Like approximately 126 million other people, I willingly plunge my brain into the sewer that is Twitter every morning, expecting varying levels of awfulness until I surface around 6 or 7 pm from a platform that’s unwilling or unable to improve its user experience in any meaningful way. Call it an occupational hazard.
Imagine my surprise when, earlier today, the official Twitter Safety account boosted a tweet from its corporate sister to the North, @TwitterCanada, with the following news: “We’re testing a feature to hide replies from conversations. This experience will be available for everyone around the world, but at this time, only people in Canada can hide replies to their Tweets.”
Anyone who has been on Twitter for more than 15 minutes knows that there’s no easy way to turn off responses to specific tweets when they become especially popular or controversial, effectively rendering the notifications feed useless. Yes, Twitter offers a “quality filter.” There are also ways to mute interactions across your entire account based on a variety of criteria, like say, shushing brand new accounts (which are likely to be trolls or spammers.) Muting replies to an individual tweet though remains off the menu—until today, in Canada. What a nice quality-of-life update, or so I thought!
But the first ingredient to disappointment is hope, and where Twitter is concerned I really ought to know better by now. A press release the company sent out last week makes clear that, no, this new limited-run feature isn’t intended to squelch highly engaging tweets—it’s Twitter’s way of getting its Canadian users to act as unpaid moderators for their own content.
Starting next week, people in Canada will have the option to hide replies to their Tweets. Anyone around the world will be able to see and engage with hidden replies by tapping the grey icon that will appear. We want to be clear and transparent when someone has made the decision to hide a reply, and will be looking at how this feature gives more control to authors while not compromising the transparency and openness that is central to what makes Twitter so powerful.
It’s unclear from the press release or the accompanying gif if hiding tweets also hides replies to those tweets, or if the act of hiding a tweet is visible to the person who posted the thing you don’t want other people to see. In theory isn’t this what muting, blocking, and reporting is for? Is the most logical explanation that Twitter somehow makes money the more agita it inflicts on its users?
Yum, yum, yum, delicious sewage.
Update 4:18pm EST: Twitter replied to clarify that 1. replies to hidden tweets are visible and 2. users who have their tweets hidden aren’t notified as such, but would be made aware of it by checking the tweet they’d commented on. The more you know.