Twitter announced today that it’s building a new feature that would let users hide replies to their tweets. The feature, noticed first by expert software unpacker Jane Manchun Wong, would bring a drastic change to how users control the conversations they create on the platform. It wouldn’t let a user permanently hide replies, but it would make those replies more difficult to see in the event the original conversation starter wanted to discourage bad-faith or otherwise unpleasant discussions around their tweets.
“People who start interesting conversations on Twitter are really important to us, and we want to empower them to make the conversations they start as healthy as possible by giving them some control,” explains Michelle Yasmeen Haq, a senior product manager at the company who discussed the feature publicly on her personal Twitter account late this afternoon. “We already see people trying keep their conversations healthy by using block, mute, and report, but these tools don’t always address the issue. Block and mute only change the experience of the blocker, and report only works for the content that violates our policies.”
Essentially, the feature would let you tap the “share” icon on Twitter and choose “hide Tweet” to close down replies. From there, other users would have to click through to see the replies on a tweet, instead of seeing them automatically. There also appears to be an option to view all tweets you’ve hidden in the past and manually unhide them if you want to reopen replies at some point in the future.
By giving users the option to hide replies, Yasmeen Haq thinks Twitter can “balance the product experience between the original Tweeter and the audience.” Additionally, the “transparency of the hidden replies would allow the community to notice and call out situations where people use the feature to hide content they disagree with.” In other words, by hiding replies, you could send a signal to your audience that the conversation has become toxic or sidetracked, in a way similar to disabling comments on YouTube or taking similar actions on Reddit and other forums.