We all know Twitter has an abuse problem. Even Twitter knows it, but so far they haven’t done much to make any kind of meaningful change. The social media company has made plenty of adjustments to their reporting process, privacy features, and overall abuse policies, but many believe it is still not enough. If a real solution were to ever come, it would probably have to come at the hands of a third party.
In a study about social media harassment, it was discovered that 88% of all abusive social media mentions occurred on Twitter. Facebook has long since found a way to diminish online harassment, but Twitter seems to be unable–or unwilling–to do the same. The group Women, Action and the Media! commissioned a report on Twitter abuse which found that the company only takes action on 55% of reported abuse. Many experts believe that this is not high enough, especially when there are easy ways to get around harassment policies.
Twitter has attempted to take steps, but so far what they have done has fallen short of need and expectations. Their revamped reporting system allows too many cases to escape through the cracks, and their high standards of proof allow many abusers to run free under their policies. They recently introduced a quality filter onto the platform, but the company has marketed it as a means to clean up your Twitter experience from spammers and bots, not as a means to filter out abuse.
Many have postulated about the company’s failure to enact real change. Some believe that Twitter doesn’t have a policy problem, they have an interface problem when it comes to reporting abuse. Their current system only allows for abuse to fit into oversimplified categories and does not allow victims to make much of a case against their abusers. Others say that the predominantly male company fails to empathize with the women who are frequently abused on the platform. Whatever the reason may be, it is clear that abuse is a huge reason why Twitter is struggling, and change is needed before valuable users are pushed away.
Luckily, Twitter doesn’t even need to come up with their own solution anymore, they can just rely on the solutions of others. Abuse has gotten so bad that people are starting to take matters into their own hands by creating argue-bots that challenge online abusers and distract them from their intended target. Some are even being designed to pose as real people who belong to the same in-group. The idea being that a person made to look like they are of a higher status than abusers can admonish those people from harassing other users.
Google has created a far more promising and effective means to fight online harassment by creating Conversation AI. The software works to block harmful statements on the internet by using machine learning to sift through language and assign an abuse score from 0-100 before filtering out the most harmful statements. The artificial intelligence is still being tested, but it will be available as open-source code in the future, allowing Twitter and other platforms to create a more abuse-free internet experience.
This new solution could soon become the standard for fighting internet harassment, as common as ad blockers are to internet browsers. Twitter has been unable to take any meaningful step in fighting online abuse, but now maybe they don’t have to. Maybe they just have to hold on long enough for someone else to solve all their problems.