Twitter Adds New Ways to Block Abusive and Racist Trolls

Twitter is finally addressing one of its biggest pain points — with new tools to curb hateful and abusive attacks on the service — although it remains to be seen if the efforts will help the social-media player jump-start growth in its user base.

Over the past few years, the “amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment we’ve seen across the Internet has risen sharply over the past few years,” Twitter said in a blog post Tuesday. “Because Twitter happens in public and in real-time, we’ve had some challenges keeping up with and curbing abusive conduct.”

Now Twitter says it has moved to stop trolls in three ways: It’s letting users “mute” notifications based on keywords, phrases, and even entire conversations; it is making it easier to report abusive users; and the company says it has retrained its support team to identify hateful conduct on Twitter.

However, Twitter said, it doesn’t expect the steps will “suddenly remove abusive conduct” from the service. “No single action by us would do that. Instead we commit to rapidly improving Twitter based on everything we observe and learn,” the company said.

The steps come after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this summer acknowledged that the company’s efforts in cracking down on hateful and abusive attacks on the social service haven’t gone far enough. “No one deserves to be the target of abuse on Twitter,” he said on the company’s quarterly call in July. “We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we need to do better.”

For Twitter, one of the highest-profile examples of abusive behavior occurred earlier this year, when actress Leslie Jones (of “Saturday Night Live” and “Ghostbusters”) targeted with numerous racist comments on Twitter — prompting her to leave the service. Twitter subsequently banned conservative columnist Milo Yiannopoulos and other accounts over the attacks, after which Jones resumed tweeting.

“We honor our role in protecting your right to speak freely, and our collective responsibility to human dignity,” Twitter said in its blog post Tuesday.