In an effort to make users feel more protected, Twitter is giving them the autonomy to determine who can respond to their tweets. In a first-quarter 2020 rollout, the social media titan is testing the initiative, which was first introduced in a message by Twitter Project Management Director Suzanne Xie, last November.
In her announcement, Xie wrote:
“We’re exploring more options around who can reply to or see specific conversations, and are testing engagement changes to see if these lead to healthier discussions.”
Twitter executives provided additional details on its new communications policies, according to Axios, at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show held last week.
The new function will allow users to control their messaging in one of four ways: Users can either hide replies to a specific tweet, or enable responses only from those mentioned in the tweet, from those who follow the user, or from everyone.
While the announcement may be meaningful for those eager to hit the mute button, it does call into question issues of free speech. As reported by Politico, many may remember President Donald Trump’s efforts to block naysayers from posting to his Twitter account, which resulted in a court ruling preventing the exclusion of such users.
Although the new policy enables muting, not blocking, one wonders whether respondents on the other side of the controlled messaging will feel censored.
Another potential concern is whether the feature creates a less democratic form of speech, where only the viewpoints that favor a user’s perspective will be shared. A more cynical concern is whether the change will allow for the unchecked proliferation of false narratives.
For its part, Twitter is convinced that the change is a step in the right direction.
“We’re committed to making sure people feel safe and comfortable talking on Twitter,” Xie wrote in the blog post.
One thing is certain: All eyes will be watching to ensure that Twitter users are comfortable with the latest changes.