Twitter, especially with its original 140-character limit was meant as a way for people to share thoughts in short, brief bursts. It, however, exploded into a social networking phenomenon that constantly tried to break out of the platform’s imposed limits. The social network recently doubled the character limit to 280 but that only increased a different phenomenon: tweetstorms and conversations. Now Twitter is experimenting with ways authors can change the narrative by hiding replies that they deem harmful to the discourse and their followers.
It’s a rather contentious feature, make no mistake about it. While it has benefits like hiding harmful content that you yourself can’t delete, others may also equate such control to censorship.
Twitter is convinced that it’s all positive, though, and its latest blog post lists the benefits it found on its tests. At the very top, of course, is the ability protect their own followers from irrelevant or even abusive replies. It also had the indirect effect of making people reconsider their interactions when they see that their replies were hidden. Whether that’s good or bad for the Twitter user is up for debate.
Curiously, Twitter says that the option to hide replies may cause confusion. Even more confusing is the social network’s solution to ask users if they want to block an account after hiding its reply. Perhaps it presumes most hidden replies come from spam or users the author doesn’t want to interact with ever again.
Regardless, the test for hiding replies, which Twitter calls “conversation control”, is now rolling out to the US and Japan. That said, it’s still a test and users should expect changes or even cancellation of the feature depending on the Interwebs’ feedback.