The Stack Archive

Twitter adds ‘hellban’ to anti-abuse measures

Wed 1 Mar 2017

Twitter has announced today that it is rolling out a raft of additional measures to counteract abuse of the platform – including a feature whereby the missives of identified abusers would only be visible for a time to themselves and those following them.

In YCombinator’s Hacker News community, this is similar to a ‘hellban’ – where a poster who has been flagged as a spammer or low-quality contributor will see their own posts as usual when logged in, but these will not be shown to anyone else reading the board. HN does not issue advisories or warnings when this is the case, though it is not clear whether Twitter’s own version of the hellban would do so.

This particular initiative, the announcement observes, is intended to stop specious or nuisance tweets from individual accounts to Twitter users who have no connection with the nuisance user, and adds that the measure would only be taken after significant automatic evaluation to conclude that the user deserves the ban. The restriction would last for ‘a set amount of time’, according to the social network.

‘For example, this change could come into effect if an account is repeatedly Tweeting without solicitation at non-followers or engaging in patterns of abusive behavior that is in violation of the Twitter Rules. Our platform supports the freedom to share any viewpoint, but if an account continues to repeatedly violate the Twitter Rules, we will consider taking further action…We aim to only act on accounts when we’re confident, based on our algorithms, that their behavior is abusive.’

Other measures being rolled out include the ability for users to filter notifications based on whether accounts have an associated photo, a verified email address or a verified phone number, for example.

Additionally the scope and extent of last year’s ‘mute’ feature – which lets users filter out conversations with certain keywords or phrases – is being extended, with muting available from a user’s home timeline and the duration of the filter controllable by the user, ranging from a day to indefinitely.

Twitter also promises more direct feedback to users who make complaints or notifications; henceforth it will acknowledge receipt of complaints, and provide updates to individuals.

Opinion The hellban is perhaps the most significant measure here, as it follows the growing recent trend towards the demoting or complete obliteration of ‘anonymous’ or unaccountable comment postings and private messaging. In January the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) caused user furore when it completely removed its venerable forums and messaging capabilities – another wheel-turn in the pivoting of sites which grew to prominence via user-contributed work, and now seem to be seeking to ‘clean house’. Russia and China’s ‘real names’ policies are, naturally, telescoped implementations of the anti-anonymity trend.


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