Twitter took new steps today to reduce the amount of visible abuse on the platform, introducing new filters to remove low-quality and harassing replies from the timeline and from search. The company also said it would take new steps to prevent users who had been permanently banned from the service from creating new accounts. The changes come a week after CEO Jack Dorsey promised “a completely new approach to abuse on Twitter.”
The company offered relatively few details about how the changes would work, saying that trolls would seek to use the information to game the system. And so it is unclear, for example, what new steps Twitter will take to prevent banned users from attempting to rejoin the service.
The new approach to conversations groups together “Less relevant replies” and hides them underneath a button at the bottom of the tweet. Tap the button to see the rest of the replies. Twitter would not say what replies would be categorized as less relevant, but it seems designed to reduce the number of responses from newly created accounts with few or no followers.
Twitter said a little more about its “safe search” feature, which will be personalized to the user. By default, it will hide graphic and sexually explicit images and video from search results. It will also hide tweets from any accounts that you have muted or blocked. The tweets will still be “discoverable” if you want to dig for them, Twitter said, though it did not specify how.
At first glance, the changes introduced today do not look substantially new. Filtering replies algorithmically logically follows a feature introduced in November that allows users to block specific keywords from their mentions. The company promised at the time that muting would come to search as well. And Twitter has targeted users who create multiple accounts for the purposes of harassment for nearly two years.
On one hand, it’s good to see Twitter continuing to refine its anti-abuse tools. On the other, the company has a long history of making minor changes to its tools and policies, loudly bragging about them, and then watching as both regular and high-profile users continued to experience massive abuse.
“With every change, we’ll learn, iterate, and continue to move at this speed until we’ve made a significant impact that people can feel,” said Ed Ho, the company’s vice president of engineering, in a blog post.
The changes will be rolling out over the next few weeks on Twitter’s native apps and on the web, the company said.
Correction, 6:04 p.m. The headline for this article originally stated that tweets were filtered from the timeline. In fact they are hidden in replies.