Twitter’s New Privacy Features Are Here To Help You Better Manage Trolls



You can now block anyone who doesn’t follow you back.

Like many online platforms, where anonymity and a relative ease of posting are par for the course, Twitter has been battling harassment and hate speech through a series of product updates that give users more control over who is able to contact them. In an update released this week, Twitter has announced some new privacy settings that give people the ability to proactively identify—and block—abusive users.

Within the new settings, Twitter users can automatically mute people who do not follow them and/or who have brand new accounts, both of which tend to have strong correlations to “troll-like” behavior. You can find these new features at Settings → Notifications → Advanced Filters.

This latest update comes on the heels of two recent efforts on the part of the company to keep the platform bully and spam-free: a March announcement that gave users the capability to mute those who have yet to add a profile picture to their account or who haven’t verified their contact information (email and phone number), and a May update in which a “Requests folder” could be utilized to sift through Direct Messages that may be sent from unknown or unwanted users.

While the already existing “quality” filter helps weed out duplicate Tweets or content that is likely automated, the new advanced filter settings give users greater control when it comes to filtering out content from certain types of accounts. Per Twitter, these include:

  1. Accounts that are new (that you don’t follow).
  2. Accounts that don’t follow you (that you don’t follow).
  3. All accounts you don’t follow.
  4. Accounts with a default profile photo (that you don’t follow).
  5. Accounts without a confirmed email address (that you don’t follow).
  6. Accounts without a confirmed phone number (that you don’t follow).

Users have the option to mute all or a combination of these filters depending on their preference and what they are seeking to keep out of their notifications. Of course, part of the draw of Twitter is finding content from journalists, experts, and other public figures who oftentimes do not follow back, so using all of these filters could detract from the overall platform experience. That said, the configuration of settings is entirely up to the user, so Twitter is putting these user experience controls directly in the hands of its community members.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have come under fire lately for their methods of policing abusive behavior. Facebook recently published a lengthy explanation of why identifying and banning abusive members is so difficult, citing challenges with respect to language and cultural nuances across regions. Verge also notes that there is often a “frustratingly fine line” between serious and non-serious threats, so it can be difficult, if not impossible, to make the right call 100 percent of the time.

Until AI tools and other moderation systems advance to the extent that they can efficiently identify and police abusive behavior, the solution of Twitter and other platforms is to put the control, and onus, into the hands of non-abusive users and let them dictate their own experiences within the platform.


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