Twitter said Tuesday that it’s releasing new settings that will let users control who can reply to their tweet, a new tool the company says helps some people feel safer online.
The company startedin May and decided to roll out the feature to all users of the app and desktop site. When you compose a tweet, users will see an option that lets them choose who can reply. You can allow everyone to reply to your tweet, only people you follow or only people you mention.
The feature could help users cut down on harassment on the site, a problem thathave complained about for years. At the same time, the American Civil Liberties Union and others have raised First Amendment concerns that the tool could be abused by public officials who block speakers on accounts meant for public conversations. There have also been fears that the settings could also create more “filter bubbles,” in which people’s political viewpoints or biases are reinforced.
Suzanne Xie, who directs product management at Twitter, said in a blog post that users can still weigh in a on a tweet by retweeting a tweet with a comment, even if replies are limited.
“Twitter serves the public conversation, so it’s important for people to be able to see different perspectives,” she said.
Twitter said users told the company they felt more comfortable tweeting because of the settings and it helped safeguard them from spam messages and abusive remarks. The settings prevented an average of three potentially abusive replies and added one potentially abusive retweet with a comment. Users sending these abusive remarks didn’t resort to sending direct messages.
Users who reported abusive tweets to Twitter are three times more likely to use these settings, the company said. During the test, about 60% of people who used the settings didn’t mute or block another user. People who controlled who can reply to their tweets also wrote longer tweets than those who didn’t use the settings.
The company said that people have also been using the settings to host interviews and make announcements. Last year,did an interview with Recode’s co-founder and journalist Kara Swisher on the site in what one journalist described as a “chaotic hellpit.” That’s because there were so many replies as the two were tweeting that it was difficult for the public to even follow the interview. Limiting who can reply to your tweets can prevent any unwanted remarks from coming in during an online interview.
Twitter said there are more tools in the works. In the next few months, Twitter is planning “to add an option to invite more people to the conversation after it starts, clear notifications for when you’re invited to join a conversation using these settings, and more ways to see the entire discussion.” Twitter has 186 million users who log into the site daily and can see ads.