Twitter Launches a New Anti-Abuse Tool and Rolls It Back After Just 2 Hours


Twitter rolled back a new safety feature after just a few hours of releasing it following user protests. The company is scrambling to fix the increasing problem of abuse and harassment on its platform. While an important service for public debate, Twitter has become a troll-magnet - something that the social networking site doesn't want to be its lasting image.

Twitter's new tool "blinds the vulnerable"

In a series of fixes that the company has rolled out these past few weeks, it released a new feature that would ensure that users would not get notified when they are added to a list.  "We want you to get notifications that matter. Starting today, you won’t get notified when you are added to a list," Twitter wrote. The notification removal was part of a continued effort to address the company's lack of proper support when it comes to abuse and harassment.

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Right after the release of this feature, users started protesting that the move will blind those who are vulnerable to harassment, burying the problem of abuse instead of countering it. Since lists are sometimes used to target a specific set of group, based on their ethnicity, political or religious beliefs, with users not even knowing about what lists they are part of could be a problem for many. As users won't get any notifications, they would also be unable to take any action, for example, block the associated accounts.

In response to these protests, Twitter reversed the decision just two hours after releasing this feature. Ed Ho, the company's vice president of engineering tweeted: "Reconsidered and reversing."

Last night's episode reflects the company's struggle with finding the right solutions. A number of users questioned whether Twitter understood its own platform and user concerns before offering fixes. While the company appears to be willing to make its platform hate- and abuse-free, nothing seems to be working in its favor.

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Over 200,000 aggressive tweets were posted by 86,500 users over a mere three-week period, a May 2016 study had shared, revealing the depth of the problem. Last month, Twitter announced that it will be rolling out a number of new features to counter abuse and harassment. These included options to filter abusive content and stopping accounts that have been repeatedly suspended from creating new accounts.

"With every change, we’ll learn, iterate, and continue to move at this speed until we’ve made a significant impact that people can feel," Ed Ho had said.