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Twitter Tweaks Policies to Fight Trolls

Haters gonna hate no more (hopefully).

Julia Tim / Shutterstock

Twitter sucks at stopping threats and abuse — CEO Dick Costolo is the first to admit it — and now it’s taking another step to fix it.

Twitter on Tuesday updated its violent threats policy to expand on the types of threatening and inappropriate content it will crack down on.

The original policy prohibited “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” The new language drops the words “direct” and “specific” — a subtle change but one that lets Twitter’s abuse team expand the net to threats that aren’t as targeted. Some Twitter trolls would actually game the system by doing things like wishing a threat upon someone, which wasn’t considered direct under the old policy.

The new policy is purposefully vague, which gives Twitter’s human moderators more freedom to interpret the tweet’s context. The policy prohibits “threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others.”

Twitter also added new tools to dissuade bullies. The first is an account “freeze,” essentially a timeout where a troll who threatens or tweets inappropriately will not have access to their account for a certain amount of time.

Twitter already does something similar, and will block users from tweeting until the inappropriate content is removed. The new account freeze would lengthen the penalty time after an infraction.

The company is also testing a new algorithm intended to identify inappropriate or threatening content and keep it from appearing in a user’s notifications timeline. For example, if a troll threatens a user specifically with their @handle and the algorithm identifies the tweet as a threat, the targeted user won’t actually see the tweet in their notifications.

Twitter has done a poor job of dealing with its most vile and hate-filled users in the past. It’s a group that, thanks in large part to the service’s anonymity element, has been able to bully and threaten others from multiple accounts and create new ones when they’re stopped.

In February, CEO Dick Costolo sent an internal memo to employees taking blame for failing to stop this kind of behavior.

“We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years,” he wrote in the memo, which was reported by the Verge. “It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”

Twitter also deals with abuse on its new livestreaming service, Periscope, and it may have just opened a new can of worms with a change to its private messaging tool.

On Monday Twitter added an option so people can accept messages from any other user, even if they don’t follow one another. As one user pointed out, this can be risky for women, who are usually more likely to be bombarded with unwanted texts and images. It’s just an option for now, but one that many female Twitter users may choose to ignore.

https://twitter.com/caseyjohnston/status/590191147319885824

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.