Twitter is testing a new feature that allows users to decide who can reply to their tweets. Some accounts are already using it in interesting new ways.
Previously, anybody could reply to anybody on this platform. This is, as long as their profile wasn’t private or blocked.
But now, those who are part of the test can decide if they want to allow replies from everyone. Only from the people they follow, or only the people they tag. If they don’t tag anyone, it means that no one can reply at all.
Deciding who can reply to which tweet on a tweet-by-tweet basis could change how some people use social media.
Twitter interviews, for example, could be much more streamlined. NBC’s Twitter account for Meet the Press was able to show an example of this.
Meet the Press had set up an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. It only allowed people it tagged in the tweet to reply, which, in this case, was only Mitchell.
What felt like a lengthy tweetstorm soon followed, split between the two accounts.
Limiting how users can interact with live Twitter interviews means that emergent conversations won’t occur as easily in the replies. One can theoretically still quote tweet messages even if those tweets have their replies limited.
Conversations could be started that way. Still, the limitation means interviews may not feel quite as organic as they sometimes were before.
However, the feature can make interviews much easier to follow. It would’ve been handy for the #KaraJack interview between Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, and Recode’s Kara Swisher, in February 2019. Dorsey had some fun referencing that mess by not allowing replies to that tweet.
The Twitter Reply-limiting Feature Changes How People Talk
The feature could also be used to prevent the spread of spoilers for upcoming movies, TV shows, and video games. For example, Naughty Dog posted screenshots of its upcoming PS4 title The Last of Us Part II on Thursday. It limited replies to people it tagged, tagging no one.
The Last of Us Part II launches on June 19th and it promises to have a deeply engaging story. The studio is doing everything it can to keep that story under wraps from social media until the game launches. Hence, the move to disable replies.
Naughty Dog also tries to stop people from sharing spoilers from major leaks of the game. Sony and Naughty Dog have both disabled YouTube comments on the latest trailer, too.
There is the potential that limiting replies could be used in a nefarious way. For example, if politicians or public officials post misinformation and don’t allow replies.
People wouldn’t easily be able to fact-check a tweet in the replies appearing under the original misinformation. And this is supposed to be where it could do the most help in correcting the record.
Interestingly, the ACLU argues that public officials blocking replies would violate the First Amendment. President Donald Trump has yet to use the feature, but it will surely inspire debate if and when he does.
If the original account isn’t allowing replies, users can still use a quote tweet to comment for dealing with misinformation. It’s not the best solution, a quote tweet only appears on one’s feed.
So, a fact-check, for example, will not likely be seen by everyone who saw the original tweet. However, it’s still a way to weigh in if one isn’t able to directly reply. Not allowing replies can have more lighthearted uses.
There are bound to be new ideas that come up as more Twitter users get access to reply blocking. But, like anything else, this new reply-limiting feature has its pros and cons.