*For about a year now, Twitter has been quietly working on a new feature that would help keep racist and abusive tweets from ever appearing on your timeline.
Twitter has been criticized for years about its lack of control over hate speech, but it took the recent troll attack of comedian Leslie Jones to bring the spotlight back around. Her personal website was hacked this week and defaced with derogatory language reminiscent of the original Twitter attack.
According to Bloomberg, Twitter’s new blocking feature would prohibit specific keywords from appearing in news feeds, allowing users to filter out speech that they find hurtful or otherwise offensive.
The San Francisco-based company has been discussing how to implement the tool for about a year as it seeks to stem abuse on the site, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the initiative isn’t public. By using keywords, users could block swear words or racial slurs, for example, to screen out offenders.
Identifying keywords would be similar to the comment moderation tool recently adopted by Facebook Inc.’s Instagram app for business users. Celebrities put it to work immediately, with model Chrissy Teigen tweeting that she was blocking certain words, such as “whore” or “slut.” Still, trolls could attempt to outsmart the filter by deliberately misspelling words or coming up with new ways to deliver their insults.
A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment, although the company has said it soon plans to release more substantial updates about its plans to combat harassment.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Twitter has reportedly already used these keyword-based approaches to block hate speech.
In a BuzzFeed exposé from earlier this month, Charlie Warzel reported that former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo “secretly ordered the media partnerships team inside Twitter to use an algorithm to filter all tweets directed at [President Obama] for abusive language” during the question-and-answer portion of a May 2015 speech.