It’s no secret that Twitter has a habit of bringing out the worst of people. Blame a toxic mix of a system that requires complex arguments be reduced to under 280 characters and a real-time environment that encourages people to tweet first and think later while the world watches on.
Add to that the mix of lax moderation and an overzealous culture of free speech and you have, as one former employee described it, a “honeypot for assholes.” It’s no coincidence that many of its most avid users call it a “hellsite” in shorthand — though notably that usually doesn’t stop them tweeting nonstop.
But to try and make Twitter a slightly more pleasant and useful place to exist on the internet, the company has introduced downvote buttons, where you can take out your annoyance on people with a satisfying press of a down arrow. The feature was rolled out for testing last year, but is now being expanded worldwide with a large testing pool, apparently.
Unlike somewhere like Reddit, where votes are publicly available to see so visitors can gauge how useful someone is being, here downvotes are only visible to you.
But that doesn’t mean they’re the equivalent of a virtual stress ball: Twitter does take note of the kind of replies that are routinely downvoted, and they “help inform us of the content people want to see.”
For example, “a majority of our users shared that the reason they clicked the down arrow was either because the reply was perceived as offensive, or because they perceived it as not relevant, or both.” Truly groundbreaking stuff, there. Who’d have thought it?
“This experiment also revealed that downvoting is the most frequently used way for people to flag content they don’t want to see,” Twitter added. This won’t come as a surprise to anybody who’s ever navigated the labyrinthian UI that opens when you try to report a neo-nazi’s tweet.
“Finally, people who have tested downvoting agree it improves the quality of conversations on Twitter,” the company concluded. “We’re excited to see how others think of it as it becomes available to more of you.”
Cheaper than paying moderators, I guess. But whether it actually makes Twitter nice again is another matter…