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Twitter introduces ‘gender-neutral’ default profile picture to fight trolls

Josh Jackman April 3, 2017

Twitter has unveiled a “gender-neutral” default profile picture in order to be inclusive and reduce trolling.

Say goodbye to the infamous egg design, which became associated with the worst kind of users, providing relative anonymity for homophobes, racists and everyone else horrible to hide behind.

Instead, new arrivals to the Twittersphere will be represented with a bland, deliberately “gender-balanced” head floating above shoulders.

The white egg on a brightly coloured background started off life as a cute reference to the idea that Twitter users are birds who hatch when they choose a profile picture, then start tweeting.

The grey-on-grey image will, the social media giant hopes, change the connotation which is now tightly connected to the default egg image – that of the abusive troll.

Its use of different shades of grey, instead of warm, fun colours, is also intended to encourage people to change the photo sooner.

“We’ve noticed patterns of behaviour with accounts that are created only to harass others – often they don’t take the time to personalise their accounts,” a spokesperson explained on Twitter’s blog.

“This has created an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behaviour, which isn’t fair to people who are still new to Twitter and haven’t yet personalised their profile photo.”

The spokesperson said Twitter wanted to make the new picture generic, universal and inclusive, with a particular emphasis on gender because “we don’t require people to specify their gender”.

They wrote: “We felt that the circle of the head in the figure still seemed masculine, even though it technically had no design characteristics to indicate that it was a man.”

Despite noting that the only divergence between the genders in typical toilet signs was clothing, the company concluded that “people have come to associate the circle head with masculinity”.

Therefore, they said, “we felt that it was important to explore alternate head shapes.”

The spokesperson then explained that “when the shoulders were wider, the image felt overly masculine, so we decreased the width of the shoulders and adjusted the height of the figure.”

Earlier this year, Twitter introduced a new filtering function so users can block tweets who have the default profile photo, which is still available despite the change.

Hopefully this will make Twitter a more inclusive, less toxic place where trends like #BiTwitter, #PanTwitter and #TransGuyTwitter can flourish without fear.

More: abuse, gender, gender neutral, Homophobia, Internet, trolls, Twitter, US

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