Twitter announced this week a significant switch-up to its reporting process that should (emphasis on should) fix the more frustrating aspects of the current system. The overhauled reporting system will focus on allowing users to choose “symptoms” of the problem they’ve witnessed, rather than asking them to categorize the problem on their own.
That symptoms analogy carries through Twitter’s full explanation of the new reporting flow. It’s like when you visit the emergency room, Twitter says, and the doctor asks you to describe what’s hurting you — rather than asking you to diagnose your own broken bones.
Whether or not the new reporting system actually helps make Twitter a more pleasant place very much remains to be seen; right now it’s just a limited test. The social network’s issues are extensive. A reporting flow overhaul feels a little too much like a Band-Aid when so many other widespread problems still thrive on Twitter.
Symptoms first — The current reporting system — which, to be fair, is quite similar to those employed by other major social networking sites — has always been somewhat frustrating. By asking users to choose which category of offense the reported tweet falls into, the process often ends up feeling confusing and burdensome.
Now Twitter will take over the role of doctor. Rather than being asked to diagnose the problem themselves, users will instead be asked leading questions about what’s wrong. Twitter will then use this information to guess at which of its policies has been broken.
“The vast majority of what people are reporting on fall within a much larger gray spectrum that don't meet the specific criteria of Twitter violations,” said Renna Al-Yassini, a Senior UX Manager at Twitter, “but they're still reporting what they are experiencing as deeply problematic and highly upsetting.”
Let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet — The new reporting process is a great sign that Twitter is working to think outside the traditional boundaries of moderation. The team is also promising to use the feedback from these reports to identify concerning patterns that hadn’t before been visible.
But Twitter’s announcement blog post is perhaps getting a bit ahead of itself in terms of the overall effect of the new reporting process. Here, for example, is Lena Emara, a product designer, referring to the new feedback system: “This is why it’s so revolutionary — you have all these opportunities to connect with people individually.”
Calling this reporting process “revolutionary” is surely an overstatement. Twitter still fights at every turn to even stop its platform from unexpectedly amplifying radical right-wing content. Not to mention the ableism, sexism, and antisemitism. Yeah, we might want to cool it on the use of “revolutionary” until we make some bigger changes.