Twitter Will Let Users Control Who Can Reply To Their Tweets

The Verge:

Xie says Twitter is adding a new setting for “conversation participants” right on the compose screen. It has four options: “Global, Group, Panel, and Statement.” Global lets anybody reply, Group is for people you follow and mention, Panel is people you specifically mention in the tweet, and Statement simply allows you to post a tweet and receive no replies.

Brands are definitely going to be making use out of the Statements mode. Below almost every brand tweet I see, often when the brand has paid for the tweet to be promoted to a wider audience, are replies from people complaining about something about the company’s products that is completely unrelated to the tweet content. This happens on Twitter and Facebook alike.

For example, there’ll be a post in my timeline from a UK carrier about some new phone deal. Inevitably, the top comment will be a complaint about no signal and slow data in a particular area, or a terrible in-store customer service experience, being kept on hold for too long, or something along those lines. I always chuckle when I see it because these companies are indirectly paying to have customers complaints spreads more widely.

A Statement option would close that hole and make promoted posts much more like traditional display advertising. A public placard with no interaction.

Separately, I think Twitter certainly risks losing some of its ‘community’ if all celebrities suddenly switch to posting in Statement mode and thereby hiding all reactions to their tweets. I find a lot of the fun of Twitter is that feeling of everyone being able to jump in the same conversation.

Take something like Tim Cook’s recent tweet about the Golden Globes. It is pretty entertaining to go to the comments and see people quipping about the elephant in the room — Gervais’s provocative opening speech — and also some actual factual debate was also spawned off of those knee-jerk jokes. I would be sad if in the future Cook posted everything as a Statement and I could no longer click through on his tweets and see those kind of responses.

There’s also the more serious issue of being unable to correct someone who shares something that is fake or misleading, if that person has disabled replies. Twitter is already criticised for promoting echo chamber tendencies.

My gut feeling here is that ‘people in the public eye’ should not have access to these controls. That is imperfect though because there are plenty of public personalities, like world news journalists for instance, who are the subject of the abuse and harassment that these policies are ultimately trying to help. I will say that I have no intention of limiting who can reply to my tweets. I like the openness of Twitter, plain and simple. (Granted, I speak from the position of someone who has been fortunate enough not to be the subject of online harassment in my decade online.)