Twitter has announced that it would upgrade some of its features to tackle trolls and online abuse in response to mounting criticism that the company is not doing enough to combat harassment on its platform.

The company admitted on Tuesday (15 November) that it faced challenges in keeping up and dealing with abusive behaviour, adding that online abuse, cyberbullying and harassment has sharply increased across the internet in recent years.

"Because Twitter happens in public and in real-time, we've had some challenges keeping up with and curbing abusive conduct," Twitter said in a blog post. "We took a step back to reset and take a new approach, find and focus on the most critical needs, and rapidly improve."

The company said that it will expand its "mute" feature that lets users block certain accounts. Now, Twitter will allow people to mute keywords, phrases and entire conversations that they do not want to receive notifications about as well.

"This is a feature we've heard many of you ask for, and we're going to keep listening to make it better and more comprehensive over time," the blog post read. The change will be rolled out to users in the coming days.

Twitter also plans to give users a more direct way to report hateful and abusive conduct that violate its policies, specifically those that target people based on "race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease". However, it did not specify details on how it plans to do so.

The company noted that had retrained its internal support teams and improved internal systems to deal with user reports of online abuse "more effectively" through a "faster and more transparent process".

Twitter's announcement comes after months of criticism and complaints from users arguing that the social media giant needs to better moderate and curb harassment and vicious vitriol on its platform while promoting freedom of speech.

According to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic hate speech targeting journalists had rapidly risen on Twitter and intensified over the course of the US presidential race.

Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones briefly left Twitter recently after being bombarded with sexist and racist abuse on the site. She also criticised Twitter for not being proactive enough in dealing with trolls and abusive behavior.

"Twitter I understand you got free speech. I get it. But there has to be some guidelines when you let [hate] spread that," Jones tweeted in July.

In August, Twitter introduced a new anti-abuse and threat filter to limit notifications from trolls and give users "more control over what you see and who you interact with on Twitter".

"We don't expect these announcements to suddenly remove abusive conduct from Twitter," the company said. "No single action by us would do that. Instead we commit to rapidly improving Twitter based on everything we observe and learn."