Twitter announced Tuesday that it will begin to hide all tweets from some accounts in conversations and search results. The goal is to identify and filter trolls and harmful users, based not on any specific tweet, but on how they use the social network holistically.
Those tweets will still be available on Twitter, but users will have to click the “Show more replies” button in a conversation or set their searches to show all results.
“One important issue we’ve been working to address is what some might refer to as ‘trolls,'” David Gasca, Twitter’s product manager for health, said in a blog post. “Some troll-like behavior is fun, good and humorous. What we’re talking about today are troll-like behaviors that distort and detract from the public conversation on Twitter, particularly in communal areas like conversations and search.”
Twitter is using a new set of behavioral signals to determine which tweets should be handled this way and those include non-confirmed email addresses, signing up for multiple accounts at the same time, repeatedly mentioning accounts in tweets that don’t follow the user back and behavior that might note a coordinated attack. “We’re also looking at how accounts are connected to those that violate our rules and how they interact with each other,” said Gasca.
The new effort is part of Twitter’s two-month-old initiative to discern what it means for the platform to be “healthy.” Previously, Twitter mostly looked at the content of individual tweets to decide how to moderate them. Now, it’s going to consider many more behavioral signals, like whether an account tweets frequently at others who don’t follow it. The fresh filtering strategy may be a step toward a more healthy Twitter, but it’s already helping to fuel conspiracy theories—especially because the social network isn’t yet alerting users who get swept up into the new system.
For now, it’s unclear whether users will even know if they’ve been flagged under the new system. A Twitter spokesperson says the company is working on developing ways to give users the ability to appeal or flag mistakes. These new changes will likely affect a very small fraction of users; Twitter says that less than one percent of total accounts make up the majority of those reported for abuse.