Twitter is testing a new approach to how users report tweets, giving users the ability to first describe the "symptoms" of their experience. Until now, Twitter has required users to specify the type of complaint they're lodging, under Twitter's policies, a confusing process that Twitter acknowledges "wasn’t making enough people feel safe or heard."
In a blog post Tuesday, the company announced a new "symptoms-first" approach to user reports. Instead of asking users whether the offending tweet is abusive or misleading, which are vague terms that might not mean the same thing to users as they do to Twitter, the new process runs users through a series of options to describe what's wrong with the offending tweet. Does it threaten violence, for instance, or include disturbing content? Does it include slurs, dehumanize or misgender someone? The new flow helps users describe their symptoms, then guides them toward a diagnosis.
"Here’s the analogy the team uses: Say you're in the midst of an emergency medical situation. If you break your leg, the doctor doesn’t say, is your leg broken? They say, where does it hurt?" the post from Twitter's safety team reads. "The idea is, first let’s try to find out what’s happening instead of asking you to diagnose the issue."
Twitter is currently testing this approach with a subset of users in the U.S. and will expand it to a wider audience next year.
The company is calling this approach "revolutionary" given the way it diverges from typical principles of user-experience design that aim to get people from point A to point B quickly. But in reality, asking users for more information upfront seems like the far more logical option. “In moments of urgency, people need to be heard and feel supported. Asking them to open the medical dictionary and saying, ‘point to the one thing that's your problem’ is something people aren't going to do,” Brian Waismeyer, a data scientist on the team, was quoted as saying in the post. “If they're walking in to get help, what they're going to do well is describe what is happening to them in the moment.”