There’s no doubt Twitter is anxiously looking forward to an end to summer.
Although the company share price has steadily improved since June, the months of July and August saw the company beset by another round of racist bullying and negative press.
The bad press for Twitter continued through August when (asshole) trolls set their sites on the African-American gymnast (and Olympic superstar) Gabby Douglas.
Twitter’s problems actually extend beyond just bullying. Several newspapers — including The New York Times — have noticed that Twitter is a breeding ground for disinformation. And in many cases, concerted disinformation that has been traced back to the Russian government.
As the Times’ excellent foreign correspondent Neil MacFarquhar wrote in a late August piece:
In Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now Syria, Mr. Putin has flaunted a modernized and more muscular military. But he lacks the economic strength and overall might to openly confront NATO, the European Union or the United States. Instead, he has invested heavily in a program of “weaponized” information, using a variety of means to sow doubt and division. The goal is to weaken cohesion among member states, stir discord in their domestic politics and blunt opposition to Russia.
And it appears that Russia may not confine its disinformation campaign to the European Union. The U.S. Government has already warned Russia about interfering in the upcoming elections. Most recently through statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter just last week.
Reuters quoted Secretary Carter saying:
“We don’t seek an enemy in Russia. But make no mistake—we will defend our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords all of us,” Carter said in an address to students at Oxford University.
Carter’s sentiments were echoed by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on the weekend talk shows on Sunday.
Well, given all of the trouble, tech companies are beginning to marshal their resources and fight back against trolls and misinformation campaigns.
Twitter has its own tool to fight this stuff. In mid-August the company came out with a quality filter that has a number of tools to fight the trolls that live under the bridge to the 21st century.
Our own Romain Dillet covered Twitter’s news when they launched the tool.
Twitter is wording this new quality filter as a tool to hide notifications from bots and duplicate tweets from spammers. But it could also be a way to prevent harassment from Twitter trolls before making a decision on an account ban.
And Twitter ain’t the only ones looking at tackling its problems. Brooklyn-based HappyFunCorp has launched KnowMore, a service that, in the words of company chief executive Ben Schippers, gives users “the ability to share and mute and block lists among followers and the entire Twitter graph, creating a system-wide, shared blacklist that anyone can subscribe to.”
The company’s app also provides a weighted algorithm and machine learning tools that will enable it to automatically eliminate harassment-related tweets based on a users’ desire. The app can show all comments, moderate mildly or monitor and remove any questionable tweet.
There’s also Block Together, which (according to its website) is designed to “reduce the burden of blocking when many accounts are attacking you”, or when a few accounts are attacking a lot of people in a community. Users can also share blocked accounts so that folks can, indeed, block together.
Block Together is also ideal to tackle the misinformation threat. The service has options that lets users auto-block accounts that are less than seven days old or have only 15 or fewer followers.
They’re both great tools to use, but ultimately Twitter needs to do a better job of tackling the issue itself. The word on the street is that there may be a big initiative underway in the house that Jack built…. let’s hope they roll it out soon, for their sake… and the stakes of their shareholders.