Be warned boys and girls: If you act out, Twitter's going to put you in the naughty corner.
For at least one week, the platform has been temporarily limiting some users' accounts for "potentially abusive behavior." As spotted by Heat Street, the timeout lasts 12 hours, and for its duration, only followers can see the user's Twitter activity. After time's up, the account is restored.
In the notification informing users of their half day quasi-suspension, Twitter writes: "Creating a safer environment for people to freely express themselves is critical to the Twitter community, so if behavior that may violate the Twitter rules is detected, certain account features become limited."
In some cases, it appears users may be prompted to delete the problematic tweets. Twitter has been contacted for further details.
Twitter just silenced me for 12 hours. No reason given.
— Tim the Socialist (@timthesocialist) February 14, 2017
Keyword censorship is a fraught approach for Twitter. A word like "queer" might be hurled as a slur, for example, but it's also used as an inclusive identifier in some communities.
However accounts are detected not only by potentially offensive keywords, a person familiar with the tool said, but also by behaviour. For example, being seen to tweet abuse at accounts that are non-followers.
A new section describing temporary account limitations has also been added to Twitter's support page since late Nov. 2016 (the last time the page was stored on Wayback Machine). "Limiting the reach of potentially abusive content creates a safer environment," it reads.
The move comes as Twitter tries out product solutions to deal with its well-documented abuse problem. The company is looking at expanding machine-learning techniques used to counter terrorist and child abuse content to stop abusive accounts from resurfacing with new handles.
This may include similar email addresses and accounts that start @ replying the same people. If a user has more blocks than followers, that's also a decent indicator.
Not everything gets a gold star, though. On Tuesday, Twitter announced users would no longer get notifications when added to lists — a common vector for abuse.
The company reversed course in just two hours are fielding a ton of complaints.