Twitter Says It’s Cracking Down on 10 Times the Number of Abusive Accounts As Last Year, But What Does That Really Mean?

Twitter has been implementing new measures to address harassment. Photo: LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

In a blog post on Thursday, Twitter’s general manager of consumer product and engineering Ed Ho announced how Twitter’s recent updates have affected the amount of harassment on the site. According to Ho, Twitter is now “taking action on 10x the number of abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year,” and in the last four months alone, has reportedly removed twice the number of repeat-offender accounts (users who create new accounts after their old ones are suspended).

As promising as these numbers seem, experts point out that they mean little without context — like the total number of abuse reports per year, baseline information which Twitter did not provide.

“Is ten times as many account flags good or bad?” Professor James Grimmelmann, a Cornell law professor who studies networks asked Wired. “It depends on how many Twitter was flagging before, and how many they were missing.”

Ho’s blog post follows a BuzzFeed report from earlier in the week that detailed the irregular, and seemingly random, way Twitter responds to harassment reports. The story highlighted a number of instances in which harassment reports were ignored and the tweets in question were only removed once media outlets began reporting on them. One BuzzFeed engineer even said she had resorted to messaging people she knows at Twitter directly in order to get abusive tweets taken down.

“One case that happens pretty frequently is if someone is harassing me with multiple accounts and all the reports will come back as Twitter saying it’s not abusive. But then I talk to a friend at Twitter who says it definitely is and helps get it taken care of for me. There’s some disconnect going on internally there with their training, I think.”

In his conclusion, Ho wrote that what happens next at Twitter is “more improvement, transparency, and speed.” While there seems to be some improvement, transparency still seems a ways away.

Twitter Says It’s Cracking Down on 10x More Abusive Accounts