Twitter Latest Tough Anti-Abuse Measure: Warning on Some Profiles
Living up to a promise it earlier made this year, Twitter vowed to launch stricter actions against troll and online abuse. These new tightened anti-abuse measures include some privacy and security features, including reducing the visibility of tweets of “lower quality”, providing safer search results, temporarily restricting offending accounts, and giving users more control on the types of posts on Twitter they want to see.
Individually, these measures are relatively small. However, when you take them cumulatively, one can see how the popular social media tool has been active in improving the user experience. At the very least, Twitter has provided users with more tools to manage various concerns as well as make it more welcoming.
Now comes the tool’s latest anti-abuse measure: blocking entire account profiles from view, serving users a warning that the Twitter content from a particular account might be offensive. Users can quickly click the option allowing them to view the profile and see the content, but the measures does give them a brief pause and chance if they do not want to see potentially offensive content—at their own risk.
Like the other measures, blocking entire profiles from view is relatively a small one which ultimately is shaped by the user’s discretion. However, some have raised that the actual process may raise a few questions.
Some users claimed they have not received any notification from Twitter that their accounts are gated to the rest of the Twittersphere. There are also no specific guidelines or criteria why a certain account has been flagged. Presently in test mode, the feature does not provide users why a certain account has been flagged based on a certain violation. It also does not provide explanation when the tool has been enacted.
One can say, the feature is just in its early testing phase. Depending on feedback from its users, Twitter may also look how to improve the process and implement changes as needed if the feature gets rolled out. But this may pose some concerns for brands if their accounts would be gated or blocked based on some set of guidelines. Of course, businesses would want to tap as many consumers as much as possible, and online features may affect that objective. As such, Twitter may be asked to explain and provide more specific explanations such features. But of course again, this will happen only if the testing phase becomes successful and the feature valuable for Twitter.
In an online post, Ed Ho, Twitter’s vice-president of engineering said they want Twitter to become a safer place for its users. He says, Twitter wants to balance freedom of expression with the need to stop abuse and harassment online.
Twitter’s Warning Profiles of Offensive Content
One possible concern for Twitter: One of its high-profile tweeters has been accused of online abuse and harassment. Arguably the most divisive personality in today’s politics, U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen Twitter to become his preferred mode of communication is a mixed blessing for the tool, at the very best. Sure, Trump’s tweets have brought additional attention on the platform, but his presence on the platform might make Twitter become unattractive to other netizens as well as advisers. Some users may feel dismayed that Trump’s controversial tweets are accused of bias, blatant propaganda, and divisiveness.
In July, the tool banned firebrand conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, a former editor of the controversial right wing website Breitbart News, allegedly for incited targeted abuse. Twitter later suspended the accounts of some figureheads of the so-called “alt-right” political movement.
But Twitter’s crackdown goes beyond far-right extremists. In August of last year, Twitter suspended at least 360,000 accounts for allegedly violating policies against promoting violent extremism as well as terrorism.
Some have understandably raised issues against Twitter’s anti-abuse measures. Some tech pundits say that Twitter has overdone its protection mechanisms and called on the tool to become more protective of speech and expression, even if the nature of the content, at the very least, border on hate and trolling. They say Twitter does not have to give online users the capacity to censor other people, for they can simply unfollow an offensive account, among other ways to stop online abuse and trolling.
However in its overall sense, it would not be surprising if some users would be happy to learn that Twitter is trying to live up to its promise to address trolls and abuse online. Over the years, some users have lashed out at Twitter for their alleged inaction in some of the worst cases of trolling and abuses on their platform. The popular platform’s perceived lack of innovation is cited by some tech experts as a huge reason why Twitter’s growth has dampened, while other new, more pro-active apps have gotten new users every day.
Damned If You Do. Damned If You Don’t.
In this sense, Twitter faces a typical “damn-if-you-do, damn-if-you-don’t” dilemma in the online community, with the opposing views getting their own share of supporters online. There are already people looking to get around the censorship on Twitter using various tactics. The most successful one is using their own algorithm against them.
In all of Twitter’s Trending Hashtags, as a direct result of these changes, you’ll likely see the top of each covered with VIP Accounts and Major Brands on the top. However, their algorithm is still heavily reliant upon engagement as an influencing metric. Marketers and even trolls are buying automatic engagement, retweets, and likes from companies online that deliver a package of daily retweets and likes to everything they tweet. With enough retweets, marketers are getting their promotions on the top of Major hashtags, effectively injecting their product and service to the entire audience.
What happens if Twitter starts punishing fake or paid retweets? Well, they can’t. If they did, they would weaponize them and people would buy them on their biggest competitors. Their only option is to detect and destroy the accounts, but there are already premium suppliers offering hyper-real accounts that have been active for years.
Twitter’s Anti-Abuse Measures Strategy
However, one can also consider that the negative aspect of moving faster is sometimes a platform might misstep in its strategy, which understandably, may be a concern for the people behind Twitter, which had at least 319 million active users every month as of last year. Becoming more pro-active against hate and trolling may be a concern for Twitter, which has also proven to be one of the go-to sites for news and information, with the tool becoming the biggest source of breaking news on the day of the United States elections last year.
Along with Facebook, Twitter also remains among the top social platforms used by companies in the United States, according to a 2016 eMarketer report that looked at social trends. It also said more than 65 percent of companies in the United States with a hundred employees or more use Twitter to market and advertise their products and services.
Do you agree with Twitter’s latest anti-abuse measures? Do you think the tool has overstepped in the name of safety? Or do you think the measures are apt responses in today’s online landscape?