scorecardTwitter's new feature lets users limit replies — but this may allow fake news to go unchecked
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Twitter's new feature lets users limit replies — but this may allow fake news to go unchecked

Twitter's new feature lets users limit replies — but this may allow fake news to go unchecked
Tech3 min read
Twitter launches new reply-limiting feature for all users across the social networking platform    Twitter
  • Twitter debuted its reply-limiting feature eight months ago at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and today it will be rolled out to every user worldwide.
  • Twitter’s new feature lets you restrict responses to everyone, just the people you follow, or the people you’ve mentioned in your tweet.
  • While it may reduce trolls and harassment, limiting replies on tweets could also allow fake news to go unchecked.
Back in January, Twitter gave its users a sneak preview of its plan to let them have control over who can reply to their tweets. It was a part of Twitter's plan to boost ‘conversational health'. And what seemed like a pipe dream then, has become a reality now.

Twitter tested this feature in May, and starting today, everyone on Twitter will be able to use these settings to block any unwanted replies.

While the feature may keep trolls at bay, many fear that it also has its disadvantages, like keeping people from calling out fake news. This move from Twitter could end up in more misinformation floating around online. Some, which could even go viral and incite panic if fact checks are filtered out.

For instance, it is not uncommon for a group of trolls or bots to make news about a celebrity's death go viral on social networks. Just last month, a hoax about YouTuber Shane Dawson dying was the top trend on Twitter.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been instances of conspiracy theorists exploiting the people’s need to safeguard themselves by selling toxic bleach as a miracle cure.

Twitter, along with other social networks, has also been accused of promoting bias ahead of the elections in the US, India, and other parts of the world.

In such instances, many users point out that limiting replies would limit the diversity of conversation and only magnify the echo chambers of whoever can be loudest online. Not everyone reads the link they share, content shared can often be poorly structured or emoted, and users can hide behind a screen name.

Even when Twitter launched the ‘hide replies’ features in November last year, some users saw it as a threat to free speech. Some went so far as to say that the social networking platform was trying to suppress unpopular opinions.

That said, Twitter does have its own policies against hate speech and misinformation on the platform. It even called out US President Donald Trump for putting out the wrong facts.

The issue remains that, historically, Twitter has been more reactive than proactive when it comes to addressing those issues. During the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Population Registry (NPR) protests, Twitter was also dragged to court for instigating ‘riots-like situations’.

How to limit replies on Twitter?
Twitter’s feature is fairly straightforward akin to Facebook’s ‘who can see this post?’ format. Before you send out a tweet, there will be a little widget under the text where you can select who can reply.

Three options to choose from when limiting replies on Twitter:

  1. Everyone
  2. People you follow
  3. Only people you mention
The option of restricting replies altogether — to publish a tweet as a statement — as shown during the Consumer Electronics Shows (CES), seems to be absent.