Twitter has added new features to support its stance against abusive and hateful tweets.
On November 15, Twitter introduced new features aimed at improving its policing of tweets that are deemed a hate attack or hate speech. This is in response to the heightened number of online harassments and attacks happening across its platform related to the recently concluded elections.
Twitter became the haven for Trump supporters to carry out his hate rhetoric against migrants, non-whites, and members of ethnic and religious minorities. In a media interview, Trump had to make an appeal to his supporters to stop such hate attacks on Twitter. Additionally, Twitter has long been criticized for being the top social media site for abuse and trailing behind when it comes to safety and censorship.
There are three key improvements Twitter has rolled out to combat this. First, is the introduction of the mute button. Now, users have the option to “mute” (essentially block) words, phrases, another account or even an entire conversation from appearing on their notifications or Twitter feed for any reason.
Second, is the introduction of a dedicated reporting button for “hateful conduct” of users. This, according to Twitter, makes it easier for users to flag content for moderators to review and possibly remove content. An added benefit of this new feature is that any Twitter user can now report hate conduct or speech aside from solely the victim of abuse.
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) November 15, 2016
Lastly, is Twitter’s move to retrain its support or moderator team. The tech company acknowledges the fact that hateful conduct might have different contexts for different cultures, traditions and religions. Thus, the retraining is primarily aimed at cross cultural familiarization. As Del Harvey of Twitter’s Trust and Security department explains, “Someone looking at user complaints in Asia may not recognize something happening in the E.U. or the U.S. as hateful. We need to make sure there is a universal familiarity with the most common trends and themes we’re seeing that are abusive, but may not seem so at first glance.”
Early this year, Twitter has started working with a Trust and Safety Council which included contributors outside the company. At the same time, it updated its online platform policy on hate content particularly those related to religion. Twitter’s new policy states that “advocacy against someone’s religion” is now classified under the “hate content, sensitive topics, and violence” that Twitter prohibits.
For Twitter, it is a delicate task of balancing between freedom of expression and prevention of abuse. For Harvey, “There’s a fine line between free expression and abuse, and this launch is another step on the path toward getting rid of abuse. We’ve been launching new products to address this, and the cadence of product releases is picking up. We have a lot planned on this path.” Harvey acknowledged the reality that the new measures will not totally solve or prevent future hate attacks and abuses on Twitter but stressed that the company is stepping up efforts to identify and eventually shut down offenders.
Twitter critics cite that offenders will always find a new way to abuse others online. Because of anonymity, anyone can always create a new social media account. Another flaw that critics see is users’ ability to broadcast hate tweets to the world openly.