Twitter finds a way to quash offensive tweets

A feature dubbed "quality filtering," available to certain users of Twitter's iOS app, tries to sift out tweets deemed offensive or abusive.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Anil Dash/Twitter/screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Twitter is rolling out an option that can hide offensive tweets from your view.

Revealed in a tweet posted Monday by ThinkUp CEO Anil Dash, the feature known as "quality filtering" is intended to "remove all Tweets from your notifications timeline that contain threats, offensive or abusive language, duplicate content, or are sent from suspicious accounts." The feature appears as an option in Twitter's iOS app on its notifications screen, where you can turn it on or off.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the quality-filtering feature to tech news site Ars Technica, explaining that it has been offered to some "verified" Twitter users. Twitter verifies certain accounts in order to confirm their authenticity, a status often reserved for celebrities, brand names, organizations and other public entities.

However, the quality filter isn't exactly new. Previously, verified users had a Tailored filtering option that did the same thing -- filter notifications. Through the new feature, verified users can now trigger the quality filter directly through their Twitter settings screen.

The filtering feature is targeted toward a problem that has plagued Twitter and Twitter users for years, a fact acknowledged by the company's CEO. Earlier this month, internal company memos obtained by The Verge quoted Twitter chief Dick Costollo as saying that " we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. 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."

Losing users is certainly cause for concern for Twitter. Reporting its fourth-quarter results last month, the company said it recorded 288 million regular users at the end of last year, a rise of only 4 million from the previous quarter. That number also missed analysts' estimates, and was lower than the company had seen in prior quarters.

Any Twitter user can be on the receiving end of an offensive tweet. But celebrities and other well-known people can be especially open to abuse.

Last week, actress Ashley Judd expressed her outrage at offensive comments against her and said she would be pressing charges against Twitter trolls. In a story published by The Guardian last month, writer and performer Lindy West wrote about her experience with a troll who opened a Twitter account in the name of her late father to make offensive comments about her. And last August, Robin Williams' daughter temporarily left Twitter in the wake of insulting comments following the death of her father.

Last December, Twitter rolled out new options to flag offensive tweets and view more details about the accounts that you've blocked. At the time, the company promised to add more tools to the account block feature.