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Twitter’s New Quality Filter Is Maybe Going to Help With Harassment

Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For years, Twitter’s “quality filter,” a feature that attempts to automatically remove threatening, abusive, and repeated tweets from a user’s feed, has been limited only to those with verified accounts — meaning celebrities, journalists, and the Kardashian family at large. But starting today, the company announced, it will be rolling out the feature on a larger scale, allowing all users to turn on the filter.

From Twitter:

When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience. It does not filter content from people you follow or accounts you’ve recently interacted with — and depending on your preferences, you can turn it on or off in your notifications settings.

The new changes will also allow users to limit their notifications, meaning they’ll only get pop-ups when people they follow on the platform interact with their tweets. (So you’ll no longer have to hear from that guy who begins every reply with “actually,” unless you actively go looking for him.)

Earlier this summer, Twitter also announced it would be allowing people to apply for verification (the little blue check mark you see beside some profiles, denoting an arbitrary level of importance and guaranteeing that the person behind the account is, in fact, who they say they are). It felt, at the time, like Twitter might be moving toward verifying all its users, or working on a similar feature that would answer the harassment cries that have long plagued the microblogging platform. (You can read more about why Twitter should just go ahead and verify all its users here.) Today’s quality-filter and notification changes feel like the logical next step in that progression.

The announcement leaves several questions unanswered. Saying the company will be sifting out tweets based on a “variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior,” doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture of what constitutes a high-quality tweet and what constitutes a low-quality one that will be blocked by the filter. (Online harassment comes in all sorts of creative shapes and sizes these days.) And monitoring and blocking duplicate tweets is a great start at curbing accounts that rack up hundreds of thousands of followers (and subsequently similar numbers in ad revenue) by churning out content cribbed from other Twitter users — but if users don’t opt to use the new filter, these accounts likely won’t suffer. And of course, the real question on all of everyone’s minds: What does this mean for the #brands? (All of these questions are clearly of equal gravity.)

Still, it’s a start. And these are the first tangible changes Twitter has made for all its users since its CEO Jack Dorsey publicly promised to “invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to prevent this kind of abuse,” after racist trolls temporarily drove actor and Olympics-commentator extraordinaire Leslie Jones off the platform in July.

Twitter’s New Quality Filter Might Help With Harassment