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Twitter finally decides to address harassment with content filters for everyone

It's about time.


Selena Larson


Posted on Aug 18, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 5:47 am CDT

Twitter debuted options to improve the content that appears in your notifications tab, finally giving everyone the ability to only see notifications from people they follow on the social network. Additionally, the “quality filter,” now to be rolled out broadly, will filter replies and potentially limit harassment when turned on. 

The move to improve the communications lobbed in users’ directions comes after years of criticism that Twitter is terrible at dealing with harassment on the platform. Its failure to properly address harassment, including poor abuse reporting and confusing policies, has come to a head in recent months as a number of high-profile women have been driven off the service due to racism and gendered abuse. 

Beginning Thursday, Twitter now has the option to limit your interactions to just people you follow on mobile and the web. You can access notifications settings in the tab itself. Once turned on, you won’t see mentions, retweets, or likes from anyone you don’t follow. 

Further, Twitter is giving everyone a “quality filter,” currently the best defense against harassment available to Twitter’s verified users. The company introduced it in March of last year to those with the blue check mark. It is designed to improve the kind of content you’ll see in notifications by automatically filtering out tweets based on an account’s origin, its actions, and whether it is spam. (Twitter is quite unclear about how, exactly, it determines these “origins” and “actions” it will be filtering, but it does mention things like duplicate tweets or automation.) 

Turning the quality filter on will reduce the amount of interactions you see in your notifications tab, but it won’t filter people you follow and accounts you’ve tweeted with before. You can turn on the quality filter directly in your notifications tab, too. 

Enabling all users to access improved tools for having a more filtered, positive experience on the site may reduce the amount of harassment targeted at users. However, even with the safety tools given to high-profile users, they still experience absurd bullying, harassment, and uncomfortable behavior. 

Twitter is aware its current strategies to address harassment are failing, and has promised numerous times to introduce new ways of dealing with it. However, its inaction has rankled users and is sometimes cited as a deterrent to people signing up for their own accounts. Last week, BuzzFeed reported the company built anti-harassment tools for specific users, and that the internal culture entrenched in protecting free speech in all its forms stymied development of safety products. 

With the new filtering options, Twitter is progressively making the platform safer, and is a small antidote to the frustrations users have experienced for years.

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*First Published: Aug 18, 2016, 5:40 pm CDT