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Twitter Launching Offensive Tweet Filter

Twitter is rolling out a new option that can hide offensive tweets from your view.

Revealed in a tweet posted Monday by ThinkUp CEO and blogger Anil Dash, the feature known as “quality filtering” is intended to “remove all Tweets from your notifications timeline that contain threats, offensive or abusive language, duplicate content, or are sent from suspicious accounts.” The feature appears as an option on the iOS app’s Notifications screen, where you can turn it on or off.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the quality-filtering feature to blog site Ars Technica, explaining that it has rolled out to a select number of “verified” Twitter users. Twitter verifies certain accounts in order to confirm their authenticity, a status often given to celebrities, brand names, organizations and other public entities.

The new filtering feature is targeted toward a problem that has plagued Twitter and Twitter users for years, a fact acknowledged by the company’s CEO. Earlier this month, internal company memos obtained by The Verge quoted Twitter chief Dick Costollo as saying that “we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”

Losing users is certainly cause for concern for Twitter. Reporting its fourth-quarter results last month, the company said it recorded 288 million regular users at the end of last year, a rise of only 4 million from the previous quarter. That number also missed analysts’ estimates, and was lower than the company had seen in prior quarters.

Any Twitter user can be on the receiving end of an offensive tweet. But celebrities and other well-known people can be especially open to abuse.

Last week, actress Ashley Judd expressed her outrage at offensive comments against her and said she would be pressing charges against Twitter trolls. In a story published by The Guardian last month, writer and performer Lindy West wrote about her experience with a troll who opened a Twitter account in the name of her late father to make offensive comments about her. And last August, Robin Williams’ daughter temporarily left Twitter in the wake of insulting comments following the death of her father.

Last December, Twitter rolled out new options to flag offensive tweets and view more details about the accounts that you’ve blocked. At the time, the company promised to add more tools to the account block feature.

The new quality filtering is certainly a step in the right direction. But questions remain. How will Twitter decide which tweets are offensive or insulting? And will the new feature be limited to just verified accounts, or will it be offered to all Twitter users?

Twitter did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment.

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