Twitter is perhaps finally waking up to the issues that have plagued the social network for a while now. The company confirms that they will be testing and implementing a bunch of new features that could make conversation a bit more civil than they tend to be at the moment. If all goes well, Twitter users will soon get a new setting for managing conversation participants. There will be four options—namely Global, Group, Panel, and Statement. The idea of these settings is to reduce online abuse and targeted harassment.
Here is how each of these settings will work. Global will allow anybody who sees that tweet to reply (if they have an opinion, valid or otherwise). Group will allow only people you follow as well as the people you @mention in that tweet to reply. If you choose Panel, only the people you specifically mention in the tweet can reply. And finally there is the setting which perhaps I would switch on once and leave it on forever—and it is called Statement. This setting allows you to post a tweet and receive absolutely no replies. (This should go well with my personality.)
Twitter will be experimenting with these new setting options in Q1 2020, though it isn’t clear as and when these amazing new conversation settings roll out for all users. But we do believe it will be later this year. Do expect significant changes along the way too. Suzanne Xie, Director of Product Management at Twitter confirmed these changes at CES 2020, in a statement, “The reason we’re doing this is, if we think about what conversation means on Twitter. Right now, public conversation on Twitter is you tweet something everyone in the world will see and everyone can reply, or you can have a very private conversation in a DM. So there’s an entire spectrum of conversations that we don’t see on Twitter yet.”
The new direction Twitter is taking seems to be on similar lines as Facebook, which is pushing users towards group conversations. But there is one very critical difference. Twitter adding the ability for you and I to limit the audience that can react to a tweet is narrowing down the scope of unnecessary conversations, but isn’t limiting the scope of broadcast of a message. In fact, the new conversation dynamics build on the Hide Replies feature which Twitter added last year, that did provide some respite in the sense that users could hide replies to their tweet which were either abusive, amounted to bullying or worse.
However, this does lead us to a question. How does this new Conversation setting option help in curbing fake news or misinformation, if at all? The scenario is simple—someone posts grossly incorrect information and opts for the Statement setting. There really won’t be a way to rebut that tweet or point out the misinformation.