Authorization

Twitters new reply blockers could let Trump hide critics

What if politicians could only display Twitter replies from their supporters while stopping everyone else from adding their analysis to the conversation? Thats the risk of Twitters upcoming Conversation Participants tool its about to start testing that lets you choose if you want replies from everyone, only those your follow or mention, or no one.
For most, the reply limiter could help repel trolls and harassment. Unfortunately, it still puts the burden of safety on the victims rather than the villains. Instead of routing out abusers, Twitter wants us to retreat and wall off our tweets from everyone we dont know. That could reduce the spontaneous yet civil reply chains between strangers that are part of what makes Twitter so powerful.
But in the hands of politicians hoping to avoid scrutiny, the tools could make it appear that their tweets and policies are uniformly supported. By only allowing their sycophants to add replies below their posts, anyone reading along will exposed to a uniformity of opinion that clashes with Twitters position as a marketplace of ideas.
Weve reached out to Twitter for comment on this issue and whether anyone such as politicians would be prevented from using the new reply-limiting tools. Twitter plans to test the reply-selection tool in Q1 and make modifications if necessary before rolling it out.
Twitters new reply blockers could let Trump hide critics

Heres how the new Conversation Participants feature works according to the preview shared by Twitters Suzanne Xie at CES today, though it could change during testing. When users go to tweet, theyll have the option of selecting who can reply, unlike now when everyone can leave replies but authors can hide certain ones that viewers can opt to reveal. Conversation Participants offers four options:
Global: Replies from anyone
Group: Replies from those you follow or mention in this tweet
Panel: Replies from only those you mention in this tweet
Statement: No replies allowed
Now Imagine President Trump opts to make all of his tweets Group-only. Only those who support him and he therefore follows like his sons, Fox News Sean Hannity, and his campaign team could reply. Gone would be the reels of critics fact-checking his statements or arguing against his policies. His tweets would be safeguarded from reproach, establishing an echo chamber filter bubble for his acoyltes.
Its true that some of these responses from the public might constitute abuse or harassment. But those should be dealt with specifically through strong policy and consistent enforcement of adequate punishments when rules are broken. By instead focusing on stopping replies from huge swaths of the community, the secondary effects have the potential to prop up politicians that consistently lie and undam the flow of misinformation.
Theres also the practical matter that this wont stop abuse, it will merely move it. Civil discussion will be harder to find for the rest of the public, but harassers will still reach their targets. Users blocked from replying to specific tweet can just tweet directly at the author. They can also continue to mention the author separately or screenshot their tweets and then discuss them.
Its possible that US law preventing politicians discriminating against citizens with different viewpoints by restricting their access to the politicians comments on a public forum. Judges ruled this makes it illegal for Trump to block people on social media. But with this new tool, since anyone could still see the tweets, reply to the author separately, and not being followed by the author likely doesnt count as discrimination like blocking does, use of the Conversation Participants tool could be permissible.

Silenced by free speech
See also:
Leave a comment
News
  • Latest
  • Read
  • Commented
Calendar Content
«     2020    »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
242526272829