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Twitter says it’s going to start pushing more abusive tweets out of sight

The company promised users more features around safety, so here they are.

Thurgood Marshall College Fund 28th Annual Awards Gala Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for Thurgood Marshall College Fund

A week ago, Twitter executives said that making the service safer for users was the company’s “primary focus,” with CEO Jack Dorsey tweeting that the company was taking a “completely new approach” to stopping abuse.

Now Twitter is putting its money where its mouth is and rolling out some actual changes to try and curb bad behavior.

On Tuesday, Twitter unveiled three new updates:

  • It says it’s going to do a better job of keeping banned users from rejoining the service via new accounts. The company already does this to an extent, and won’t share exactly how the process works because it doesn’t want people to “game the system.” But a spokesperson said it will use a combination of human reviewers and machine learning technology to keep suspended users from resurfacing.
  • Twitter is adding a “safe search” feature that removes tweets with inappropriate words, phrases or images from search results. Users can toggle this off and on.
Twitter’s new feature hides abusive comments behind a dropdown menu.
  • Twitter will start hiding inappropriate responses to tweets so they don’t appear in user conversations. Tweets containing words, phrases or images deemed inappropriate by the company will be hidden from conversation threads, and users will need to click a new “show less relevant replies” button in order to see them. Twitter will use machine learning technology (a.k.a. algorithms) to automatically hide certain responses. You can’t opt out of this feature, according to a company spokesperson.

There’s a general theme to all of these changes: Keep mean or abusive content out of sight. It’s the same approach Twitter used in August when it rolled out a feature so users could filter their notifications.

Twitter is more than a decade old, and its abuse problem has always been a black mark on the service. Because users can tweet anonymously and only need an email address to create an account, Twitter can get nasty, especially for women and minority users.

It’s been bad enough in the past that Disney’s interest in a possible acquisition of Twitter fizzled because of the company’s reputation around abuse, according to Bloomberg.

When Dorsey asked Twitter users in late December what product changes they were most interested in, better safety and reporting features were near the top of the list.

So it’s no surprise Twitter is making this a high priority, though many will likely wonder why it took this long. The company says Tuesday’s updates are just the beginning. “In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to roll out product changes,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Tuesday’s new features will roll out over the next few days.

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