Twitter fights to make its service less of a hellhole
Twitter has introduced new features to help its users escape the cess pool of anonymous vitriol into which countless people have been pushed because of their actions, opinions, or genders.
The new features include an easier process for reporting abuse as a victim or bystander; a new page listing the accounts a user has blocked in the past; and the decision not to allow blocked accounts to view a user's profile. Twitter says in its announcement that the features are available to some of its users now; others will gain access to them "in the coming weeks."
And the company isn't done updating its service with this abuse in mind, either: the Verge reports that it also plans to introduce a feature allowing its users to block multiple accounts at once instead of having to block them individually. That might not mean much to most of Twitter's users, but it will help those targeted by entire mobs of people all at the same time.
These features demonstrate Twitter's understanding of the difficulties associated with being a public service. As it turns out, giving millions of people the chance to communicate with almost anyone in the world leads to abuse of the most vile sort, from sexist comments and rape threats to the revelation of someone's personal information and threats of violence.
Twitter is obligated to address that abuse. Not because it's the right thing to do, though it is, but because otherwise the service is going to start losing users. There's no point in being a member of a network if having an account only leads to threats that force people out of their homes, abuse that hounds someone around the Web, or the tedium of constant harassment.
Who'd have thought the key to success in the modern era would be acting like an asshole -- just look at Uber and its outrageous valuation for support of that idea -- while preventing others from doing the same? The golden rule might be "treat others the way you want to be treated," but it looks like survival requires following another rule: "do as I say, not as I do."
[illustration by Brad Jonas]