Twitter today confirmed it’s developing a new “Hide Tweet” feature, which it says will give users another option to protect their conversations. The option, spotted in Twitter’s code, is available from a list of moderation choices that appear when you click the “Share” button on a tweet — a button whose icon has also been given a refresh, it seems. Like it sounds, “Hide Tweet” functions as an alternative to muting or blocking a user, while still offering some control over a conversation.
Related to this, an option to “View Hidden Tweets” was also found to be in the works. This allows a user to unhide those tweets that were previously hidden by the original poster.
The “Hide Tweet” feature was first discovered by Jane Manchun Wong, who tweeted about her findings on Thursday.
Wong says she found the feature within the code of the Twitter Android application.
Reached for comment earlier on Thursday, Twitter told TechCrunch that employees would soon tweet out more context about the feature, but those tweets weren’t published until later in evening.
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the feature is something the company is actively working on.
Immediately, there were concerns that an option like this would allow users to silence their critics — not just for themselves, as is possible today with muting and blocking — but for anyone reading through a stream of Twitter Replies. Imagine, for example, if a controversial politician began to hide tweets they didn’t like or those that contradicted an outrageous claim with a fact check, people said.
It also requires the user to click to view the Replies that were hidden, which some users may not know to do and others may not bother to do. They may then miss out on an important point in the conversation, or a critical fact check.
On the flip side, putting the original poster back in control of which Replies are visible may allow people to feel more comfortable with sharing on Twitter, which could impact user growth — a number Twitter struggles with today. And it could encourage people to debate things with less vitriol, knowing that their nastier tweets could get hidden view.
It wasn’t immediately clear from Wong’s first screenshots if the “Hide Tweet” button was something that hides the tweet from everyone’s view, or just from the person who clicked the button.
However, Wong later published the code reference itself, where the feature is described as a “moderation” action – implying it’s more about the health of the conversation as a whole, not a personal setting.
On Thursday evening (following the publication of this post, which has since been edited to reflect additional details), Twitter Senior PM Michelle Yasmeen Haq posted a thread explaining Twitter’s thinking about the Hide Tweet feature.
We often hear from heavy Tweeters that they want to be able to protect their conversations…
People who start interesting conversations on Twitter are really important to us, and we want to empower them to make the conversations they start as healthy as possible by giving them some control.
We think of conversations as an ecosystem of different groups: authors, repliers, the audience and the platform. We try to balance the experience across all four groups, and we are continuously exploring ways to shift the balance without overcorrecting.
We already see people trying 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.
With this feature, the person who started a conversation could choose to hide replies to their tweets. The hidden replies would be viewable by others through a menu option.
We think the transparency of the hidden replies would allow the community to notice and call out situations where people use the feature to hide content they disagree with. We think this can balance the product experience between the original Tweeter and the audience.
In the coming months, we plan to start testing this publicly so stay tuned for more and keep telling us what you think!
The feature’s discovery comes at a time when Twitter has been under increased pressure to improve the overall conversational health on its platform.
In a recent interview, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that it puts most of the burden on the victims of abuse, which has been “a huge fail.” He said Twitter was looking into new ways to proactively enforce and promote health, so blocking and reporting were last resorts.
A “Hide Tweet” button doesn’t seem to fit into that plan, as it requires users’ direct involvement with the moderation process.
It’s worth also noting that Twitter already has a “hidden tweets” feature of sorts.
In 2018, the company introduced a new filtering strategy to hide disruptive tweets, which takes into consideration various behavioral signals — like whether the account had verified its email, is frequently blocked or tweets often at accounts that don’t follow it back, for example. If Twitter determined the tweet should be downranked, it moved it to its own secluded part of the Reply thread, under a “Show more replies” button.
Twitter tests a number of things that never see the light of day in a public product. More recently, the company said it was weighing the idea of a “clarifying function” for explaining old tweets. It’s also launching a prototype app that will experiment with new ideas around conversation threads.
Update, Feb 28, 2019, 4:55 PM ET: Added tweet with additional code reference.
Update, Feb 28, 2019, 6:55 PM ET: Added Twitter’s comments from Haq’s thread.