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Twitter To Enable Reply Limits, Could Create Echo Chambers

Conversation Dynamics Exp
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Twitter is preparing to take a step that allows users to put limits regarding who can reply to their posts, according to statements reportedly made by the company’s director of product management, Suzanne Xie. The comments came at CES 2020 and could ultimately lead to some negative impacts on the site. But the settings, dubbed “conversation participants” may also pave the way for more in-depth discussions depending on how they’re implemented.

There will be a total of four options for users to choose from during the experimental release of the feature. Those are “Global, Group, Panel, and Statement.”

The names of the settings are fairly self-explanatory. The overall goal of the features seems to be preventing posts from being overrun by bots. Conversely, they may also prevent other unhealthy behaviors, according to Twitter, such as users getting “dunked on.”

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For Global posts, anybody from Twitter will be able to comment while Group posts can only be tweeted on by friends that users follow or those who are mentioned in the posts. Panel narrows that down further to a panel of those users who are mentioned in the tweet. Statements shut off replies entirely.

Bring on the echo chambers

One problem with the new approach that the Twitter executive did address is that the feature might result in echo chambers. More succinctly, it could result in a diminishing of healthy discussion around hot topics. Users could, in effect, limit discussion to only those that agree with them. Perhaps a bigger concern is that they could also eliminate controversial discussions from happening at all.

Twitter says that it is addressing that by only applying the limits to which users can reply. The tools won’t limit who can see the post and they certainly won’t limit who can retweet with comments of their own. That leaves open the possibility that falsifiable posts and misinformation can still be combatted to an extent.

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That should also limit the echo chamber effect but won’t stifle it completely. Summarily, it allows Twitter to take a middle of the road approach while still giving its users more control over their posts — simultaneously limiting the stressful discussion they’re exposed to while not entirely eliminating the ability possibility for some form of rebuttal.

In that regard, the rules follow closely in line with other changes the company has made over the years. Primarily, the company has strived to not censor users but to also adhere users to behavioral guidelines that prevent some of the worst of Internet communications from becoming too prominent.

When will Twitter implement reply limits?

All of that is, of course, if Twitter fully implements the reply limits, to begin with. For now, it’s still being tested among a relatively tiny subset of users. That’s via the beta variant of the Twitter app. But Twitter does seem intent on releasing it in the near future.

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The social media giant hasn’t provided any exact dates or an app version number. The change will undoubtedly arrive on the web version via a server update and on the app as an app update. As for timing, Twitter indicates it plans to roll the feature out at some point over “the coming months.”