On Tuesday, 15th November, Twitter announced that the social media platform will be introducing new features as well as policy changes in response to the ever growing cyber bullying problem.
With the advent of the digital age, we got instant communication, data storage and retrieval, and shared information. But, along with the creation of this global village came a side-effect – the phenomenon of internet bullying, or cyber bullying.
It could be high school kids teasing and bullying each other on Facebook, or adults harassing one another over political, religious, or other deeply held beliefs. Sometimes, it can take on a sadistic quality, in which the bully, not satisfied with just humiliating the victim, seeks to bully the victim to the point of self-destruction.
Twitter has been a favourite playground for such bullies since its inception. In the past, it has pushed many users to quit the platform for fear of their personal safety.
Admittedly, there have been several changes over the past few years – flagging abusive tweets, creating a saftey council and introducing a quality filter. But, the site administrators hadn’t taken any significant action against abusers.
Apparently, that’s going to change with these new updates. Not only did this new announcement include useful tools, it also held promises from the company to take the enforcement of its terms against abuse a notch higher.
The mute function, which appeared on the website last month, has been expanded, allowing Twitter users to prevent keywords, phrases and conversations from appearing in their notifications. “Muted words” can be accessed under “Settings” in the notifications tab, along with options to add to or remove from the list hashtags, usernames, emojis, and words.
However, hateful words and television, movie and book spoilers can still appear on your timeline. Hopefully, this will be changed in a future update.
There is also the option to “mute this conversation”, which appears in the drop down menu from the arrow next to a tweet. This can be useful if a thread is getting increasingly tiresome or hateful and you no longer wish to get notifications from it.
The company is also working on how it responds to reports of abuse. Anyone wishing to report a tweet as “abusive” or “harmful” can now select a reason from a handful of options.
Moreover, Twitter claims to have created new internal tools, and a rigorous training program for its support teams. Reportedly, the training included presentations and workshops and includes an ongoing refresher program.
Of course, we are far from being completely rid of abusive conduct on Twitter, but it’s a step in the right direction. How effective these measures are in tackling misconduct, only time will tell.
Perhaps it’s time for other platforms like Tumblr and Reddit – where harassment is prevalent – to follow Twitter’s lead.
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