Twitter has upped its censorship game and is now blocking certain terms from showing up on the platform’s built-in search engine. The added filters are part of the company’s plans to reduce harassment on the service. Some of these filters were deployed earlier this month when users were given the option to mute certain types of accounts.
As with previous efforts to convert Twitter into a “safe space,” free from wrongthink and uncomfortable opinions, the company that once branded itself as the “free speech wing of the free speech party” has offered little transparency on the terms it filters out of its search engine. Furthermore, it’s enabled by default—and the settings to disable “safe search” are hidden away on the Search page, so you won’t find them with the rest of your account preferences.
Users on the platform were quick to discover how looking up certain terms returned zero results. Examples of prohibited terms include “porn,” “BDSM,” “sex,” and “kink.” Other censored words include “hentai,” and “nsfw”—neither of which show up in the search results. Curiously, racial slurs like the n-word and terms like “jihad” still show up unfiltered.
Over the weekend, the terms “marijuana” and “cannabis” were also filtered out out the search engine. But complaints may have prompted the platform to uncensor the term, as it now shows up.
The filtering system doesn’t even work as its developers intended—sensitive terms are filtered out on the “Latest” tab, but you’ll still find some of them in the “Top” tab. Twitter’s censorship is confusing and lacks the transparency necessary to be useful to users.
Twitter is well within its rights to implement “safety” features, but so far, they’ve only hurt usability. After all, who uses Twitter search to look for porn?