Twitter reverses one new safety rule, admits misstep

In a fresh stumble for Twitter, the social network has abruptly reversed one of its safety rules to combat bullies and abusive behavior.

The difficulties began when Twitter issued a recent notice that users won’t receive alerts if they get looped into a list.

“We want you to get notifications that matter,” Twitter stated in a post. “Starting today, you won’t get notified when you are added to a list.”

Users began to push back immediately. The big problem, some users noted, is that a lack of notification actually makes it harder for people to know if they’ve been added to a list that is abusive. One Twitter user, SwiftOnSecurity, and others pointed out in posts on the site that no alerts could make it easier to bury abuse.

“Critical for people to know if they’ve been added to a list intended for targets,” SwiftOnSecurity tweeted. “This is blinding the vulnerable.”

A list is a curated group of Twitter accounts. Users can create their own lists or subscribe to lists that others have created. Those who view a list will see tweets only from accounts that are in that group.

Numerous pings went to Twitter executive Ed Ho, who has taken point, at least publicly, for the rollout of the safety features.

“This isn’t a good move,” user Erica Joy tweeted to Ho. “Please reconsider.”

Ho, a vice president of engineering at the social network, soon replied that the company had decided the no-notifications policy on lists was a bad idea.

“Reconsidered and reversing,” Ho replied. “Thanks for the feedback.”

Joy was far from the only member to give their 140 characters about the issue.

“Being added to a list and knowing what list you were added to was literally the last useful thing about Twitter,” Anthony Quintano tweeted. Richard Lawler replied, “Seriously. This is not safety.” Quintano replied, “Agreed. This is sweeping a problem under the rug and ruining a good feature at the same time.”

That prompted the company to issue an even more direct explanation about the service’s response.

“Thank you both for the feedback, we hear you.” Ho said. “We are reversing the change.”

San Francisco-based Twitter has struggled in an array of ways during the years since its initial public offering in 2013, when the company offered its shares at $26 each. Since the IPO, the company’s stock price has withered.

Things seemed more optimistic for Twitter, at least for the first five weeks of 2017. During that stretch, Twitter’s shares soared nearly 15 percent and reached a peak for the year on Feb. 8.

But soon after the markets closed on Feb. 8, Twitter unveiled another brutal earnings report that revealed the company had suffered more red ink, endured its 10th consecutive quarter of declining revenue and was jolted by relatively flat U.S. subscriber growth despite the focus on the national elections.

Twitter shares nose-dived by more than 12 percent that day, and kept on dropping after that. Shares did rally on Tuesday, however.

During 2016, Twitter lost $456.9 million on revenue of $2.53 billion.

Twitter signaled on Nov. 15, about a week after the contentious U.S. presidential election, that the company was laying pans to battle abusive behavior and bullying in a quest to make the social network safer.

Ultimately, Ho issued a definitive mea culpa to its members.

“This was a misstep, we are reversing the change. Thank you and others for the feedback,” Ho tweeted.

Users thanked Twitter for its decision to reinstate the policy about list notifications.

“Thanks for being open to feedback and flexible,” Joy replied.

At least one user, Joel Franusic, a self-described hacker and computer history enthusiast based in California, seemed to inject sarcasm into his praise.

“Is this real? How did I end up in the universe where @TwitterSafety cares about their users?!” Franusic tweeted.

 

Photo from Bay Area News Group archives

 

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