Twitter is developing a feature that has the potential to curb harassment and bullying on the social network. App engineer Jane Manchun Wong discovered that the company is developing a way for users to control who can mention them on Twitter. According to a screenshot posted by Wong, the new controls would give users the option to limit mentions to people they follow or turn off mentions altogether. Of course, you would still have the option to allow anyone to mention you, which is how Twitter currently operates.
Giving users the option to turn off mentions altogether would be a dramatic shift for the company, but it would also give users a way to protect themselves from all sorts of bullying and harassment they face on the platform.
Although users who are targeted by trolls currently have the option to block or mute users, individually blocking abusive accounts or muting specific tweets does not scale in instances when there may be hundreds of accounts involved in the targeted abuse.
As with any other test feature, it’s unknown when or if Twitter plans to roll out the new controls officially. When asked about the possible upcoming change, a spokesperson from Twitter told TechCrunch that the company doesn’t have anything to share at the moment. It’s worth noting that Twitter privacy designer Dominic Camozzi confirmed the new controls were in the works in a now-deleted tweet, as noted by The Verge, and had asked users for feedback.
If Twitter decides to roll out the feature, it would joins the social network’s current audience management features. Two years ago, Twitter gave all users the option to limit replies to their tweets. The feature lets you limit replies to people you follow or the people you mentioned in the tweet. With this feature, trolls can still unfortunately Quote Tweet another user’s tweet as a way to send abuse. The new controls uncovered by Wong would likely get rid of this workaround and protect users from incessant trolls.
Twitter also rolled out its “Unmentioning” feature to all users earlier this year. The feature allows users to remove their name from another user’s tweet so they’re no longer tagged in it and any ongoing chatter around it won’t keep appearing in their mentions feed. The new controls would take this option even further by preventing your handle from being mentioned in the first place.
The new controls would be a welcome addition to the platform and it’s nice to know that Twitter is looking at ways to help users protect themselves from abuse beyond the existing anti-abuse features. Co-ordinated trolling attacks have been an unwanted part of Twitter’s platform and the company has frequently been criticized for not doing enough to prevent harassment and abuse.
Although public figures may be more likely to face higher levels of harassment than other types of users, it’s a problem that isn’t limited to users with a public profile, especially when racist abuse remains a problem on Twitter. The new controls would be a step toward protecting users online from all sorts of abuse and trolling.