Following a recent string of high-profile stories centered around cruel tweets, Twitter is said be gearing up to launch a new tweet moderation feature that will let users filter content they see by using keywords (via Bloomberg). Any subsequent tweet with the specifically designated harmful words would be blocked from the user’s timeline and invisible to them, but still posted for anyone else to see.
The anti-harassment tool is said to have been in production “for about a year” at the company, and is still not quite ready for a wide rollout yet. The news comes from a group of people close to the project, and is most likely gaining traction after a particularly public year of unfortunate incidents surrounding the social network, where both reporters and celebrities were attacked on the service.
Twitter needs to attract and retain users as the growth in their numbers slows. The company has spent the past few months consulting with an outside council of anti-harassment groups about its strategy for addressing the issue, which has become one of Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey’s top priorities.
Twitter took some small steps this year, such as making it easier for people to report abuse by letting them identify multiple offending tweets while filing their complaints. But the keyword tool, if implemented, would be the first to give users more control over what they see instead of blocking individual users after they attack.
Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey have attempted to make inroads towards creating a less harmful atmosphere on the social network, but as yet haven’t created an in-depth feature that could help prevent bullying on a wider scale. The potential keyword blocking solution sounds similar to one that Instagram is also reportedly planning to launch soon, which will let users filter out the comment section on their photos because “different words or phrases are offensive to different people.”
The news comes after Twitter reported its slowest revenue growth since 2013, thanks to the growing popularity of rival companies Snapchat and Instagram. To turn things around, Twitter plans to focus on five key areas within its network, one of which will focus on keeping users safe from online abuse: core services, live-streaming video, the site’s “creators and influencers,” safety, and developers.
Eventually, the new anti-harassment tool could become a universal filtering feature for content not just potentially harmful, “for example, users could block a hashtag about an event they don’t care to read about.” If true, the Twitter desktop and mobile apps would be playing catch-up to features currently implemented in popular third-party clients, like Tweetbot on iOS and OS X. That app has a feature-rich “Mute Filters” section that allows users to silence any user, keyword, hashtag, and client, all packed with settings to add contingencies like mute locations and duration.
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