Twitter has rolled out a new feature allowing users to disable replies to their tweets, enabling those who make unpopular remarks to minimize criticism.
When the number of replies to a tweet exceeds the number of retweets, it is colloquially known as a “ratio” — and is usually an indicator that the tweet is unpopular or controversial, because users are engaging with it but not sharing it.
“Getting ratio’d” on Twitter is a phrase that describes coming under sustained criticism or mockery by the platform’s users. Left-wing journalists often get ratio’d. Thanks to Twitter, they can now avoid humiliation at the hands of the unwashed digital masses.
Recent example of a ratio’d tweet – the number of replies exceeds the number of retweets.
CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter has already begun to take advantage of Twitter’s new feature, forbidding anyone but people he follows to reply. Although any Twitter user (that he hasn’t blocked) can view Stelter’s tweet, most cannot reply to it.
Top of the morning! Here's the latest edition of our media digest: https://t.co/FASYAHs7rY
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 21, 2020
It was on Brian Stelter’s CNN show, in 2018, where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in response to questions from Stelter, began talking about removing some of “incentives” for supposedly bad behavior from users. I wrote at the time that this was a means of removing the ability for ordinary people to use social media to signal their preferences:
Take Twitter’s recent announcement that it plans to remove its “like” button. “Likes” are a primary way Twitter users engage with each other — the fancy term for interacting. It’s how users tell friends they read their tweet and appreciate it, or throw themselves in with an influencer’s hot take. Social media companies live or die by engagement levels — that a platform would willingly cut engagement is drastic, to say the least.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has also said that he wants to reexamine the prominence of follower counts, suggesting to CNN’s Brian Stelter that incentivizing people to grow their following may not be the “right incentive.” In both cases, Twitter is seeking to diminish metrics often used to signal popularity. The idea that ordinary people might actually grow their own followings or signal their approval has become a problem for Twitter.
The ability to remove replies to a tweet removes a key method for ordinary people to signal disapproval, and therefore allows people who hold discredited opinions to shield themselves in a bubble.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.