The social network unveiled a new feature intended to prevent bullying, but made a u-turn after critics pointed out the flaws in the system.

In a bid to tackle online abuse, popular social network Twitter made a change to its platform earlier in February. However, users almost immediately criticised the organisation, saying that the move did not prevent bullying but merely hid it from the victims, causing Twitter to reverse its decision.

The social network offers a feature where users can create lists that allow them to organise the accounts they follow. For example, users might create a list for their friends, one for work-related accounts and one for news and politics. This makes users’ home accounts less crowded and in theory makes Twitter easy to use.

However, an issue with this system is that certain online bullies have been creating lists with insulting and hurtful titles and adding users to them. These victims get a notification that they have been added to the list, ensuring they know they have been targeted.

Twitter’s response to this was to prevent the notification being sent out. Users can still be added to lists with titles intended to cause emotional harm, but they will not be notified of this. In theory, this seems like a good idea that would prevent lists from being a valid bullying tactics. However, users almost immediately found flaws in the system and pointed them out.

Critics said that the move simply hid the online abuse rather than taking steps to prevent it. The user SwiftOnSecurity tweeted that the move was “blinding the vulnerable” and said it was “critical for people to know if they’ve been added to a list intended for targets”. Instead, Twitter could simply allow users to remove themselves from these lists.

As a result, Twitter reversed the change a mere two hours after it was implemented, with Ed Ho – the organisation’s vice president of engineering – tweeting: “Reconsidered and reversing.” It is not known what the social network will do to prevent online abuse, but it is clearly a complicated issue.



Join our Safeguarding Children newsletter

To subscribe to our free monthly newsletter, enter your email below.