Today, Twitter revealed that it is testing a new feature that allows users to specify who can reply to their tweets before they are sent, as part of recent Twitter moves to help users control their conversations.
The user will be able to decide who can reply to his tweets from several available options, either to limit the reply to the people he follows or to the people he mentioned in the tweet and if no one has been mentioned in the tweet then this option will prevent anyone from responding.
Anyone who does not fall within the allowed group will see that the Reply button is inactive (gray) on the tweet, and note that this will not prevent anyone from quote tweets, retweet, like, or see the tweets in question.
A new way to have a convo with exactly who you want. We’re starting with a small % globally, so keep your 👀 out to see it in action. pic.twitter.com/pV53mvjAVT
— Twitter (@Twitter) May 20, 2020
Personal freedom or a limitation of opinions?
Reactions to the new feature have been varied, with some users hailing it as a way to prevent potential harassment or bullying by some users, while others see it as a kind of restricting freedom of expression on a platform based on the principle of free expression.
Proponents of the new feature say it will help them limit tweets and subsequent discussions to a list of people who will add something rather – for example – people who respond to tweets, begging, or personal insult.
Opponents of this feature believe that it will deprive many users of their opinions freely, and may be used to restrict freedom of expression on the platform, especially government officials.
But this may not apply to American officials. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement saying that public officials need to be careful about how they use the restrictions of restraining the response, lest they violate the first amendment to the constitution that prohibits the restriction of public freedoms.
Government officials can violate the First Amendment if they will use this tool to block speakers on any accounts they have opened for public chatting about their roles as government representatives.
Officials should not use this tool to determine who can or cannot respond to accounts they have opened for government assistance requests, which for example may be relevant to the debate on the government’s role in fighting the spread of the Corona pandemic.
Courts have debated over the past several years whether a public figure banning people on Twitter violates their initial amendment rights.
The appeals court upheld a ruling in a lawsuit filed against President Trump, to ensure that he would not be allowed to ban people on Twitter even if they disagreed with him because that would affect their right to participate in political speech.
The Civil Liberties Union seems to see the “no responses” feature as an extension of the ban idea because it limits speech on Twitter that has already become a digital public square, so new test features may be valuable, but officials must be careful about how to use them.
The feature is still under testing, so only a small group of people can access the feature at the moment, which is a continuation of the efforts that started last year, to enable users to control who comments on their accounts, as they put up a feature that allows users to hide responses to their tweets.