Quick links: Breaking Election Invest Bitcoin Syria North Korea Startups Scandal
The Guardian / Tech - Game

Twitter apologises for 'technical issue' that blocked searches for 'bisexual'

‘Out of date’ list of terms associated with explicit content blamed for blocking of search keyword

Twitter has apologised for blocking the word “bisexual” from search results, saying that it was wrongly included in an “out of date” list of terms associated with explicit content.

The company says the extent of the block was a “technical issue”, which will be fixed in the next day, adding that some terms in particular were “incorrectly included”.

The company initially blocked the search term on Friday, as part of a sweeping array of changes to the site introduced in response to a day-long boycott of Twitter by many women in early October.

From Friday, users who searched for the term bisexual on the site found that they were blocked from seeing photos, videos and news in their search results. “Your search setting could be protecting you from some potentially sensitive content”, the site warned users.

Now, Twitter says that even for genuinely explicit content, the photo and video sections should show results, but that the results should not be automatically expanded and playing.

“Late last week, we discovered a technical issue that affected search results: searches for certain words related to sexuality did not populate complete results,” the company said. “We apologise for anyone negatively impacted by this bug. It is not consistent with our values as a company.”

The #WomenBoycottTwitter protest that sparked the changes was initially prompted by the suspension of actor Rose McGowan. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Some terms, it said, should not have been included in the list at all: “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 categorised based solely on text, without taking other signals into account. Also, the list was out of date, had not been maintained and incorrectly included terms that are primarily used in non-sensitive contexts.”

Twitter added: “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.”

The #WomenBoycottTwitter protest that sparked the changes was initially prompted by the suspension of actor Rose McGowan from the social network, after she tweeted an email containing a personal phone number as part of a discussion of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s abuse.

Although the protest had little to do with sexual content on Twitter, that was one of the areas the company addressed in its response. It also announced an intention to treat hateful imagery and hate symbols on par with explicit pornography, as well as a plan to “take enforcement action against organisations that use violence as a means to advance their cause”.

  • Trump Twitter account shut down by employee on last day of work