Twitter rolls back safety feature tied to lists

For a short period in time, if you were added to a list on Twitter, you did not get a notification about it.

After Twitter announced a new "safety feature" that many users who have experienced harassment said would be completely counterproductive, an outcry prompted the company to change its mind within two hours. "We want you to get notifications that matter", the company said in explaining the change. "We're rolling back the change and we'll keep listening", the Twitter Safety account tweeted. On a list timeline, users only see a stream of Tweets from the accounts on that list. An alternative, as many suggested was to actually allow people to remove themselves from lists, which would have been much more helpful.

"Starting today, you won't get notified when you are added to a list", reads the official announcement. Another user asked for a button that prevents users from being added to lists.

But being added to lists can also be a form of harassment in and of itself.

Less than two hours later, Twitter's vice president of engineering Ed Ho began replying to complaints and confirmed the change would be reversed. Others wanted assurance that the missteps wouldn't happen again.

When contacted by Vocativ on Monday before rolling back the plan, a representative from Twitter said that this new feature was "part of our work to make Twitter safer". It did not provide details of the changes but said it would be introducing a number of product changes in the coming days and weeks.

Twitter has been frequently criticised for the way it handles incidents of abuse and alleged online bullying, with high-profile users such as Stephen Fry having quit the site over suggestions it does not do enough to protect those on it. It added 2 million monthly active users in the fourth quarter, its lowest addition in three quarters, taking its total users to 319 million.

  • Carolyn Briggs