Twitter Introduces New Features to Fight Harassment

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

The social network will push sensitive or abusive tweets out of search results and timeline conversations.

Twitter is responding to complaints from users about how it handles online trolls by introducing several new tools meant to help curb harassment. 

For the social network, preventing online abuse will begin with its users. The company said in a blog post Tuesday morning that it will take steps to prevent people who have already been banned from Twitter from creating new accounts, especially ones devoted to abuse and harassment. 

Twitter is also going to begin pushing abusive or possibly sensitive Tweets away from public view, effectively helping to mute trolls. Twitter says it is working on a "safe search" that will remove such content as well as tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results. Sensitive tweets will still live on the site for users who search them out but Twitter says they "won't clutter search results any longer." 

Twitter will also hide potentially abusive and low-quality replies in Twitter conversation timelines and instead favor more relevant messages. Users who want to see those hidden replies will be able to view them by clicking on a tab for "less relevant replies" but otherwise they will stay hidden. 

"Making Twitter a safer place is our primary focus," reads a blog post from vp engineering Ed Ho. "We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic. That's put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices. We can't tolerate it and we're launching new efforts to stop it." 

Twitter has long been a breeding ground for abuse, but the outcry from users has gained momentum in recent months following some high-profile incidents, including Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones' decision to temporarily quit Twitter over the summer after a series of coordinated attacks. 

CEO Jack Dorsey has responded that user safety is important tot he company and has begun to roll out several new features. Earlier this month, Twitter gave users the ability to report tweets that mention them, even if the tweet's author blocked that person from viewing their account. In November, Twitter expanded its mute feature to allow people to stop receiving notifications about tweets using specific keywords and phrases. 

The company says it will continue to add new features to protect its users against harassment. Reads Ho's blog post: "With every change, we'll learn, iterate, and continue to move at this speed until we've made a significant impact that people can feel."