Twitter has had a long, complicated history of abuse and harassment on its platform.
But now, the microblogging site is taking some bold steps to stave off the cyberbullying that has made Twitter a breeding ground for ruthless internet trolls.
In a blog post published Tuesday, Twitter outlined anti-abuse measures that include the implementation of new technology to identify and limit the reach of abusive tweets, and a revamped violent threat policy that allows Twitter to lockdown the accounts belonging to suspects of cyberbullying.
On the policy side, Twitter rewrote the threat policy so that it is no longer limited to "direct, specific threats of violence against others" but now extends to "threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others."
Twitter director of product management, Shreyas Doshi, concedes that the company's previous policy was "unduly narrow" and allowed for certain kinds of threatening behavior to go unchecked.
On the enforcement side, Twitter is giving its enforcement team the power to lock abusive accounts for a specified period of time. The suspension is designed to compel abusers to delete tweets that violate the abuse terms, but it also allows Twitter to require a user's phone number to reinstate their account.
Twitter is also testing a new feature that will help the enforcement team identify abusive tweets and "limit their reach" on the platform. The tool will use "signals and context" that point to abuse, including the age of the account (because trolling often occurs from new accounts specifically for abuse) and the similarity between a tweet and other content that was previously deemed abusive.
The timing is interesting for Twitter's new stance against cyberbullying. In February CEO Dick Costolo admitted that Twitter sucked "at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform." In a memo originally published by The Verge, Costolo went on to say, "It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."
Then in a scathing editorial published in The Washington Post last Thursday, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's general counsel, said the company needed to "do a better job" at combating abuse, while also protecting free speech.