Twitter Has Been Working On A Keyword Filter For A Year

By @TheMarkDalton

Twitter is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons at the moment. Last week we spoke about how Twitter seemed to be able to very quickly deal with copyright content from the Olympics but failed to deal with abusive and harassing tweets.

Twitter’s Failure

Twitter has failed to protect users from harassment for a decade now, the platform goes as far to almost accommodate hate speech and harassment and over the past number of months Twitter has been involved in all kinds of PR controversy with celebrities ditching the platform and media outlets blasting them publicly.

Just last week a black woman who was born in the UK was harassed and abused on the @Ireland Twitter account. Michelle Marie took over the account which is curated by different Twitter users each week and on the first day she received “8 hours of nonstop hate”.

She faced a barrage of racist comments, sexist abuse and had to endure harassment from multiple users on the platform. The sad thing is that events like this have become very much common place over the past year in particular on Twitter. While harassment has always been an issue, the scale of which it is taking place is getting larger.

They have also been exposed in a damning piece from Buzzfeed and so naturally Twitter has had to go on the defence and has made a number of claims about how they are committed to protecting users .

What Is Twitter Doing?

One of the things Twitter has done over recent weeks has been to allow non-verified users to use the quality control filter. The quality control filter is designed to try and detect the quality of different tweets based on duplicate tweets or tweets which appear to be automated.

If the quality filter picks up on tweets with low quality content then you will never see it in your timeline. It does not filter tweets from people you follow or accounts you have recently interacted with. It sounds great but the quality filter has been around on verified accounts for a year now.

It has been limited to verified users only, so if verified users, such as celebrities have had access to the quality control filter for a year, surely if the filter was working we wouldn’t have celebs leaving the platform in a whirlwind of controversy.

If the filter was working the way Twitter describes it, then one would think that celebs and verified users would not be subjected to low quality tweets such as abuse and hate. So how much of an improvement can we really expect it to make?

Twitter did say however that this was the start and there would be further updates. According to an anonymously sourced Bloomberg report, Twitter’s next plan is a keyword based tool which will allow people to filter what they see.

Twitter’s Keyword Filter

According to the report, Twitter has been working on the keyword filter feature for a year now, The tool will “let people filter the posts they see, giving users a more effective way to block out harassing and offensive tweets.”

If Twitter has really been working on a filter like this for a year I personally find it amazing that details have only been leaked at a time where Twitter is coming under intense public pressure and is facing heavy criticism. With the problems being so widespread on the platform, surely it would have made more sense to be forthright about the development of the feature. The reality is that a year to try and develop something to fix the problems Twitter has is simply too long.

Twitter Could Have And Should Have Done Something By Now

The reality is that while a keyword filter looks and sounds great, Twitter could have and should have done something by now. If Twitter wanted to put a halt to abuse on the platform then it would have done it already. Facebook and Instagram do not suffer from the same harassment and abuse issues that Twitter does.

Why? Simply because they have much stricter rules that Twitter. Twitter still maintains that it was founded on the idea of “free speech” but the problem with that is when you give people licence to say whatever the hell they want on the internet then things can get nasty.

Twitter and the free speech notion is deeply embedded in the companies DNA though and it is something they will try to hold on to while they clamp down on the abuse taking place. Thing is you can’t have both, Twitter needs to make a decision now. They are either going to proactively fight the issues or they are going to keep preaching free speech.

No matter what way you look at it, I find it hard to believe that it has taken Twitter a whole year to develop a keyword filtering tool. What is next? A phased rollout over the period of a couple of months? If Twitter has much sense they will get it finished and start rolling it out quickly.