In a novel step to curb harassment on its platform, Periscope said today it would ask viewers of live-streaming broadcasts to evaluate comments that other viewers report as abusive. An update rolling out today will convene "flash juries" of randomly selected viewers whenever a fellow viewer reports a comment for being abusive or spam. Jurors vote with a single tap, and if a majority of jurors find the comment guilty, it disappears — and the offending commenter is given a 60-second timeout from further commenting. If a second comment is found to be abusive, the offending viewer loses their commenting privileges for the duration of the broadcast.
The new approach to comment moderation, which is six months in the making, marks an important new effort to curb harassment on the Twitter-owned live-streaming video service. Periscope began seeing abusive comments as soon as it launched the service last year, said Aaron Wasserman, the company's lead iOS engineer. "That same tool that let you really feel connected to this broadcaster who might be halfway around the world showing you their perspective also means you can really have an effect on them — a harmful one, unfortunately," he said.
Abusive comments are a perennial subject of discussion at Twitter, which has been slow to address the negative effect they have had on the platform's users — particularly women. The company has taken additional steps to reduce abuse over the past year, but many users say it is still too easy for trolls to harass and threaten them. Periscope previously let broadcasters ban commenters, or choose to only let people comment if the broadcaster followed them. But both tools are used relatively infrequently, the company said.
Periscope says it hopes random juries will discourage trolls from interrupting broadcasts by making the trolls realize they are likely to be shut out of discussions. Letting the crowd vote is a more elegant solution than trying to ban individual words or phrases, said Sara Haider, who leads mobile engineering at Periscope. "The context of a comment really matters," she said. "A particular comment may be extremely offensive in one broadcast but OK in another broadcast."
Periscope said it plans to study the data it receives from the juries to inform future decisions around reducing abuse.