Twitter's Latest Changes Finally Do Something To Combat Online Abuse

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Twitter is 11 years old. 11 years. It's taken this long for the 140-character social media network to make any kind of substantial changes to its service to enable users to combat trolling and online abuse. But now that they're here, Twitter is -- hopefully -- about to be a much more pleasant place to be online.

In a post on the company's blog, Twitter head of engineering Ed Ho detailed the changes. They're both significant and wide-ranging.

If you're the target of abuse from an account, Twitter may now detect that abuse without you having to report it: for example, if an account repeatedly tweets at another account that doesn't follow it, including using profane language, the reach of that account's tweets may be limited to only the accounts that follow it. We've seen this automatic sin-binning occur already, and apparently it'll be implemented for a 24-hour time-out on the account responsible.

Mute filters in the native Twitter app and web client are getting a big overhaul. You'll be able to mute specific words -- hashtags, events, names -- directly from your timeline, and choose how long those mutes are in place, whether it's a day or a week or a month or indefinitely. =

The biggest change, though, is being able to set your own limits on the types of account that can send a tweet at you and have it appear in your notifications stream. If an account has an unverified email address, or no profile photo, or no registered phone number, or any combination of these, you'll be able to filter them out of your timeline.

Twitter's also fixing its abuse reporting system. When you report an abusive tweet, you'll receive a notification that the report was received by Twitter, and a notification when and if Twitter takes any further action on the report -- all living inside your Twitter client, rather than over email.

The algorithms are constantly being tweaked to update their usefulness, too: "Since these tools are new we will sometimes make mistakes, but know that we are actively working to improve and iterate on them everyday. We’re learning a lot as we continue our work to make Twitter safer – not just from the changes we ship but also from the mistakes we make, and of course, from feedback you share."

Over the past few days as these changes have rolled out we've seen a couple of false positives, but hopefully these are the exception that proves the rule. [Twitter]

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