After seeing countless users driven from its service by trolls eager to use racial slurs and misogynistic language, 10-year-old Twitter finally made it a priority to build a tool that will safeguard its users from this kind of abuse.
The new tool, though, does little to quiet trolls. Twitter, built on a foundation of free speech that protects anyone ranging from journalists and celebrities to racists and terrorists, still protects the speech of its users. However, now it will be possible for users to proactively identify and ban keywords and phrases that they do not want to see in their notifications.
Are you black and don't to be called the N-word? This tool prevents that. If you're Hispanic and don't like the term "illegal," you can now prevent that. "We're enabling you to mute keywords, phrases, and even entire conversations you don't want to see notifications about, rolling out to everyone in the coming days," Twitter said in a blog post.
After his appointment as CEO, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey said that addressing safety concerns would be among his top five priorities. This tool, released nearly a year and a half after Dorsey's return, will address those concerns.
The tool comes after Twitter fell under a barrage of criticism from the media for its lack of safeguards for users. This was put on full display with African American actress Leslie Jones, who came under a wave of harassment earlier this year by users comparing her to a gorilla.
Twitter has also released this tool about a month after failing to be acquired by a number of tech and media giants, including Salesforce, Google, and the Walt Disney Company. The companies were reportedly dissuaded from acquiring Twitter in part because of the service's abuse and harassment problems.
The tool comes about a year after Leslie Miley, a high-ranking Twitter engineering manager, left the company after facing obstacles in bringing more diverse talent to the social network. Upon his exit, Miley said Twitter's lack of user growth was directly tied to the lack of diversity in its work force.
Among those in the tech diversity community, Twitter's new feature is a welcomed addition. It's arrival, however, comes a little too late.
"If you ask me, it's like five years late," said Wayne Sutton, co-founder of the Tech Inclusion diversity conference.