Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

It's machines vs trolls as Twitter unveils new plan to silence abusers

It's machines vs trolls as Twitter unveils new plan to silence abusers

Twitter's new system will use signals such as accounts that have not been confirmed via email address or send heavy tweets to other accounts that now do not follow them.

While these tweets will not be fully removed from the platform, Dorsey shared with Reuters that the goal is to reduce the burden from those that are receiving abuse.

The update is a way to "proactively address" obnoxious users that don't violate its policies, but nevertheless "negatively impact the health of the conversation", according to Twitter.

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said Twitter now would try to find problematic accounts by examining behaviour such as how frequently people tweet about accounts that do not follow them or whether they have confirmed their email address. The tweets will still be available if users select "Show more replies" or choose to see everything in search.

In order to identify the behavior, the company has picked out certain patterns of behavior which it associates with troll-like accounts.


According to Twitter, early tests of this newfangled system have already shown four percent fewer abuse reports from search and eight percent fewer abuse reports from conversations across the globe.

For Twitter, this means utilizing an amalgamation of code-based rules, human reviews, and machine learning-which will all help organize and present content to the user in a purportedly healthier way, in areas such as search and conversation. But now, Twitter will also look at a greater variety of data points, including new behavioral analysis, including how many users block an account following a specific tweet or response to another tweet.

The company has been testing the feature in a few markets around the world, and it claims to have seen a 4% reduction in abuse reports from the Twitter search experience, and an 8% drop in reports from conversations, which indicates the initiative is seeing some success.

Twitter says it is taking action against "trolls" that "distort and detract from the public conversation", by making their tweets less visible.

Twitter says less than 1 percent of accounts on the platform make up the majority of accounts flagged by user complaints, and a majority of troll tweets don't violate its policies, despite having a large and negative impact on users. "We're encouraged by the results we've seen so far, but also recognize that this is just one step on a much longer journey to improve the overall health of our service and your experience on it".

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