Social media site Twitter on Tuesday introduced a mute button that allows users to block abusive words and phrases from their notifications. Users will now be able to compile their own list of unwanted words, phrases and emojis and weed them out from their pop-up notification, the company’s vice president of trust and safety, Del Harvey, told the The Washington Post. “We’ve heard from users that notifications is an area where people don’t feel as though they have as much control on Twitter. You’re not searching for this content, but it’s still something that’s coming in to your Twitter experience,” said Harvey.
Online harassment and hate speech are common on social media platforms. However, according to company officials, there has been a remarkable rise of such incidents around the time of the United States presidential elections. Since Donald Trump’s victory on November 9, Twitter has been filled with reports of racist and derogatory remarks against minority communities, reported the Boston Globe. Harvey, however, conceded that Twitter still has a long way to go when it comes to striking the right balance between protecting freedom of speech and tackling trolls. “We haven’t always moved as quickly as we would like or done as much as we would like,” she added.
The mute button is an addition to a range of other anti-harassment policies undertaken by the website. Last year, the company banned hate speech, the promotion of violence and attacks or threat to others on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour and others. Besides, the company now allows users to report harassment on behalf of someone else.
Twitter is also training its staff on how to recognise abusive behaviour. Harvey said that the company has put together a training programme on the historical and cultural context around particular types of harassment and will keep its team updated with the evolving language of hate.
Critics, however, have their doubts about the efficacy of such tools. Mark S Luckie, a former Twitter manager, said, “People will find a way to abuse others online, but these changes may put users at ease and curb the perception of abuse on Twitter.”