Twitter is aware that it has a problem with trolls and abusive content on the site. Twitter has taken and is currently taken steps to combat the seemingly endless amounts of abuse that some suffer on the network – but it’s clearly not enough.
CEO Dick Costolo says that he takes full responsibility for this, and that Twitter must shift in order to not “lose core user after core user”.
But how, exactly, will Twitter do this?
Speaking to BuzzFeed, Costolo was vague but did offer up some clues about a couple of changes Twitter is working on. Both of them involve a huge shift in how abuse is reported and how visible certain content remains on the site.
“Importantly, the onus is on you as the abused to report,” Costolo said. “If an account gets suspended they just pop up again somewhere else and then you have to go through that whole process again. It has to be the case that the economics of that whole situation are completely reversed, so that it’s difficult to be an abuser, more expensive to be an abuser. It makes it harder for your speech on the platform to be heard.”
Although Twitter did make some improvements to the abuse reporting mechanisms back in December, the process still requires the harassed to report the harassers – every single one of them.
And as Costolo says, blocking trolls is a giant game of whack-a-mole.
How Twitter plans to make it “more expensive to be an abuser” is anybody’s guess. As long as users are allowed to just create an account with any old email address, it seems damn near impossible to prevent someone from harassing someone via various accounts – even if they’re constantly being reported and banned.
The other thing Costolo told BuzzFeed is a bit more interesting – mainly because it seems like a more viable solution: reduced visibility.
“The way I would frame it,” Costolo said, “is people should have a right to speak freely on the platform, but you don’t necessarily have a right to have your mentions of me show up in my mentions timeline with whatever you choose to say, and your response is that I can call you whatever I want to call you. I think that’s one way to think about it. I generally have the right to speak freely on the platform, but I don’t have the right to have whatever nasty thing I want to say about you show up in your mentions.
Twitter has always tried to walk a fine line between protecting its users and allowing total free expression. Costolo’s comments here reflect a desire to shift towards protection, by limiting what tweets even get through.
Sure, if you want to call someone an ugly slut on Twitter, that’s your right – but it doesn’t mean Twitter has to display it on the person’s timeline.
Image via Garrett Heath, Flickr Creative Commons