One of the biggest benefits of Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is that it’s open to everyone and every opinion. This has allowed millions of people to bring attention to noteworthy causes and important issues that wouldn’t have reached such a wide audience by other means. However, the opposite holds true as well, as many people have found Twitter to be a perfect place to harass others.
News emerged that Twitter was planning new features to tackle bullying and harassment among its users almost three months ago. Bullying and harassment are harmful to Twitter’s bottom line because it inhibits others from using the platform, and may cause others to quit Twitter altogether. A recent plotline for the popular comedy South Park involved children quitting Twitter due to online harassment, illustrating how widespread the problem really is.
Now, Twitter is tackling online harassment head on by giving users a better mute button to hide abusive Tweets. Twitter has long had a feature called “mute” that hides accounts you don’t want to see Tweets from. Now, the feature includes the ability to choose keywords, phrases, and topics that you don’t want to see notifications about. Users can block specific content without having to completely mute an entire account. Twitter says that the feature will be rolling out on Twitter for iOS, Android, and the web in the coming days.
Twitter is also providing users with a more direct way to report abusive conduct in real time improved its internal tools and systems in order to deal more effectively those reports. Twitter’s privacy and abuse policy prohibits harmful language “that targets people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.” Abusive or hateful content can now be reported to Twitter not just by the targets of that abuse, but by bystanders as well.
The company says that the changes will improve its ability to process reports of abusive behavior. The company acknowledged in its statement that these changes wouldn’t suddenly remove abusive conduct from Twitter, but hopes that they will “reduce the burden on the person experiencing the abuse, and help to strengthen a culture of collective support on Twitter.” Twitter users have seen a lot of ugliness and hatred go viral on the platform. Twitter currently has about 317 million monthly active users, but has been facing growth problems recently.