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Twitter launching feature to automatically block accounts over harmful language

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Twitter is launching a feature that will temporarily “autoblock” accounts for potentially harassing behavior or harmful language, the platform announced Wednesday. 

If a user turns on the new “safety mode” feature, accounts that send harmful or uninvited replies and mentions will be autoblocked for seven days, meaning they will be unable to follow the user’s account, see their tweets or send them direct messages, according to Twitter’s blog post

Twitter’s safety mode technology will take “existing relationships into account” — meaning accounts a user follows or frequently interacts with will not be autoblocked. 

Accounts blocked through safety mode can be seen and undone at any time through a user’s settings, according to the blog post. 

The feature will be rolled out to a “small feedback group,” beginning with accounts with English-language settings enabled. Twitter said it will monitor the test of safety mode before launching it across the platform.

Twitter has been trying to curb abusive accounts for years and ramped up its policing of the platform around the election of former President Trump — who was himself suspended after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

The platform also says it has accelerated efforts to combat misinformation amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Both the Trump presidency and COVID-19 have spotlighted the role of social media platforms in spreading misinformation — and put immense pressure on companies to identify and remove dangerous or offensive content. 

Just yesterday, Facebook announced plans to reduce political content on users’ news feeds. And San Diego County declared misinformation as a public health emergency. 

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