Twitter has finally come up with a solution to muzzle trolls.
The company published a blog post on Thursday announcing two new controls for filtering your notifications. Twitter notifications are the primary method through which trolls can contact and harass users.
The first new setting reduces the noise in your notifications stream. By default, anyone who mentions your Twitter username with the “@” symbol shows up in your Twitter notifications. It doesn’t matter if they’re asking a simple question, offering constructive criticism, or threatening to cut your head off. Everyone shows up.
The new setting filters your notification down to solely people you follow. The new filter works on Twitter’s apps and the website. It’s not clear if third-party Twitter apps can also apply it.
Why this matters: Many—perhaps most—Twitter users don’t really have a need for this kind of filtering. But for people such as celebrities, politicians, or outspoken feminists, Twitter notifications can be a very dark place. For these people personal threats and other objectionable comments from random Twitter users are commonplace. The new notifications filters will make Twitter a more hospitable place for anyone who wants to speak their mind without having to sort through a deluge of hate.
The unfortunate side effect of this, however, is that people who are being targeted for online harassment are effectively putting themselves in a bubble. In other words, the long-held idea of using Twitter as an “online water cooler” to chat and share ideas with strangers will be over—if it ever truly existed in the first place.
It’s all about quality
The second new setting is called a quality filter. This setting, which was turned on by default for my account, removes what Twitter calls “lower-quality content.” This low-brow stuff can be things like duplicate tweets or bot-generated content. The quality filter affects your notifications and “other parts of your Twitter experience.” Presumably, that means your primary timeline. The low-quality filter never restricts people you follow or those whom you’ve recently interacted with—don’t feed the trolls, folks.
How to turn on the new settings
Getting to the new settings is easy on Twitter’s website. First login to the service and then click on the Notifications tab. To the right of your mentions, click the new Settings link.
Alternatively, you can navigate directly to twitter.com/settings/notifications_timeline.
This settings area has two check boxes for filtering your tweets by people you follow as well as applying the quality filter. Check or uncheck whichever box you’d like, select Save changes, and you’re done. Accessing these settings via Twitter’s mobile apps is similar. Mobile users should also tap on Notifications and then tap the settings cog in that area, which takes you directly to the two new filters.
If you don’t see the new settings they may not yet be available for your account. Try updating your mobile apps or logging in to the website. If that doesn’t work sit tight; the new features should show up for you in the coming days.
If you apply the filter to only allow mentions from people you follow it’s also advisable to make sure your account restricts who can send you direct messages. You can double check this setting on Twitter.com by going to Settings > Security and privacy.
Now let the haters keep on hatin’, because you’ll never know one way or the other.