Is Hiding Unwanted Responses on Twitter a Bad Idea?

The social network launches a feature to ease discussions on the platform by allowing users to hide some comments under their tweets. An initiative that could be counterproductive in some situations.

Twitter has a new approach to prevent the spread of hatred on its network. Jack Dorsey’s company announced on Thursday, November 21 that all its users can now hide responses they consider undesirable under their own tweets.

Twitter extends to the whole world an option that has been tried and tested for several months in some countries.

The objective is to make trolls less visible on the platform by relegating insulting, inappropriate, aggressive or irrelevant comments to the background.

The new option takes the form of a button next to each tweet. More than a simple “mute”, which hides all the tweets of a user, it allows to hide a message from all the other users.

The answers do not disappear, however, they are moved to a dedicated tab with all the other tweets hidden in this way.

For Twitter, this is a “useful new way to manage your conversations”. “This way, you have more control over the conversations you start,” writes the network in a blog post.

Troll Messages Accessible in One Click
Nevertheless, some voices wonder about the perverse effects of such an initiative. The fact of grouping all the tweets considered undesirable by a user in the same section accessible to all users could indeed give them more importance and feed a trolling race. Conversely, people can also use it to silence criticism or stifle dissenting opinions.

On Twitter, users are already pointing out the limits of the feature by showing how it can facilitate the spread of scams or false information by letting the authors of publications hide users’ responses pointing out that it is a fake.

To mitigate this counterproductive effect, Twitter issues a warning message to warn when responses have been hidden by the author of the initial message.

But users have indicated that they find notification so invasive that it ultimately encourages them to pay more attention to unwanted messages than to the information transmitted by the author of the publication.

“In the future, we are working on new possibilities for control and greater clarity about our rules in conversation spaces,” Twitter said.

By November 2016, the company had already addressed harassment or abusive conduct by extending the “mute” function, which silences the accounts of “trolls” or users sending inappropriate messages.

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