Twitter Squashes Trolls with New Power Play
May 17, 2018
Internet trolling fast became a hobby for those amused by the discomfort and annoyance of others. Made easy by the mask of anonymity that online posting provides, trolling involves the posting of comments or topics which bother others simply for the amusement of the “troll”. While trolling began as a form of causing amusing disruptions in otherwise normal conversations, it has grown into a way to harass others, sometimes including sexual comments.
Trolling has been a problem for social media platforms due to the ability to create multiple accounts under various personas. In the case of Twitter, the user handle has little to do with a person’s actual identity. Unlike other social media outlets, such as Facebook, which uses real life photographs and identities to share pictures and information with friends online, twitter is a more public forum, through which there is no need to ever define oneself. In fact, there have been many counts of fraudulent activity, identity theft, and made up personas through Twitter.
Twitter Takes Action
There’s always been discontent with Twitter users over the amount of spam, fraud, and trolling which takes place on the platform, and it seems that Twitter has now taken a step toward eradicating the issue. Twitter announced that they will be removing harmful and annoying content from their platform, beginning with accounts which are considered negative or disruptive.
The social media giant has made it known that they will begin “cleaning house” by reducing the visibility of accounts which are thought to be bots, rather than people. These bot driven accounts spread spam by auto-commenting on a variety of real user posts passing on links to products and services or providing false or negative feedback. Most bots of this kind are designed to promote the visibility of a website, hoping to boost search engine optimization through the addition of keywords of links to the website in question.
Rather than banning these users completely, which would create a huge drop in the Twitter follower numbers, the social media company has decided to reduce the visibility of these users. By making bots and fraudulent users less visible, the desired outcome of spreading links and keywords will be diminished, and less legitimate users will be affected.
How Will Twitter Decide Who Stays and Who Goes?
Unlike Google bots which are designed to seek out content that is considered offensive, irrelevant, or rife with spam, Twitter won’t be finding trolls by monitoring content and comments. Instead, the tech giant is choosing to monitor the way that Twitter accounts are created, watching for specific algorithms which may suggest a bot is behind the account creation. For human spammers, Twitter will monitor interactions between users, checking accounts which have been blocked by others or muted regularly from being followed. Users which are being purposely ignored by others are thought to be at the root of the trolling issue and will be limited in their post visibility the same as bots.
Why Take a Stand Now?
When asked about the new goals to reduce spam and trolling, Twitter responded that they want to cut down on reported abuse on the site and make Twitter a safer place for users. The Vice President of Twitter’s Trust and Safety department suggested that this change isn’t meant to detract from controversy and disagreements on the site, but rather, to make it a more positive site to share on. In other words, users can still disagree, argue, or debate, but respectfully.
When testing this new play for reduced trolling visibility, Twitter saw a reduction of 4% in search query responses and a reduction of 8% in comments and replies. This new change will roll out to the rejoicing of Twitter users who have made it known that they disagree with the constant disruptions which fraudulent Twitter activity brings to the site.
This is a small change for Twitter, but it could mean big changes in the future. Research has shown that it takes very little to create controversy on the site, which in turn promotes these accounts and creates large following bases. This has been detrimental to the running of many political campaigns and advertising platforms, which is part of the issue, and is the cause for Twitter considering changing site policies surrounding trolling and fraudulent profiles to be so important.
Much of the controversy surrounding the buying of Twitter followers and fake accounts has grown over the past months as Facebook and Google began battling security policies which have toed the line on disregard for privacy. In fact, Facebook lost several followers, including celebrity followers after the news came out that much of the private information shared over these social media and search engine sites is saved and stored. The idea of being documented without knowledge spooked most site users; although the overall following for Facebook remains strong.
Twitter and other social media sites, such as Snapchat and Instagram have also come under scrutiny recently, as users realize that if one social media platform is collecting data, there’s the possibility that they all are. Twitter has been working to remove these fears and doubts from the minds of users, and this new anti-trolling policy is one of the steps being taken to reduce fallout from the mass privacy scandals going on across the internet.
So, will Twitter once and for all ban trolling on their platform? Probably not, but they are monitoring it more closely, and wishing all of their users a safe and happy experience with the site.