After Bug Mistakenly Blocks Innocent Terms Relating to Sexuality, Twitter Apologises and Promises a Fix

On November 5th, Twitter were forced to issue an apology after it was discovered that terms relating to sexuality most often used in perfectly innocent circumstances, such as “bisexual”, were being blocked in search results on the platform. The omission inspired calls of discrimination at the hands of Twitter, who were seemingly refusing access to not just news and other content, but a whole community on which many struggling against the stigma often imposed upon the LGBTQ population have come to rely.

Further adding to the outrage was the fact that while terms like “bisexual” were blocked, “Hitler” and “Nazi” remained fully-searchable, and if you have to ask which of these terms is more likely to be associated with sensitive or inappropriate content you have issues with which I am not qualified to help.

Twitter have since reiterated their apology and offered an explanation as to why the terms were blocked, and in the company’s defence this does seem like a genuine mistake rather than an intentional act of discrimination. According to Twitter the terms were blocked as they appeared on an outdated list of terms that frequently appear alongside adult content, which is used as a signal in the identification of sensitive media; they have now admitted that that the list “incorrectly included terms that are primarily used in non-sensitive contexts” and promised to implement changes which should resolve the issue by the time of this article’s publication.

“We apologize for anyone negatively impacted by this bug. It is not consistent with our values as a company,” Twitter said.

“One of the signals we use to identify sensitive media is a list of terms that frequently appear alongside adult content. Many of these words on the list are not inherently explicit, which is why they must be used alongside other signals to determine if content is sensitive. Our implementation of this list in search allowed Tweets to be categorized based solely on text. The list was out of date [and] had not been maintained.

“We have audited the list and removed terms that should not have been included. We are making changes during the next 24 hours to correct this mistake.”

You can read Twitter’s full statement, courtesy of a thread posted to their official support account, below:

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