Twitter banishes 'trolls' to the shadows

Twitter already uses artificial intelligence and machine learning in this effort but the latest initiative aims to do more by focusing on the actions of certain users in addition to the content

The San Francisco company said Tuesday that it will demote tweets that "distort and detract from the public conversation" by taking into account behavioral signals about those users' behavior on Twitter.

But what we've learned as we've dug into that a little bit more is that there were actually this tiny number of accounts - less than one per cent of accounts - that were making up the majority of reports that we were receiving for abuse.
"The challenge for us has been how can we proactively address these disruptive behaviours that do not violate our policies but negatively impact the health of the conversation?"

Del Harvey, Twitter's vice-president of trust and safety, said that the new changes were based on research that found that most of the abuse reports on Twitter originate in search results or the conversations that take place in the responses to a single tweet.

The result is that people contributing to the healthy conversation will be more visible while those that try to poison or undermine the debate with negativity will be digitally sidelined.

Twitter says it also looks at how accounts are connected to those that do violate rules and how they interact with each other.

The company now uses a mixture of machine learning, human review processes and policies to determine how tweets are organised in conversations and search. Other signals will include whether an account has confirmed an email address or whether an account appears to be acting in a coordinated attack.

No doubt attention-seeking trolls will be hopping with rage and crying censorship over the latest development, but Twitter said that early testing of the new tools in various markets around the world shows that keeping the negative commentary out of sight is having a positive impact.

The move is part of Twitter's attempts to improve what it describes as the health of public conversation on its platform. Because the content from users who are behaving badly may not necessarily violate Twitter's policies, it will stay on Twitter, and you'll still be able to see them by clicking on "Show more replies" or opting to see everything in search.

The new system will use behavioral signals to assess whether a Twitter account is adding to - or detracting from - the tenor of conversations. That means fewer people are seeing Tweets that disrupt their experience on Twitter.

Twitter's new approach is still pretty much work in progress, and could take some time to get used to. Our goal is to learn fast and make our processes and tools smarter.

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