Twitter has officially confirmed that a limited group of users will have access to their live test of its audience control options for tweets, which will enable people to restrict who can reply to their updates.
As explained by Twitter
“Before you Tweet, you’ll be able to choose who can reply with three options: ‘Everyone’ (standard Twitter, and the default setting), ‘Only people you follow’, or ‘Only people you mention’.
“Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out so that it’s clear for people if they can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, and like these Tweets.”
Last October, twitter released a slightly different version of this update which included a fourth option – which would completely block out replies, Maybe Twitter felt that was too restrictive, and counter to tweet engagement, anyways it’s not there now, so it looks to have been dropped in the initial testing stage.
The aim of the option is to facilitate additional tweet discussion options, which has the capability to limit online bullying and abuse, or run Twitter chats with specific user groups and subsets. Brands would also, theoretically, reduce criticism and negative untrue comments by restricting who can reply to their tweets to only those who are going to reply positively.
At the same time, the option could also lead to issues. If people limit their replies, they can make whatever claims they like, and go relatively unchecked, at least in the direct tweet thread and brands can have a biased view of whatever they mention as negative comments and criticism will be removed – but to tackle that, Twitter is also adding markers on tweets where replies have been restricted, which provides some transparency over these issues.
Will that be enough to stop online abuses and brand harassment?
It’s Twitter, where people go to dunk on others, and repeatedly air their many personal grievances to largely unwitting audiences. So probably not. But it’ll be an interesting test either way and with only a limited group of profiles able to use the options initially, we could see quote re-tweets used as a weapon to expose potential abusers of the new system.
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Twitter says the new reply controls are now being tested with “a limited group of people globally on Twitter for iOS, Android, and twitter.com”. Keep an eye out for them in your streams.