines; they will just not show up in your Notifications tab, as push notifications, or in your emails.


The process of reporting hateful conduct is also receiving a facelift. Twitter is updating to provide a more direct way of reporting inappropriate behavior on the site. You can report a tweet as abusive and choose from a few options that let you elaborate further. It hasn't always been clear if or where we can report inappropriate behavior, especially in the case of tweets or messages not directed at us personally; with this new update, though, not only will it be easier to report inappropriate content, but it will be easier for Twitter to process it — meaning that hateful tweets will be stopped sooner.


Twitter is not run by machines; there are living, breathing humans behind it. For that reason, the company has retrained its support teams and given them new tools and systems to more efficiently handle harassment. They've spent more time on relearning not only policies, but the "cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct," according to Twitter's blog post about the update. This last bit is pretty fascinating, because it likely means that Twitter is paying additional attention to the current climate of bullying — and the climate is always changing. (In other words, certain groups of people might be getting attacked right now more than they were six months ago, and Twitter is addressing that.)

Of course, this will not eliminate the problem of online harassment completely; but it's a positive step forward on Twitter's part.

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