Twitter Drops Pretense, Begins To Filter 'Bad Behavior'

Beleaguered Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced in March that his social platform — long rumored to be engaging in “shadowbanning” of certain users (conservative users, say conservatives) — will drop the pretense of free-speech-without-limits and begin to offer filtering options for bad (borderline anti-social, really) users.

And not just in content, but in behavior.

The announcement in March was an attempt by Dorsey to address some of the criticism that Twitter has become a place of hateful propaganda, abuse, and potential manipulation by political actors with agendas.

The unhealthy platform has let its issues fester for years. Its feeds have long been filled with trolls, misinformation, performative outrage, and abuse. And recent Congressional scrutiny has exposed how woefully unprepared it is to mitigate state-sponsored manipulation of its platform.

On Thursday afternoon, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey went live on Periscope to talk about this new focus, explaining that Twitter is trying to work to increase its platform’s “health,” an umbrella term under which it’s currently lumping its plan to fix all these problems. On the broadcast, Dorsey was joined by the company’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead Vijaya Gadde, its head of Trust & Safety Del Harvey, and its health product manager David Gasca. The quartet did their best to explain what “health” means to Twitter, essentially admitting that the company is starting at square one.

Now, Twitter will begin hiding all tweets from suspect accounts and will start to monitor behavioral signals to decide if accounts are poor actors on the site.

Among the signals Twitter will use: whether you tweet at large numbers of accounts you don’t follow, how often you’re blocked by people you interact with, whether you created many accounts from a single IP address, and whether your account is closely related to others that have violated its terms of service.

“A lot of our past action has been content-based, and we have been shifting more and more toward conduct and behaviors on the system,” Dorsey said in a briefing at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Monday.

It remains unclear if users will know they’ve been relegated to the bottom of conversations (one of the ways Dorsey plans on downplaying negative content), but the new rules will let all users know they have the option to filter users behaving badly.

Twitter will make the “behavioral filters optional, and they will be on by default. People will be able to turn them on or off with a ‘show everything’ toggle in search,” reports Buzzfeed.

While civility demands standards, “Twitter’s new filtering system is similar to shadowbanning, but it incorporates far more behavioral signals, specifically designed to detect when someone is disrupting the conversation,” reports Wired magazine.

The issue, as usual in cases where unfettered speech is at issue, is who gets to define “disrupt”.