Twitter launches its controversial ‘Hide Replies’ feature in the US and Japan

Twitter’s controversial “Hide Replies” feature, aimed at civilizing conversations on its platform, is launching today in the U.S. and Japan after earlier tests in Canada. The addition is one of the more radical changes to Twitter to date. It puts people back in control of a conversation they’ve started by giving them the ability to hide those contributions they think are unworthy.

These replies, which may range from the irrelevant to the outright offensive, aren’t actually deleted from Twitter. They’re just put behind an extra click.

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. Only those who choose to view the hidden replies will see those posts.

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Other social media platforms don’t give so much power to commenters to disrupt conversations. On Facebook and Instagram, for example, you can delete any replies to your own posts.

But Twitter has a different vibe. It’s meant to be a public town square, where everyone has a right to speak (within reason.)

Unfortunately, Twitter’s open nature also led to bullying and abuse. Before today, the only options Twitter offered were to mute, block and report users. Blocking and muting, however, only impact your own Twitter experience. You may no longer see posts from those users, but others still could. Reporting a tweet is also a complicated process that takes time. It’s not an immediate solution for a conversation rapidly spinning out of control.

While “Hide Replies” will help address these problems, it ships with challenges of its own, too. It could be used as a way to silence dissenting opinions, including those expressed thoughtfully, or even fact-checked clarifications.

Twitter believes the feature will ultimately encourage people to better behave when posting to its platform.

“We already see people trying to 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,” explained Twitter’s PM of Health Michelle Yasmeen Haq earlier this year.

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Since launching in Canada in July, Twitter said that people mostly used the feature to hide replies they found were irrelevant, abusive or unintelligible. 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.

In a survey, 27% of those who had their tweets hidden said they would reconsider how they interact with others in the future, Twitter said. That’s not a large majority, but it’s enough to make a dent. However, it’s unclear how representative this survey was. Twitter declined to say how many people used the feature or how many were surveyed about its impacts.

The system will now also ask users who hide replies if they also want to block the account, as a means of clarifying that “hiding” is a different function.

“These are positive and heartening results: the feature helped people have better conversations, and was a useful tool against replies that deterred from the person’s original intent,” explained Twitter in a blog post, shared today. “We’re interested to see if these trends continue, and if new ones emerge, as we expand our test to Japan and the U.S. People in these markets use Twitter in many unique ways, and we’re excited to see how they might use this new tool,” the post read.

Despite the expansion, Twitter says “Hide Replies” is still considered a test as the company is continuing to evaluate the system, and it’s not available to Twitter’s global user base.

The new feature will start rolling out at 2 PM PT in both the U.S. and Japan and will be available across mobile and web clients.

How to profit from valuable peer referrals hiding in Slack

How brands and marketers can harness the power of new messaging and productivity apps

Brands are often left to act like the person who searches for their keys under the streetlight simply because that is where the light is better. However, when brand marketers focus only on engaging with the customers they can more easily see — where online activity is visible — they risk overlooking the valuable opportunities hiding in darker spaces.

One of the most valuable of those dark web spaces is in the realm of what we call “microbrowsers” — the messaging apps like Slack, WhatsApp and WeChat. We call them microbrowsers because they display miniature previews of web pages inside private message discussions. These previews, also known as ‘unfurled links’, create your brand’s first impression and play a big role in whether or not the person on the receiving end will click through to buy, or read or engage.

Google Analytics lumps all microbrowser-generated web traffic into the ‘Direct’ bucket, which we often just ignore. This means we look for customers where we know how to create campaigns easily — on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and buying Google Ad Words.

And as more people rely more heavily on messaging apps for primary communication, these link previews from microbrowsers are becoming the leading segment of your direct traffic visitors. In Cloudinary’s 2019 State of Visual Media Report, which drew on data from more than 700 customers and 200 billion transactions, we found that 77% of link sharing in Slack occurs during working hours and that the vast majority of the click-throughs are reported as ‘direct’ traffic. The rise of microbrowsers gives us an opportunity to engage and attract customers through word of mouth discussions.

The good news is that the ‘leads’ that microbrowsers send to your brand site are usually highly qualified and close to the bottom of the traditional sales pipeline funnel. When consumers arrive on your site they are often ready and eager to buy (or read, view and listen to your content).

Whether it be for sneakers, tickets to a concert, a birthday gift idea, or an article to read — a trusted peer recommendation typically happens in that fleeting moment when the appetite to buy is right now. That isn’t just valuable, it’s the holy freaking grail!

Top tips for creating links that engage

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Image via Getty Images / drogatnev

The way to get the most value from microbrowser traffic is by helping along this peer influencing that happens in the dark. By creating compelling, informative links with images, video and text information specifically for microbrowsers, you increase the likelihood that peer-to-peer recommendations in groups convert into sales and reads.

What follows are some top tips to ensure that the links unfurling within microbrowsers have the greatest impact.

First, remember the golden rule: your audience is human. When creating content for microbrowsers, design it for humans, not machines.

Congress plans to investigate how social media giants are fighting hate

The bill would create a “national commission” at the Department of Homeland Security. The commission would have the authority to hold hearings and issue subpoenas. It would also create a social media task force to coordinate the government’s response to security issues. The legislation could be introduced as soon as next week, The Washington Post says.

Today, representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared in a hearing before Senate lawmakers. The hearing questioned whether the platforms have become conduits for real-world violence. All three companies say they’ve improved their systems, but some lawmakers say they’re not doing enough.

The companies are also facing pressure from major civil rights groups. Yesterday, several groups wrote a letter saying tech giants have a “moral responsibility” to better combat how social media can be used “to inflict fear and spread hate.” While there have been attempts to make the internet safer — like Facebook’s plans to train its AI with police body camera footage — whether or not those efforts are effective is another question.