Twitter is trying to take on its troll problem in 2017, but the campaign is not without problems.
In addition to a range of tools aimed at filtering abusive tweets, the platform now appears to be quietly marking entire accounts as sensitive.
On Thursday, a Mashable reporter clicked on the profile of technology analyst Justin Warren. Instead of showing his image or his tweets, the account blocked his profile image and included a caution: “This profile may include potentially sensitive content.”
The reporter could still ultimately view the account, but only by clicking that he agreed to continue despite the possibility of seeing “sensitive images or language.”
Is this new? Hard to say. Twitter asks that users tweeting images containing violence or nudity flag that in settings. And while users have long been able to request specific media be marked as sensitive in Twitter’s safety settings, account-level warnings like this are unusual.
The move stands out among Twitter’s latest anti-abuse measures, however, not least because it doesn’t appear to have notified Warren of his new status.
When notified, he said he had no idea his account was “sensitive.”
Among the programs Twitter has introduced in 2017 is a function that removes tweets containing “potentially sensitive content” from search results.
It’s also rolled out a 12-hour time out for accounts it believes are engaged in abusive behaviour, but it does notify users if they’ve been hit with the red card.
Marking entire accounts as sensitive, especially one that’s verified, appears to be a new step. In the case of the 12-hour suspension, accounts are detected by patterns of behaviour and not just potentially offensive keywords.
It’s unclear why Warren’s account, where he tweets regularly about technology policy, would be marked sensitive.
The issue doesn’t seem widespread, but a number of other accounts seem to have noticed the issue within the past eight hours. Nevertheless, it’s doubtful putting a sensitive filter over people’s profiles without letting them know will prove popular in the long run.
Twitter has been approached for details about how and why accounts are chosen to be marked “sensitive.”
Holy crap, I just encountered an account that has the “Caution: This profile may include potentially sensitive content” warning on it
— Joe Schmoe (@FilthyDumbGamer) March 9, 2017