Twitter may start hiding hate tweets but seeks balance
28th Jun 2012 | 13:52
Because tweets must flow
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has revealed that the service may begin hiding replies from anonymous users in an effort to curb the effect of hate speech on the site.
Replies sent by Twitter accounts with no picture, biography or followers may be hidden from the users they're sent to in the future, meaning that users will have to build up a certain level of authority to be seen by strangers.
It's been a turbulent year for Twitter as some users have begun using the site to spread abusive, frequently racist, vitriol aimed at celebrities and fellow Twitter users, often sparked by television programmes or football games.
An emotional Dick Costolo told the FT that he finds some Twitter abuse "horrifying" but is wary of impacting free speech.
Freedom of tweet
"The reason we want to allow pseudonyms is there are lots of places in the world where it's the only way you'd be able to speak freely," he told the FT.
"The flipside of that is it also emboldens these trolls. How do you make sure you are both emboldening people to speak politically but making it ok to be on the platform and not endure all this hate speech? It's very frustrating."
As well as the mentions block, he explained that third parties will begin to play a bigger role, even suggesting that expanded tweets will start to include things like (shudder) polls.
"What you'll see us do more and more as a platform is allow third parties to build into Twitter," he went on.
The potential blocking of tweets will no doubt be met with much criticism from the same parties that panicked when Twitter brought in plans to remove tweets by geographical location where legally obliged to.
But tweets that are hidden from users tagged in them using the @reply system will still be visible on users' profiles (provided they are not secured profiles) so the plans are not censorship per se.
What this tweet hiding plan won't do, however, is hide offensive tweets sent from accounts that do have user bios, photos and followers. Twitter users will just have to keep reporting these kinds of people for abuse to Twitter and, where appropriate, to the police.