David Papp Blog

Keeping Trolls Away With Twitter’s New Quality Filter

The Internet is undoubtedly one of the most pivotal innovations of the 21st century. It has changed so much about every aspect of human lives and its impact is probably most evident in how people communicate. Nowadays, communication and the spread of ideas is not just quick, it’s instantaneous, particularly when we’re using social media platforms like Twitter.

Despite all the benefits acquired from the Internet and social media, you can’t avoid the fact that it also has its downsides. For example, it has made it easier for people to spread hatred and discrimination. While platforms like Facebook have stringent security measures, requiring people to use their real names and so on, this can’t be said for all social networks. This problem is best highlighted on Twitter where people can use aliases, hide under the blanket of anonymity, and flame other people they don’t know just for the heck of it.

Thankfully Twitter has been aware of this issue and has since launched a security measure that can safeguard its users from abusive tweets. Previously users had to report abuse or block users manually. Obviously this system is problematic. It burdens the users with the additional work of having to gatekeep their own accounts against offensive tweets. With the new update users just have to flip a switch and all abusive content would be filtered. At this point this security function is only available on iOS and only for verified users, which they argue to be the group most affected by abuse.

While this update raises questions on censorship, the subjectivity of the term “abuse”, and the perceived favoring of verified users over unverified ones, this is definitely an interesting statement Twitter has made against the harassment issues prevalent in their site. It is a step towards a friendlier, hate-free online environment.

24 thoughts on “Keeping Trolls Away With Twitter’s New Quality Filter”

  1. I can certainly understand filtering out harassment and threatening language but what about other issues. What is offensive to people in one part of the world is completely harmless to people in another part. So I’m wondering what exactly this filter does pick out.

    • You brought up a really good point. There’s also the issue of context, for example the word “retarded” is used as a derogatory term, but technically, it means someone mentally disabled. How would twitter be able to differentiate those two meanings, I wonder.

      • Yeah, where does it all end? I’m not convinced it will be all that effective now I’ve thought about it some more. The ways in which one can be offensive and insulting are manifold and aren’t just limited to “Tanya is a fat cow” or whatever.

      • Really? So you would call a mentally disabled retarded? wow, that’s messed up. That word is clearly used as an insult, specially online. The system works, and it works right. And no, a cuss word cannot be misinterpreted (except for a few, but they’re still cuss words).

    • I agree, most “offensive” filters do not work as intended, since people will always find new ways to type out vulgarities if they really want to, using symbols and numbers. I do agree that a spam filter for Twitter might help a lot though.

    • I agree with you completely, I think that I did not really got the point of the filter, I think that was what David meant when he mentioned the subjectivity of hate and harassment, it will work if they would make one specific filter for people living in one part of the world, but, what about international communication? that’s where things don’t really make sense to me.

  2. I use Twitter a lot and sometimes I see a lot of trolling, harassment and verbal abusing.
    I’m glad that Twitter is looking to fix this problem and this quality filter seems like a great idea, though I imagine it would take some time before it gets somewhat really usable for every country.

    • I have to agree. Maybe it will take some time for it to roll out in every country, but it’s all for the greater good. Meanwhile, I personally saw less trolls waving around Twitter harassing people and being assholes. I guess the system’s working just fine!

  3. Well, Facebook needs to put some more work into their “stringent” security measures. I post quite a bit on Facebook and there are TONS of trolls who use fake community pages even though they get reported repeatedly. I’ve also had multiple scammers who try to message me and after a little investigation I can tell their pages are fake. Usually, you can tell because it’s a fairly new account and although they may have some pictures posted, they don’t have any friends. I remember one in particular was trying to pretend to be a high ranking military member, he had all the photos and was trying to get women to “like” him. I’m sure some fell for it and he tried to get money out of them.

    • Are you kidding? There was a page full of some of the most offensive things ever, all their posts and images were so offensive! Offensive, I stumbled upon it one day after clicking on a comment made by a friend. Man, it was disgusting. They showed the most horrible pics ever… I checked later and the page was still there. I wondered how come all the pics were still there? Yet I have seen waaaay more innocent pictures getting deleted by Facebook and accounts being suspended for far less.

  4. It’s about time. It was a little hard to take out those spam tweets before. I’m glad the people managing twitter have come up with a useful tool to make it easier for the rest of us.

    • I can’t get my head around what is censored and what is permitted on Facebook either. Recently, I saw some very graphic pictures of aborted fetuses but on the same day, a friend has complained that a photo of her breastfeeding her baby very discreetly had been removed! WT actual F?

  5. I like that twitter’s trying to do this, but I don’t know if that’ll bode well with younger users who like to swear and so on. It’ll be interesting to see if it actually even works or not, because harassment isn’t always black and white.

  6. Awesome! I’m not a Twitter user, but I’m familiar with hoe easy it is to start a flame war over there. Not cool at all, actually that is one of the many reasons I never liked the idea of using Twitter. Plus the fact that 140 characters never seemed enough for me! Glad to hear about this tho, I bet a lot users will appreciate it.

  7. This is a really good system, I’ve also heard that YouTube is doing the same thing. Well hopefully this will prevent a lot of flame wars on Twitter, which most of the time are unneeded. So next time anyone is trying to give negative feedback, they’ll have to do it in a non aggressive way.

  8. While this seems like a good idea and it might help out, it still might filter out some of the genuine users by mistake. What I think need to happen is for Twitter to implement a system where if someone is blocked once or twice, they would have to suspend his account for a certain time and if it turns out that the user did nothing wrong, The reported would have to be suspended instead.

  9. I think it’s in theory a good idea although I guess we will have to see how well it works in practice!

    What I’m wondering about is what they do censor and how does Twitter differentiate between “hate” and constructive criticism? What exactly does this filter pick out?

    I do however think that it’s great to see Twitter take action like this because Twitter before was filled with Troll accounts and hate, people could so easily make an account and easily spread negativity. It’s definitely nice to see Twitter do something about the online bullying epidemic. I only hope that other social media sites follow.

  10. I don’t quite agree with this approach. The additional work to “gatekeep” their accounts shouldn’t be an issue because you can set who to receive notifications from and if you have a large following just peek into the tweets whenever you have spare time.

  11. That’s great. I think all social media websites should implement this, especially for teenagers who often are abused online. I think it’s also important to think of your kids when it comes to such things, you should always advise them to not participate in such things and encourage them to turn on the filter.

  12. And not before time in my view. Social media has just become the newest battleground for bullying. There has to be some controls over what a random person that has never met you can say to you. It’s just like a stranger shouting abuse at you in the street. It’s unacceptable.

  13. If people are being troubled and panned with negativity which can build up and inevitably affect many human beings, then I think Twitter devised a good concept to help their users stay clear of it, whether it rises censorship questions or not. Many of the celebrities on there often get hatred and animosity towards them and everyone needs to remember that they’re human too. The trolls really have to find something else in their lives to do that is far more productive than wasting it.

  14. Trolls can often be amusing until you make the mistake of responding to one. Filters can help but sometimes they are lost on the context. I think the best solution for a troll is to ignore them, but that is just me.

  15. Well, it’s social media and let’s face it: people are more likely to say what they think there, thanks to this anonymity that social media comes with… I think that at this point of the game, it’s almost impossible to ask for peace on that place specifically, not everyone thinks the same about every topic and I think that’s one of the main reasons for conflict between groups, that obviously can lead to hate, I guess.

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