Twitter is tracking phone numbers to prevent trolls and abuses

Twitter announced that it is starting to track phone numbers of users as a measure to prevent abuses like the creation of new bogus accounts.

A few weeks ago, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo explained the difficulties the company is facing to prevent the abuse of its platform. Costolo revealed to be embarrassed for the company’s failures and would be operating to eliminate trolls and abuses.

“We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years,” Costolo wrote in a memo obtained by The Verge. “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.”

Following the declaration of its CEO, Twitter announced that it is introducing new tools to eliminate harassment and any other behavior that violate company policies.

“now we’re making similar improvements around reporting other content issues including impersonation, self-harm and the sharing of private and confidential information. These changes will begin rolling out today and should reach all users in the coming weeks.” states Twitter in a blog post.

Among the changes announced by Twitter, all the users that will receive temporary bans will need to verify their email address or a phone number in order to resume their accounts.

Twitter starts tracking phone numbers of users as a measure to prevent abuses like the creation of new bogus accounts. Twitter could discourage fraudsters and harassers from creating fake accounts by checking phone numbers submitted by the users against a blacklist of abusers that have been already banned.


Twitter will ban its worst users as explained by Tina Bhatnagar, vice president of user services:

“Overall, we now review five times as many user reports as we did previously, and we have tripled the size of the support team focused on handling abuse reports,” 

It is also the first time that Twitter allows users to report abuses of other accounts. According to Twitter, its news tools will allow users to report impersonation, self-harm, and the inappropriate posting of confidential and private data.

The goal of the company is to improve abuse reporting by making it easier for users to discriminate trolls.

Are the measures announced by Twitter enough to eliminate malicious accounts and any other kind of abuse?

Probably no, but it is a good start. The measure to track users requesting their mobile could be ineffective if a user asked to provide its phone number the first time will abandon his account and start illegal activities creating a new one. Twitter, in fact, will not request new users to provide phone numbers to verify their identity.

Pierluigi Paganini

March 2, 2015

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