Twitter has announced that the social media platform will now allow users to hide replies to a Tweet. This feature was first noticed by the famous software unpacker Jane Manchun Wong and has said that this new feature rollout is a drastic change on how conversations in the platform will be controlled by users.
Although the new update will not allow users to hide a specific comment on a tweet permanently, it will make it hard for followers to the said comment that was ‘hidden.’
“People who start interesting conversations on Twitter are significant to us, and we want to empower them to make the conversations they start as healthy as possible by giving them some control,” explains Michelle Yasmeen Haq, a senior product manager at the company who discussed the feature publicly on her personal Twitter account late this afternoon. “We already see people trying to keep their conversations healthy by using block, mute, and report, but these tools don’t always address the issue. Block and mute only change the experience of the blocker, and report only works for the content that violates our policies.”
According to the Verge, essentially, the feature would let you tap the “share” icon on Twitter and choose “hide Tweet” to close down replies. From there, other users would have to click through to see the replies on a tweet, instead of seeing them automatically. There also appears to be an option to view all tweets you’ve hidden in the past and manually unhide them if you want to reopen replies at some point in the future.
By giving users the option to hide replies, Yasmeen Haq thinks Twitter can “balance the product experience between the original Tweeter and the audience.” Additionally, the “transparency of the hidden replies would allow the community to notice and call out situations where people use the feature to hide content they disagree with.” In other words, by hiding replies, you could send a signal to your audience that the conversation has become toxic or sidetracked, in a way similar to disabling comments on YouTube or taking similar actions on Reddit and other forums.
Since the start of social media gaining mainstream popularity, different platforms have become a venue for social conversations – may it be about gossip, a local event, or a new update about big international names like celebrities and politicians. Social media has been a significant platform for social engagement and has sometimes been criticized for being replacing real-life interactions.
Twitter, in particular, has become one of the most famous social media websites that have facilitated social discussion throughout its platform. What once started as a micro-blogging site, now has become a favorite platform for celebrities, politicians, news agencies, and bloggers to broadcast their thoughts and curate their contents in.
The appeal of Twitter comes from its ability to let one have unlimited followers (unlike Facebook that only lets you have 5,000 friends). The platform has made it easier for fans and supporters to connect with their idol celebrity or their favored politician. Unlike Facebook, commenting on a Tweet is not part of Twitter’s design. Although Twitter allows commenting on tweets, it’s real purpose is to broadcast, rather than facilitate discussion.
Since Twitter has grown to become a favorite platform for celebrities and politicians to share their thoughts on a specific subject matter, it has also become a place for critics and followers to make people like Donald Trump accountable.
In a phenomenon called the ‘Twitter Ratio,’ where a tweet gets more dissatisfying comments than retweets and likes, people can express their dissent and criticism on someone thoughts without validating the thoughts of the said person. While there are times that it has become progressive and comes from a valid point of view, there are also instances where people abused the platform to harass somebody to make someone’s experience on Twitter miserable.
Twitter has responded to these instances and has been rolling out features to prevent harassment and abuse like allowing users to mute certain words, customize your notification feed, so you only see people follow, and make it so blocked accounts never even show up in search results.
The social media platform has also recently become an arbiter of the public space that it regulates by proactively hiding sensitive contents and filtering tweets from accounts known for being inflammatory or abusive. Just recently, Twitter has banned the famous far-right conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl who bragged about creating many fake accounts in a bid to sway public opinions during the 2020 US elections.
It is still unclear on how ardent users of the platform will receive the new feature. While the intention is to allow users to control the conversation that is happening in its Tweet, many experts suggested that it can also be used to quash dissent and silence criticism to avoid responsibility. Many are afraid the politicians will use the feature to frame the specific conversation in a positive light amidst it being swarmed by negative comments that are hidden behind the platform’s new functionality.
In the end, users are urged by the company to use the feature with utmost caution and care as it may create a positive environment for discussion – or a negative one. /apr