If you’ve seen the option to downvote replies on Twitter, you’re not alone. The experimental feature, which Twitter started testing last year, is now being shown to a global audience, says the company.
The option to downvote was initially given to a select group of web users, but Twitter says it will soon be expanding the feature to iOS and Android users as well. Unlike on sites like Reddit, total tallies for upvotes and downvotes aren’t public, but are being used by Twitter behind the scenes to tweak what replies it shows users.
The company said results of the experiment so far found that users downvoted replies they found offensive or irrelevant. “This experiment also revealed that downvoting is the most frequently used way for people to flag content they don’t want to see,” said Twitter. Presumably, this is instead of muting a conversation or flagging it as spam or irrelevant — options that Twitter currently buries within unwieldy dropdown menus.
Twitter’s conclusion so far is that access to downvoting “improves the quality of conversations on Twitter,” suggesting the feature might eventually graduate to become a permanent addition to the site.
We’ve been testing how we can surface the most relevant replies within Tweets with the use of downvoting on replies. As we’re expanding the experiment to a global audience, we want to share a little about what we have learned thus far!
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) February 3, 2022
Downvotes and dislikes are a simple way for users to give feedback on online content, but they can also be problematic. They can be used in campaigns of targeted harassment, for example, and if they became part of Twitter’s algorithm they could be used to silence dissenting opinion.
In the past, YouTube has found dislikes so problematic that it made the vote-count private as of November last year. Facebook, meanwhile, has experimented with downvotes, but never implemented them, preferring to initially only give users the option to “like” content before expanding the range of reactions using emoji.