In a story that seems as old as time, Twitter is making yet another effort at curbing the vicious, rampant harassment that takes place on its platform. In an update to the site’s mute feature, users will now be able to target specific words and phrases to be eliminated from their mentions. In a statement on the company’s blog, Twitter outlined plans to add a “hateful conduct” reporting function, too. The company also unveiled new categories in its current harassment reporting tool that would include complaints based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease as well.
By placing the onus on the user to filter out abuse, Twitter only appears to be alleviating itself from the fundamental responsibility of making sure its platform is not a hotbed of vitriolic abuse. Never mind that the abusive mentions are publicly visible on the site. The new anti-harassment tools arrive as a number of social media platforms are under increasing scrutiny for skirting the responsibility that comes with being such a vast, influential tool in society.
Twitter’s track record on responding to negative feedback from users almost exclusively involves no technology. In the run up to the 2016 election, BuzzFeed reported on the proliferation of false voting information targeted at Democrats. Several accounts tweeted a fake notice informing democrats that they could vote via text. It wasn’t until BuzzFeed’s report was published that Twitter broke its golden rule of not responding to individual tweets and removed the bogus information.