Twitter is working on a series of new features to make Direct Messages safer. First discovered by software engineer Jane Wong and confirmed by the company, the changes are focused on minimizing graphic content and unwanted messages.
Wong, famous for uncovering features before companies announce them, found that Twitter is working on a way to filter out graphic images from direct messages, an issue that disproportionately affects women, who frequently get unsolicited dick pics as a form of harassment. (In February, third-party developers Safe DM created a similar filter.)
A spokesperson for the company confirmed that’s one of the options Twitter is testing out.
“We’re testing a graphic media filter that places messages from people you don’t follow that include potentially graphic images, GIFs, videos, or Tweets at the bottom of your message requests, behind the low quality filter that exists there,” the spokesperson said. “There will be a more clear warning over all potentially graphic media in your messages, even if they are from people you’ve already been chatting with, so you have additional context.”
Wong also found that people on Twitter will soon be able to mute DM requests, sending them to the bottom of the request list. “i guess the creeps aren’t gonna be thrilled of this feature 😌,” she tweeted.
The Twitter spokesperson said, “to help people feel safe and in control on Twitter, we’re testing a few changes to Direct Messages including the ability to mute people from message requests, as an alternative to blocking or reporting.”
These are just the latest in a series of changes the company is making. During the election, Twitter made it more difficult to amplify tweets labeled as potentially false and earlier in the year introduced a prompt that asked people if they had read an article before sharing it.
Nina Jankowicz, the author of How to Lose the Information War and an advocate for women’s safety online, said the new features could be a step in the right direction but address only a small part of the problem that women face on social media.
“Hiding abuse doesn't make targets safer or do anything to stop it from happening in the first place,” she told BuzzFeed News. “What emboldens users to send graphic or abusive content to their targets is in part, it's the fact that they can shout vitriol and abuse, day in and day out, into the Twitter ether with hardly any consequence.”
According to a survey conducted by Plan International, a humanitarian charity, abuse and harassment are a reality for girls and women online. The survey found that Facebook is the social network used most often for attacks, but other platforms, including Twitter, aren’t safe.
“The sad truth is that this behavior has been normalized,” Jankowicz said. “It's not only social media platforms' responsibility to turn that around, of course, but they need to do more than just cover it up.”