Over the last couple of days users of the popular micro-blogging site, Twitter, have begun to see the effects of a new quality filter rolled out to protect users from abusive comments. According to Twitter, the new filter is designed to catch abusive tweets directed at users and keep said target from seeing the post in their notifications. It doesn’t delete the tweet, or prevent others from seeing it. It’s much like the quality filter introduced recently for verified accounts, a slider that verified users can turn on and off at their leisure. The one caveat to the new, non-verified account version, it’s not optional.
Of course the release of this tool and the discovery of it’s release, have been met with mixed emotions. I use the term tool loosely because the word implies something a person uses to achieve an end, and in this case no one uses it, the filter is used on them. Some users are cheering Twitter for taking a stand to curb harassment and abuse on the site. Others are upset that their option to see, or not see anything directed at them has been taken away without consent. Criticisms range from the mild, like that posted by The Escapist writer Lizzy Finnegan below, to some fairly colorful tweets that were probably caught in the same quality filter users are upset about.
If I’ve missed replying to anyone, it’s possible Twitter was saving me from awful boo boo eyehurts, and you got filtered. So, sorry?
— Liz O’GingerMcIrish (@lizzyf620) May 6, 2015
Naturally users on the internet cherish their choice and freedom. The internet is, after all, a nebulous community that isn’t bound by any national borders and even real world laws are difficult to apply where anonymity is the norm. When you tell people they can’t do something they are likely to do it anyway. When you take away someone’s freedom to choose, when they previously had such choice, the reaction tends to be even worse. Twitter has had active tools of choice to keep users’ timelines clean for as long as I’ve been using it. One can mute, or block users they don’t want to hear from, so many wonder why this new filter isn’t also optional. Why users of Twitter can’t make their own choices in how to best manage their own notifications. As people on the internet tend to do, many users took to testing the new filter to see if it had limitations and how it actually worked. The results were mixed, as I witnessed myself. I saw users comment that a crude word was filtered when one account sent it to them, but not by another. Another users mentioned that once they tweeted a ‘filtered’ word themselves, future tweets containing the same word came to them just fine. A very concise conclusion was posted by freelance writer, illustrator, and podcaster Piper below. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to what the filter captures and doesn’t. In the end it seems to be something forced on users, that they may or may not want, and it doesn’t even work as intended.
So what’s my take? If people want to have their notifications filtered for them, sure why not. If…they…want. The problem here is that it’s not optional. Some people talk to each other with salty language, they do what we in the gaming world call ‘trash talk’ and it’s how they communicate. Some people want to hear from their fans, or detractors, even if what they have to say is uncouth. Some people just want the choice, and my choose to turn on the filter, but the option to do so is the important part here. So I don’t think that the tool is a bad idea, I just think the implementation is extremely poor.