At a CES event on January 8th, 2020 (Wednesday) in Las Vegas , Twitter’s director of product management, Suzanne Xie, unveiled some new changes that are coming to the platform of twitter this year, focusing specifically on conversations firstly reported on by The Verge.
Xie says Twitter is adding a brand new setting for “conversation participants” right on the compose screen. It has four options:
- Global: Lets anybody reply
- Group: It is for people you follow and mention
- Panel: It is for people you specifically mention in the tweet
- Statement: It allows you to post a tweet and receive no replies
Xie says that “Twitter is in the process of doing research on the feature” and that “the mock ups are going to be part of an experiment we’re going to run” in the first quarter. it’ll take learnings from that experiment and use them to launch the feature globally later this year.
Xie also says “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” . When asked if there’s a concern if the ability to limit replies could mean misinformation couldn’t be as easily rebutted, Xie gestured to the ability to quote tweet as one possible resolution.
Dangerous side of limiting Twitter replies
Twitter plans to permit users to regulate who can reply to their posts. It is basically a welcome news for those people who are routinely harassed on the service — including many people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks and other groups often targeted by online mobs.
Why does it matters?
It could create an even riper environment for misinformation — especially when combined with Twitter’s policy of allowing elected officials’ tweets to stand, even when they violate the rules that apply to other users. There are already concerns that the service gives politicians’ speech special protections compared to regular users. Now the company would appear to be making it easier for them to block the dissenting voices.
Even if this new reply option may be a generally good thing, and even if it does makes sense to permit politicians’ rule-breaking tweets to remain, the combination of the 2 policies can be especially dangerous. In theory, it allows an official to post knowingly false information to a large audience and also limit who can directly respond with contrary evidence and arguments.
Some see signs that even though President Trump has a record of using Twitter to spark crises, the service had a de-escalating effect during this week’s U.S. confrontation with Iran.
Wired’s Garrett Graff, pointing to the way both Iranian officials and Trump used Twitter in real time Tuesday night to send messages, notes that “world leaders can communicate more quickly and directly than ever in times of crisis.”