Twitter adds sharing block lists to help limit harassment

Microblogging service hopes the ability to block multiple accounts at once will help curb abuse and harassment on the platform.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read

Twitter is adding a new feature to block multiple users engaging in abusive behavior on the social network.

Twitter users can now block out accounts of abusive users and share the list with others. Twitter

The microblogging service said Wednesday users will now be able to share block lists with other users who may be being harassed by the same accounts. This will let users block multiple accounts all at once, instead of having to block them individually. Twitter engineer Xiaoyun Zhang wrote in a blog post Wednesday that the latest update expands existing mute and block tools on the platform.

"While many users find them useful, we also recognize that some users -- those who experience high volumes of unwanted interactions on Twitter -- need more sophisticated tools," he said. "We also hope these advanced blocking tools will prove useful to the developer community to further improve users' experience."

The upgrades are Twitter's latest attempt to curb abusive messages some of its users send to each other. With 302 million active users, the company unveiled a new set of tools in December to help combat harassment and report abusive behavior.

In April, Twitter updated its policy that extends to "threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others." The policy previously banned tweets that were limited to "direct, specific threats of violence against others." The previous policy was "unduly narrow" and didn't allow for the company to easily handle threats, the company said.

Two months earlier, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wrote in a series of internal memos leaked publicly that he took personal responsibility to an inadequate response to the chronic abuse and harassment that occurs daily on the social network. Costolo believes the bullying behavior is driving away users and vowed to take stronger action to eliminate it.

"We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years," Costolo wrote in one memo. "It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."

Costolo further wrote in response to an employee's question on the company's internal forum that he's ultimately responsible for the abuse.

"I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd," he said. "There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing.

"We're going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them," he added.