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4 Feb, 2022 10:21

Twitter goes global with downvote testing

The feature will make the platform a better place – or more of an echo chamber, skeptics say
Twitter goes global with downvote testing

Twitter’s upcoming reply downvote feature, which was first announced last July, has been pushed up to the global testing phase, the company announced. Unlike a similar system on Reddit, the feedback is not public and is meant to help the platform’s algorithm obfuscate replies to tweets that readers deem unwanted for some reason.

The company said it was happy with how the pilot has gone so far. Users enrolled in the experiment downvoted replies that they perceived as offensive, not relevant, or both. In most cases, they flagged the content that they didn’t want to see, Twitter said.

“People who have tested downvoting agree it improves the quality of conversations on Twitter. We're excited to see how others think of it as it becomes available to more of you,” the platform added.

When it is finally rolled out for all users, the downvote flags will affect the order in which replies are displayed under a tweet, but Twitter did not explain in detail how the system would work.

Considering Twitter’s status as the place where the US political elites discuss things they find important, some people are pessimistic about how downvotes would affect public discourse. NSA whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden called it “an exciting new feature that lets you help the algorithm make this place an even bigger echo chamber than it already is.”

Reddit seems to be the only major public speech site that currently has a way to downvote posts and replies, a feature that Twitter found inspiration in. Facebook considered introducing a dislike button a few years ago, but opted for multiple reaction emojis instead.

YouTube notably got rid of its dislike video button last year, citing a need to protect content creators from hate mobs. Critics said at the time the Google-owned platform was probably more interested in protecting establishment players like big studios and legacy media outlets, and YouTube itself, from the embarrassment of receiving negative public feedback. People unhappy with the change have been using apps that recreate the removed feature.