Twitter users can now nuke comments on their own tweets with the tap of a button after launching a feature in the United States and Japan that is described as “controversial.”
“That means people who come into a conversation to cause drama, make inappropriate remarks or bully and abuse others won’t have their voices heard by the majority of the conversation’s participants,” according to TechCrunch. “Only those who choose to view the hidden replies will see those posts.”
Of course, what counts as “drama” or “abuse” is a purely subjective assessment, which contributes to the controversial nature of the new feature.
Tweets are not deleted from Twitter, but rather hidden behind a further click. I tested the feature out to see exactly affects the timeline.
The original tweet that I want to hide says “Also my subtweet to what I put still stands.”
So I tapped the dropdown next to the timestamp, which prompted me with the following options:
I tapped “Hide reply,” and then went back to the original thread. As you can see, the tweet is totally removed from the timeline:
Those of us who are familiar with tech censorship can spot the glaring potential issue with the new feature from a mile away. It will more likely than not be used to silence dissenting opinions. That is, if one user makes a political statement, and another user makes an opposite political statement, the original user can simply shut down debate.
Worse, it is impossible to trust news organizations to use the feature responsibly. So, when CNN’s Brian Stelter, for example, tweets something that’s obviously false in order to further his left-wing political agenda, he could conceivably hide replies that correct his propaganda.
And therein lies the issue. This feature is meant to restrict, not broaden the free flow of information. Any tool built for that purpose has the potential to be used in the service of propagandists.
According to TechCrunch, Twitter doesn’t seem to recognize this potential.
“Since launching in Canada in July, Twitter said that people mostly used the feature to hide replies they found were irrelevant, abusive or unintelligible,” the site said. “User feedback was positive, as well, as those who used the tool said they found it was a helpful way to control what they saw, similar to keyword muting.”
Call us skeptical, but we’re not exactly sure whether Twitter’s word is reliable. This is the same social network that has constantly censored conservative users while swearing up and down that it does not censor conservative users.
Just yesterday, we reported that the social media giant briefly suspended a large gun rights group only days before an important national conference, and permanently suspended the accounts of the entire leadership of Latinos for Trump.
Of course, our own Laura Loomer was banned from Twitter last November after tweeting out a demonstrably true fact – that Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is “anti-Jewish” – to her 260,000 followers. She is currently engulfed in a lawsuit against the company, as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who were involved with the ban.