Tired of getting bombarded with harassment and abusive language on Twitter?
The company is testing a new function called “Safety Mode,” which can temporarily block strangers from hurling insults your way, and even from seeing your tweets. Twitter will test the function among a small group of English-language users. The company has designed the new mode as a bit of an emergency button to help users escape “dogpiling” on Twitter and the wave of insults that can potentially ensue.
“Safety Mode is a feature that temporarily blocks accounts for seven days for using potentially harmful language—such as insults or hateful remarks—or sending repetitive and uninvited replies or mentions,” the company explained.
To determine which tweets to block, Twitter is going to rely on computer algorithms to examine the incoming tweet’s content and who it’s sent from. “Authors of Tweets found by our technology to be harmful or uninvited will be auto-locked, meaning they’ll temporarily be unable to follow your account, see your Tweets, or send you Direct Messages,” Twitter said.
Meanwhile, tweets sent from people you follow or frequently interact with will not be auto blocked.
Users will also be able to check which accounts Safety Mode is temporarily blocking. If the function made a mistake, the user can remove the block. “Before each Safety Mode period ends, you’ll receive a notification recapping this information. We won’t always get this right and may make mistakes, so Safety Mode autoblocks can be seen and undone at any time in your Settings,” the company added.
Twitter developed the feature in the hopes it promotes healthy conversation over the platform. For better or worse, if a person tweets out something controversial on Twitter, it can spark a throng of users on the platform to answer back with their own commentary, whether it be praise, witty criticism, or crude insults.
Hence, a regular person can respond to a tweet from a celebrity, company, or even sitting US president.
But the same dynamic also means internet users can gang upon an individual, and bombard their Twitter account with harassment.
“Our goal is to better protect the individual on the receiving end of Tweets by reducing the prevalence and visibility of harmful remarks,” the company said. “We’ll observe how Safety Mode is working and incorporate improvements and adjustments before bringing it to everyone on Twitter.”
The big question is whether Safety Mode will do too little or go too far in silencing seemingly negative interactions on the platform. Rumours of the Safety Mode feature earlier this year prompted some to question if Twitter was embarking on AI-powered censorship. Other critics have blasted Twitter for failing to rein in the toxicity that can occur over the platform.
If you’ve been selected for Twitter’s test, you can turn on Safety Mode by going into your Privacy and Safety settings.