Twitter has a little-known feature that allows users to hide any replies to a tweet they don’t like.
It was quietly introduced earlier this year with the idea of giving Tweeters a way to control the conversations they want to have on the platform.
Of course, any Twitter user could already change their view of a conversation by blocking or muting an offensive comment. But that was still visible to anyone else looking at the thread. The ‘hide reply’ option removes the comments from others’ view as well.
But it doesn’t remove them completely – it puts them behind a small button that can be clicked to reveal the comments the original user had wanted to be hidden.
Given the diatribes that regularly occur on Twitter, a move to try and censor things may not seem like a bad idea. But, like everything on social media, it can have the effect of a double-edged sword.
Twitter trialled the feature in Canada, and a recent tweet from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau hid replies that referenced his recent brownface controversy . That’s probably not something that voters would want swept under the rug.
Hiding replies to tweets validates a willingness to censor opinions. That’s wrong. Especially in Canada, the political elite drive distorted or false narratives to promote themselves. Concerned citizens must be able to object in a public forum. The media won’t do it. WE have to.
— Concrete Mayor (@concretemayor) July 19, 2019
Now the feature has made its way to the UK and can be used by anyone wanting to hide replies.
‘As long as it hasn’t been deleted and/or is not from an account with protected Tweets, everyone can still interact with a hidden reply by clicking the icon to view,’ Twitter said in a statement posted as a series of tweets earlier this year.
‘We want everyone on Twitter to have healthy conversations, and we’re working on features that will help people feel more comfortable. We’re testing a way for people to hide replies they feel are irrelevant or offensive.’