Twitter is reportedly working on a feature that will let users block certain keywords in order to fight abuse, reports Bloomberg. According to anonymous sources, Twitter has been discussing the tool internally for about a year, although it’s unclear when or if it might be put into place. Bloomberg compares the keyword filtering to a feature recently added by Instagram, which lets users block comments containing certain words from appearing on their posts. But where that would outright remove messages, this system sounds more like an expansion of Twitter’s existing "mute" feature, which simply lets people avoid seeing tweets from specific accounts.
The report suggests that users could set these filters and avoid being shown tweets with racial or gendered slurs, or they could use it for inoffensive tweets about events or conversation topics they’re not interested in. That’s different from the filters Twitter has been suspected of using in the past, which would actively prevent people from tweeting specific keywords at another user. In fact, the description makes it sound a lot like the filtering systems that already exist in third-party clients like Tweetdeck or Tweetbot, although these aren’t mentioned.
If this is the case, seeing this feature migrate onto the official Twitter platform is a good thing. At the same time, it’s difficult to predict how many more people would adopt it, and how much it would change the experience of users — especially because dedicated trolls can find ways around keyword filtering. It has the potential to make Twitter more usable for many people, but it’s just one piece of the anti-harassment puzzle.