Twitter has announced plans to stamp out the proliferation of violent and abusive comments on the site.
The company has been plagued by the rise of trolls who target users of the site with nasty messages often with little recourse for the victims.
This hit the headlines in a big way in 2013 when Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned to get Jane Austen's image on the £10 note, was swamped with threats.
Twitter was accused of not doing enough to stop such abuse, but is now undertaking two specific actions to tackle the problem more directly.
The first will see the rollout of technology that can spot abusive messages and stop them being sent to the intended recipient.
“We have begun to test a product feature to help us identify suspected abusive tweets and limit their reach,” said Shreyas Doshi, director of product management at Twitter, in a blog post.
“This feature takes into account a wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse, including the age of the account itself and the similarity of a tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive."
If such a message is identified it is not shown to the recipient, although it will still be posted on the site. It does not work if the user follows that account, but Twitter said that it should reduce the chances of people seeing harmful posts.
Secondly, as part of its effort to tackle trolls, Doshi said that Twitter is tightening its policies to broaden the scope of what constitutes violent threats so that it can remove offensive content more easily.
“We are updating our violent threats policy so that the prohibition is not limited to ‘direct, specific threats of violence against others’ but now extends to ‘threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others’,” he said, admitting that Twitter had previously limited its own response to this problem.
“Our previous policy was unduly narrow and limited our ability to act on certain kinds of threatening behaviour. The updated language better describes the range of prohibited content and our intention to act when users step over the line into abuse.”
Furthermore, Twitter is introducing tougher enforcement capabilities so that staff can lock the accounts of those acting in an abusive manner for certain time periods.
"This option gives us leverage in a variety of contexts, particularly where multiple users begin harassing a particular person or group of people," said Doshi.
The updates follow Twitter's plans to allow people to receive direct messages from anyone, by providing an option so they do not need to be following the person to be sent a private message. This could prove a real benefit to brand accounts.
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