Twitter have released a new feature to select users of their social media platform- letting users dictate who may reply to their public tweets.
As we previously reported, Twitter had begun laying the ground-work for letting users control who can reply to their messages. Now, Twitter has announced [1, 2] that system has now been rolled out to “a limited group of people globally.”
In short, when a user creates a tweet, they are then able to dictate who is allowed to reply to it; Everyone, those who the user follows, or those specifically mentioned in the tweet. No matter the settings, users can still view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, and like those tweets.
“Being able to participate and understand what’s happening is key for useful public conversation,” Twitter’s director of product management Suzanne Xie stated in the blog post. “So, we’re exploring how we can improve these settings to give people more opportunities to weigh in while still giving people control over the conversations they start.”
Along with stating that Twitter are “making it easier to read all conversations around a Tweet with a new layout for replies and more accessible Retweets with comments,” Xie also had some suggestions on how the new update could be used.
“One thing we know for sure is that you’ll be creative with this update. Maybe you’ll host a debate on the benefits of pineapple on pizza (#TeamPineapple) with fellow pizza pals or invite a panel of distinguished guests for a fireside chat. You could even play a game of tic-tac-toe for people to follow along without messing up your moves. We’re excited to see what you do!”
Twitter have allowed users to set their accounts to “protected” (allowing only followers to see their tweets), and began to allow users to hide replies to user’s Tweets in November 2019 (though others can still reveal the message for themselves if they wish). While it has been used to hide abusive comments, critics state it is a way for users who are being abusive themselves to hide those who criticize them, or shut down discussions with conflicting view-points.
It seems that Twitter may still be preventing all of the above, intentionally or otherwise. In an interview with The Verge regarding the update (on January 8th), Xie stated “Getting ratio’d, getting dunked on, the dynamics that happen that we think aren’t as healthy are definitely part of … our thinking about this.”
“Ratio’d” refers to when someone makes a controversial statement on Twitter, and the number of replies (usually debunking what the user stated, or denouncing them) far surpass the retweets or likes.
In that interview, Xie was asked if limiting replies could cause misinformation to spread (as rebuttals could be prevented). She reportedly stated users could quote tweet as a possible resolution.
However, this would seemingly result in discussions being segregated between followers of different people. Nonetheless, Xie stated it would be “something we’re going to be watching really closely as we experiment.”
Even so, Twitter users have been dissatisfied with the update, with even those claiming to be testing it saying it has flaws.
“no thanks. shitty ppl deserve to be held accountable for being shitty.
first hidden replies now this…. which of ur staff got cancelled for this to be happening lolol”
“Worse than useless. Turns out that we can’t *reply* to those posts, but we’re freely allowed to *quote RT*. Quote RTs are a *bigger* driver of harassment than replies and this change is going to INCREASE the number of QRTs, therefore increasing harassment.”
“so, @nite0wl tagged 2 mutuals of mine and 2 people i don’t know. a mutual tried to reply and got an ‘account owner limits who can reply’ error.
so… i can tag someone in my tweet, who then tags someone else to say shit about them, and they can’t respond. fucking brilliant.”
“Imagine all the misinformation that can be shared on a mass-scale and no-one looking at it can double check an actual source of information in the replies.
Whose idea was this?”
“Replies are what makes Twitter interesting. Imagine IG without Twitter screenshots.”
“Make sure you guys remove everything intrinsic to the twitter experience. App should be unrecognizable soon, right? Make sure it is echo chamber optimized. No one should have to think about anything or hear from strangers. And no cussing.”
“This is basically allowing people to spread misinformations and hide the truth without the fear of someone correcting them. Worst idea i’ve ever seen.”
“This is not acceptable ,there’s no freedom to reply any tweet you want again [crying emoji]”
Concerns were somewhat proven by Twitter themselves, as they tweeted “reply if you want to be verified!” and “Reply if there’s a better app,” while only those they mentioned to reply. They mentioned no one.
Twitter has tried desperately over the years to curb abusive accounts, and prevent users from being “dunked on”- no matter the reason. These have included limiting an abusive tweet’s visibility, and even changing the default “egg avatar” due to its association with harassment.
The former- better known as shadow banning- even resulted in Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey having to testify to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee. This was due to allegations of censorship, especially aimed at those with republican beliefs. Twitter’s terms of service (as of January 2020) effectively wrote shadow banning into their terms [1, 2, 3].
Back in February, an images from an experimental branch of Twitter leaked to the public; wherein tweets could be flagged and marked as “harmfully misleading,” with labels with the correct information under it.
This is Niche Gamer Tech. In this column, we regularly cover tech and things related to the tech industry. Please leave feedback and let us know if there’s tech or a story you want us to cover!