According to the latest report, Twitter is expanding the use of a feature called “Safety Mode,” which aims to provide users with a set of tools to fend off the abuse that still occurs frequently on its platform. “Safe Mode” was first rolled out to a small group of testers last September, and Twitter on Tuesday rolled out a beta version to users in more English-speaking markets, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, among others.
The company said the expanded access will allow it to gather more insights into how Safe Mode is working and see what improvements still need to be made. Twitter noted that while it is rolling out Safe Mode, it will also prompt users when they may need to enable Safe Mode.
As a public social platform, Twitter faces an ongoing struggle with the health of conversations. It has rolled out a number of tweaks and updates over the years to try to fix the problem — including the ability to automatically hide unpleasant and abusive replies behind extra clicks; allow users to limit who can reply to their tweets; let users search for hiding yourself from within; and dialogs that warn users about bad vibes, and more.
However, Safe Mode is more of a defensive tool than designed to proactively steer the conversation in the right direction. What it does is automatically block accounts for seven days that reply to the original poster with harmful language or send unwelcome repetitive replies — such as insults and hate speech or mentions. While Safe Mode is enabled, these blocked accounts will not be able to follow the original poster’s Twitter account, see their tweets and replies, or send them direct messages.
Twitter’s algorithm decides which accounts need to be temporarily blocked by evaluating the language used in replies and examining the relationship between the author of the tweet and the responder. For example, if the poster follows or interacts with the responder frequently, the account will not be blocked.
The idea of Safe Mode is to give users under attack a way to quickly build a defense system without having to manually block every account that harassed them — which is nearly impossible when a tweet goes viral because It exposes the poster to a higher level of abuse. This happens not only with celebrities and public figures who “cancel” the headlines, but sometimes with women journalists, members of marginalized communities and even ordinary people.
It’s not a problem unique to Twitter either – last year, Instagram rolled out a similar set of anti-abuse features after several England footballers were viciously harassed by angry fans following their Euro 2020 final defeat.
It said that based on feedback from early testers, Twitter learned that people wanted more help in determining when an attack might be underway. As a result, the company said Tuesday that the feature will now also prompt users to enable it when the system detects a potentially harmful or unwelcome reply.
These prompts can appear on the user’s homepage timeline, or as device notifications if the user isn’t using Twitter at the time. This should help users not have to look for the feature in Twitter’s settings.
Previously, Twitter tested Safe Mode on 750 users in an early trial. Now, it will roll out a beta version to about 50% of users (selected at random) in supported markets.
The company said it was exploring how these users could give Twitter feedback directly in the app. Twitter did not share when it plans to make Safe Mode publicly available to users around the world.