Twitter is trialling a new tool that will filter abusive messages, stopping them from entering users’ main inboxes.
The filter will flag words that contain offensive content, before squirrelling them away into a folder marked “additional messages”. They’ll then be protected by a sign which reads: “This message is hidden because it may contain offensive content”. Users can click on the message to see its potentially harmful content, or simply select the red bin icon to cull it from the inbox.
Users have long complained of having to field inappropriate or harmful messages themselves, and while Twitter has taken algorithmic pains to ensure abuse never sees the (blue) light of day, they often let plenty go undetected. There’s also the problem of false positives, when original posters are unduly silenced by trolls flagging perfectly above-board interactions.
Twitter took to, er, Twitter, to announce the new tool. “Unwanted messages aren’t fun,” the site declared, “So we’re testing a filter in your DM requests to keep those out of sight, out of mind”.
If you’ve set your Twitter account to accept direct messages from anybody, the platform already filters attempts to contact you by people you don’t follow into a folder that reads “message requests” – alerting you to the fact that you’re not already digitally connected with the messenger. But this new filter adds a whole other layer of depth to Twitter’s fielding capacities.
Unwanted messages have long been the bane of Twitter users, with the bulk of direct abuse on the site targeted at women and people of colour. A 2018 study revealed that women receive abuse every 30 seconds on Twitter, with black women 84% more likely to have been mentioned in an abusive tweet than white women.
News that Twitter is taking steps to prevent that abuse from reaching its victim, then, comes as a welcome change – this filter is the best thing to slide into our DMs yet.