Trolls were once a popular kid’s toy. The plastic figures stood with their arms out wide and their crazy-colored hair straight up.
They may have evoked a few nightmares, but nothing like the trolls that everyone from celebrities to young teenagers experience now.
Today’s trolls are most often found in every spot of the internet: comment boards, smartphone apps and behind anonymous profiles on social media platforms like Twitter.
Ed Ho, Twitter’s vice president of engineering, announced Tuesday three changes to making Twitter a safer place, including cracking down on trolls.
The changes will stop the creation of abusive accounts, bring forward safer search results and collapse potentially abusive or low-quality tweets.
“We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic,” Ho wrote in an update released on the company’s blog. “That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices. We won’t tolerate it and we’re launching new efforts to stop it.”
Ho began tweeting about changes to the company’s oversight on Jan. 30.
We’ll be rolling out a number of product changes in the days ahead. Some changes will be visible and some will be less so.— Ed Ho (@mrdonut) January 31, 2017
We’ll listen, learn and keep shipping until we’ve made a significant impact that people can feel.— Ed Ho (@mrdonut) January 31, 2017
We heard you, we didn't move fast enough last year; now we're thinking about progress in days and hours not weeks and months.— Ed Ho (@mrdonut) January 31, 2017
Trolls, and even those who don’t hide behind screennames, have long been a complaint of society who is trying to use social media to – wait for it – socialize.
Lindy West, a culture writer for GQ, wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian at the start of 2017 about why she deleted her Twitter account.
“I talk back,” West wrote. “I am ‘feeding the trolls.’ I say nothing and the harassment escalates. I report threats and I am a ‘censor.’ I use mass-blocking tools to curb abuse and I am abused further for blocking ‘unfairly.’
“I have to conclude, after half a decade of troubleshooting, that it may simply be impossible to make this platform usable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators.”
In the first month of 2017, the fast food chain Wendy’s and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling made headlines alone for essentially trolling the trolls.
Wendy’s response to a troll who accused the company of using frozen beef gained so much attention, people were asking the account to “roast them.”
Rowling drew headlines for a troll who mocked her writing.
This year, Twitter already introduced an improvement to reporting abusive tweets, but their newest update will collapse “potentially abusive or low quality Tweets.”
“Our team has also been working on identifying and collapsing potentially abusive and low-quality replies so the most relevant conversations are brought forward,” Ho wrote. “These Tweet replies will still be accessible to those who seek them out. You can expect to see this change rolling out in the coming weeks.”
@marypcbuk we are going to give it everything we've got.— Ed Ho (@mrdonut) January 31, 2017