Twitter is finally taking some steps that could meaningfully help its users escape from harassment on its service.
On Tuesday, the company said it's rolling out two new features that will give Twitter users more control over abusive content sent to them. One of the new options lets users block out tweets directed at them that contain certain words, which can be useful to avoid slurs and other offensive language with an emotional impact.
More powerful is the ability for a user to mute entire threads of tweets directed at them. One challenge when it comes to curbing harassment on Twitter is that users can freely "tag"—the ability to include a user's name in a tweet—other users without needing their permission, which then alerts those users and displays to them those tweets.
Although a targeted user can block any account they wish, it can become exhausting if many users gang up on one person. Opting out of an entire thread of tweets can make things easier.
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These new features will likely also help users regain more control over attacks directly sent to them at a level more akin to Facebook (fb). Though there's no shortage of harassment on Facebook, the social network does let users choose who can tag them in posts and remove anyone's comments or posts on their personal profile page, among other features.
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Twitter is also adding an additional category of unwelcome behavior, "hateful conduct," for bystanders when they report harassment happening to others, and it has retrained its user support team to better handle reports of abuse. The latter has been sorely needed, as users often complain of the lack of action from Twitter when they report harassing accounts. Too often, users have said that the company fails to take action against abusive accounts, often leaving those users to continue to receive offensive messages.
Still, whether these new features and policies make a significant dent in Twitter's user harassment problem remains to be seen. The company has been adding new features for years, yet the problem persists.
The story has been updated to clarify that Twitter has added a new category of harassment when bystanders report abusive behavior toward others.