Twitter smokes out the trolls with crucial update to its conversations

Wherever there is social media, so too there are trolls! This week at CES Twitter has announced new engagement tools to limit access to commenting function, and give us more control over who can respond to our tweets
Twitter conversation participant options
Twitter new conversation options give users control over who can reply. Image: Twitter

Twitter conversations

Last month we reported on how Twitter is tidying up its conversation trees. Alongside this, a new function was released to allow users to hide comments from a thread.

This hides, rather than deletes comments. Twitter explained that the idea was to ‘shut out noise’ and give more functionality to remove spam or nuisance comments.

As promised, there are more changes coming. Twitter announced this week at CES that they are introducing new ways to tweet.

Conversation settings

This new feature means that when users create a new tweet, there are four settings to choose from. Each setting allows a different level of engagement. It works in a similar way to Facebook, where posts can be private, public, or have limited visibility.

The difference is that tweets will still be public, but you can decide who is able to respond.

  • Global – public access to reply
  • Group – accounts you follow or who are tagged in your tweet can response
  • Panel – permits responses only from users mentioned in your tweet
  • Statement – nobody can reply

Twitter’s Direct of Product Management, Suzanne Xie, introduced the new function at CES this week. She says they are going to be keeping a close eye on the feature to see how it works.

One possible concern is that this prevents responses to false tweets.

Twitter is trialling its new functions in Q1 of 2020. Image: Twitter via Flickr

Social engagement

There has been a series of new functions and features in the last few months. The key driver is to make users safer, and have more control over their social media engagement.

This new feature will be trialled in the first quarter of 2020, and potentially rolled out globally later in the year.

Cyberbullying is a very serious problem. Instagram recently introduced a new date of birth requirement to reduce access to the platform by underage users. In my view, any new tool that protects users is a positive step.

The statistics are frightening since 87% of young people say they have seen cyberbullying happening. 34% of people have been the victim of cyberbullying. A report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) ranked social media platforms in terms of their net positive of net negative impact on users.

Interestingly, Twitter was the second most positive, behind YouTube. This indicates that the measures they are taking are working – at least to some extent – to stamp out trolls, unwanted attention and malicious behaviour.

Kayvon Beykpour, VP of Product, said at CES that ‘the primary motivation is control. We want to build on the theme of authors getting more control and we’ve thought… that there are many analogs of how people have communications in life‘.

User control

I think it is interesting that, with many new social media functions, the focus is now on user control. This steers a new path away from users trying to circumvent algorithms and platform rules, which seem to be applied somewhat at random.

Whether it will work is yet to be seen. I do have reservations about being able to tweet anything without the right to reply.

However, being able to tweet your TOTD without worrying about being trolled has got to make Twitter a safer space.

What do you think? Would you use the conversation participant settings, or stick with public tweets and then remove any unwanted comments? 

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