Twitter will be rolling out a test to more users on web, iOS, and Android that will allow people to reply to content with a hidden vote which will help the firm discover the content that people want to see. While votes will be hidden so that they can’t be used for public negative feedback, it could also turbocharge echo chambers as people downvote content they disagree with, including the political kind.
We learned a lot about the types of replies you don't find relevant and we're expanding this test –– more of you on web and soon iOS and Android will have the option to use reply downvoting.— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) February 3, 2022
Downvotes aren’t public, but they'll help inform us of the content people want to see. https://t.co/g8LcTpQqDv pic.twitter.com/wm5MmdR4Xh
The incentive for social media companies to deploy these kinds of features is easy to understand, they want you to keep returning to their feeds to see ads and other sponsored content and you’re more likely to come back if you enjoy the content you are looking at. This can lead to people downvoting others they simply disagree with and over time feeds will be flooded with content from just one angle that the user aligns with.
Outside of the political ramifications, such a feature may actually be useful. We saw the other week that someone had created a Twitter bot called The Wordlinator which spoiled the next day’s Wordle answer for people tweeting out their score for the day. For the maker of this bot, being able to downvote content about Wordle may have come in handy as they were clearly sick of hearing about the new craze.
If Twitter does deploy the voting mechanism more widely, only time will tell whether it provides net benefits or disadvantages. If the latter, it won’t be too surprising if the company faces even more backlash from politicians who have already had extensive battles against social media companies.