Twitter is temporarily decreasing the reach of tweets from users it believes are engaging in abusive behavior via a new protocol that began rolling out last week.
The protocol temporarily prevents tweets from users Twitter deems abusive from being displayed to people who don't follow them, effectively reducing their reach. If the punished user mentions someone who doesn't follow them, for instance, that person would not see the tweet in their notifications tab. And if the punished user's followers retweet them, those retweets wouldn't be shown to people who don't follow them.
Those impacted by the new protocol are already tweeting screenshots of Twitter's emails detailing their punishments. "We've detected some potentially abusive behavior from your account," the emails read. "So only your follower can see your activity on Twitter for the amount of time shown below."
The new protocol comes at a time when Twitter is revving up its anti-harassment efforts, which many say are long overdue. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently said that providing users with better controls is the company's top priority, and this effort is part of that.
Twitter is not simply putting people in time-out for using specific words. A company spokesperson said that its teams look at an account's behavior as opposed to simply language to determine if it's being abusive.
Twitter's efforts here will be seen by some as quashing free speech. The Drudge Report tweeted a link about it with the headline "TWITTER Readies Speech Crackdown." Indeed, the company that once thought of itself as "the free speech wing of the free speech party" has done some soul-searching and come to the determination that in service of protecting its users, the description no longer fits.
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Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
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