Twitter updates harassment reporting and blocking tools

The social network is rolling out new features to make it easier for members to combat hateful, unsocial behavior.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

The new tools will roll out to all users in the coming weeks. James Martin/CNET

Twitter is trying to fix its harassment problem.

The social network on Tuesday unveiled a new set of tools for its mobile app to help its members combat harassment, report abusive behavior and see who they've blocked.

Those tools couldn't come soon enough. Twitter, which counted 284 million people logging into their accounts per month in September, had few ways to control vitriolic or abusive messages its members send to each other.

Last year, a social critic who campaigned to put author Jane Austen's image on the British bank note received multiple death and rape threats. Robin Williams' death in August led some Twitter users to send vicious messages to his daughter, prompting her to delete the app from her phone. That same month, Anita Sarkeesian, an academic highlighting how women are portrayed in video games, was so disturbed by the tweets she received that she fled her home for fear of safety.

Twitter said the new features for its mobile app will help wrangle the darker side of the 500 million messages users send to one another per day on the service. The company also said these and other efforts should help to reduce response times by its team.

What they won't do is automate the process. Twitter users will still have to report each account that's harassing them, making these tools much less helpful to someone who's become the target of a coordinated campaign.

Twitter manually reviews complaints, which does slow the process down. But it has tried to come up with ways to help. For example, the company lets bystanders report on a user's behalf and the company plans to improve the speed at which it responds to campaigns.

Other new features include a more detailed look at users you've asked the service to block. The company said it plans to add more tools to this feature as well.

Twitter said a small group of users is seeing these updates now, with the changes rolling out for all users in the coming weeks.

The new blocking settings on Twitter. Twitter