Twitter is gearing up to release new updates that the company claims will make the service a “safer place.” In a series of tweets, Twitter vice president of engineering Ed Ho acknowledged what many have known for a while: Twitter has done a poor job stopping harassment. But Ho said that this week users will begin seeing a sizeable effort to make things right, including fixes to the mute and block feature and preventing “repeat offenders from creating new accounts.”
When reached for additional information, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat: “We’re approaching safety with a sense of urgency. As such, we will be rolling out a number of product changes in the coming days and weeks — some will be immediately visible, while others will be more targeted to specific scenarios. We will update you along the way and continue to test, learn, and iterate on these changes to evaluate their effectiveness. You can expect to see meaningful progress in this area.”
Ho alluded to a number of changes that will be made to Twitter in the coming days, but he explained that some will be visible while others “will be less so.”
Tackling harassment has been declared a top priority for the company, especially after chief executive Jack Dorsey asked users for feedback at the end of last year. Besides a desire to edit tweets, many complained about the treatment they’ve received from other users — just look at actor Leslie Jones. Dorsey has admitted that there’s “obviously a ton of work ahead,” while acknowledging that Twitter has not been quick enough to implement changes.
Ho said the company is now thinking about progress “in days and hours, not weeks and months.”
Conversations will continue on Twitter, but the platform must not only better protect its users, it must also give developers ways to filter out hurtful and demeaning tweets. Dissenting opinions, debate, and dialogues of all sorts have their place, but constant abuse and harassment can diminish usage and dissuade individuals from participating in conversations.
If Twitter wants to promote productive conversations and the exchanging of ideas in real time, it needs to become a place where everyone can contribute safely.
Of course, the service will always have the potential for controversy — just look at how polarizing Donald Trump’s Twitter account has become.