Twitter Trying to Cut Down on Trolls

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Even as Facebook is still trying to dig itself out of a deep well of consumer distrust, competitive social media platform Twitter is taking an aggressive approach to cleaning up one aggravating aspect of its user experience: trolls.

According to recent reports in Reuters, Twitter unveiled a new strategy for denouncing internet “trolls.” The company plans to employ behavioral analysis signals to “identify harassers” and “limit their visibility.”

This is an interesting move for a platform that has been known as pretty much an ‘anything goes’ environment for speech since it was founded in 2006. Twitter trolling is so common that late night talk shows have bits lampooning how outrageously mean people often are on the platform.

But, because Twitter feared all the negative commentary was keeping people from getting on board or even causing them to leave the platform, Twitter has decided to up the ante from passive to active response. As it stands, Twitter users can block or suspend the accounts of offending trolls. With the change, Twitter will be actively seeking out offending parties and limiting their influence on the platform.

When asked how Twitter plans to accurately identify trolls, CEO Jack Dorsey told reporters his platform would “examine behavior” including the number of times people tweet about certain accounts that do not follow them or accounts that have not confirmed their email address. In explaining the move, Dorsey said: “We want to take the burden of the work off the people receiving the abuse or the harassment…”

When fears of unnecessary censorship were raised, Dorsey was quick to add the company would not be removing tweets entirely just based on the behavioral analytics. Instead, the company would simply push them further down in responses and make them less likely to be viewed.

That explanation will probably not go very far to assuage privacy and free speech advocates who see decisions such as these as backdoors into further stifling of “dissenting views.” While they may agree the presence of trolls is problematic, this contingent typically says those who abuse the privilege are the price one pays for freedom of expression.

So, even as the company tries to solve a problem that most Twitter users definitely want solved, they are stuck trying not to allow the solution to be worse than the disease. Many Facebook users are accusing that platform of unfairly limiting speech, and, should Twitter’s efforts go “too far” as they see it, it’s easy to imagine Twitter being the next target of their complaints.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive with over 20 years of experience

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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