Twitter Tests Easier Way to Report Abusive Tweets

Twitter Tests Easier Way to Report Abusive Tweets
Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Twitter is testing a new way of allowing users to report tweets that potentially break the social media platform’s rules. And it’s frankly surprising that it took the company this long to try it out.

Traditionally, Twitter has forced users who want to report a tweet to choose between a list of various confusing rules. The new system that Twitter’s currently testing with a small number of users in the U.S. allows people to simply explain why they think the tweet is offensive, without having to become an expert at Twitter’s terms of service.

As Twitter explained on the company blog on Tuesday:

This method is called symptoms-first, where Twitter first asks the person what’s going on. Here’s the analogy the team uses: say you’re in the midst of an emergency medical situation. If you break your leg, the doctor doesn’t say, is your leg broken? They say, where does it hurt? The idea is, first let’s try to find out what’s happening instead of asking you to diagnose the issue.

“In moments of urgency, people need to be heard and feel supported. Asking them to open the medical dictionary and saying, ‘point to the one thing that’s your problem’ is something people aren’t going to do,” Brian Waismeyer, a data scientist at Twitter who’s working on the new reporting feature, said in a statement posted online.

“If they’re walking in to get help, what they’re going to do well is describe what is happening to them in the moment,” Waismeyer continued.

The social media company’s moderators will now be the ones who are meant to interpret Twitter’s rules, which makes a lot more sense at the end of the day. And it sounds like Twitter will use this new open-ended system to learn and adapt as the process moves along:

Once the person reporting a violation describes what happened, Twitter then presents them with the Terms of Service violation they think might have occurred, at which point Twitter asks: Is that right? If not, the person can say so, which will help signal to Twitter that there are still some gaps in the reporting system.

All the while Twitter is gathering feedback and compiling learnings from this chain of events that will help them fine tune the process and connect symptoms to actual policies. Ultimately, it helps Twitter take appropriate action.

“What can be frustrating and complex about reporting is that we enforce based on terms of service violations as defined by the Twitter Rules,” Renna Al-Yassini, Senior UX Manager on the team, said in a statement.

“The vast majority of what people are reporting on fall within a much larger grey spectrum that don’t meet the specific criteria of Twitter violations, but they’re still reporting what they are experiencing as deeply problematic and highly upsetting.”

Hopefully this experiment gets out of testing and into the real world soon. Again, it’s amazing it took this long for Twitter to introduce something that no longer puts the onus on users to figure out the details of Twitter’s rules.