[By Alexandria Horvat-Becevello]

After months of criticism for their approach to online harassment, Twitter has (finally) stepped up to the plate in an attempt to eliminate Twitter trolls, abusive behaviour and inappropriate content from their social media platform.

On Nov. 15, 2016, Twitter announced that they have implemented a new anti-harassment update that will be applied in three areas of focus: reporting, controls, and enforcement. With this new update, Twitter users will be able to go beyond their more recent ‘muting’ tool that enabled users to filter out content they would prefer not to see. Now, users will be able to mute key words and conversation threads without removing content from their timeline or blocking other accounts. Although Twitter has updated their existing ‘muting’ tool, the issue still lies in your timeline content. Unfortunately, this part of the update does not reach beyond your notifications – it will prohibit chosen emoji’s, text and hashtags from personal emails and notifications but this content will still appear on your Twitter feed, not entirely muting the undesired content.

Twitter’s hateful conduct code still stands prohibiting the targeting of people based on their, “…race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.” In addition to this code, Twitter has also adjusted their ‘report’ option for inappropriate or abusive content by allowing users to specify and elaborate how the unwanted content falls under this category.

Twitter has also invested in the retraining of their staff to help better detect and react to harmful content on the platform, paying closer attention to “cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct” as well as improving internal tools to help their staff work more efficiently in controlling content. With bullying and harassment rising constantly across social media, this option should help the Twitter team identify and remove inappropriate content with ease. In Twitter’s blog post regarding the new update they indicated:

“The amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment we’ve seen across the Internet has risen sharply over the past few years. These behaviors inhibit people from participating on Twitter, or anywhere.”

In an attempt to block out offensive content, Twitter has offered a more active approach to help minimize this pervasive issue, by making minor changes to their existing reporting tools. More recently, there has been a lot of controversy through social media targeting Twitter, Facebook and other social networks in alleged ‘fake news’ streaming causing misinformation among voters throughout the election, in addition to being a hot pot for hate speech, harassment and abuse among its users. Twitter is trying to prevent this negativity and construct social media as a more welcoming and safer space for friendly interaction and expression.

Ultimately, in this social media age our society is the creator of this issue and we keep pouring gasoline on the flame. Twitter’s attempt is only a stepping stone in the right direction to stopping online hate and abuse- is it not it time that we contribute and do the same?

(Photo by Alexandria Horvat-Becevello)