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Twitter Expands Test of Downvotes on Tweet Replies to Glean More Insight into User Behavior

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Twitter Expands Test of Downvotes on Tweet Replies to Glean More Insight into User Behavior


Twitter has announced that it’s expanding its test of downvotes on tweet replies, with more users on both iOS and Android set to see the new down arrow on tweet responses, providing another way to signal your thoughts on each comment.

As explained by Twitter:

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. Downvotes aren’t public, but they’ll help inform us of the content people want to see.

Twitter initially launched its downvote test back in July, on iOS only, which many users saw as a ‘dislike’ option for tweet replies. Which Twitter says it isn’t, exactly.

We’re hoping to better understand what people believe are relevant replies, and how that matches up to what Twitter suggests as most the relevant replies under a Tweet.”

So the idea is that these insights will help Twitter improve its algorithms to display the best replies under each tweet, these aren’t a measure of your personal response to a stated opinion nor are they designed to be a way to bury bad tweets, as they are on Reddit.

But in effect, that’s both how they work and what they’ll be used for – though Twitter has also provided some insight into the initial learnings that it’s gleaned from the first months of the test:

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“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. This experiment also revealed that downvoting is the most frequently used way for people to flag content they don’t want to see. Finally, people who have tested downvoting agree it improves the quality of conversations on Twitter.”

In theory, Twitter’s downvote system is designed to push down spam and junk comments, but in reality, people are downvoting things that they find personally offensive and/or things they don’t want to see. Which could, of course, be seen as a form of censorship, especially if more people look to use the option to blitz dissenting opinions.

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But maybe that’s what users want – the very act of using the downvote button on any reply is an intentional signal that you don’t like or want to see that type of content on the platform, in your own personal experience. The concept is not designed to moderate replies, as such, as dislike counts are not public, but it may end up serving as a way for Twitter to learn exactly the types of things that people hate. Which could improve the general quality of conversation in the app, but again, may be viewed as censorship.

Eventually, I can imagine some will see this as Twitter’s own form of ‘shadowbanning’, with their replies getting less exposure and engagement as a result of downvotes. But then again, it would also be very difficult for the tweet author to see how the process has impacted their comment, as they wouldn’t necessarily be able to view how it’s ranked in the overall reply chain.

The downvotes also aren’t on general tweets, just replies, which does reduce the overall impact. But Twitter could still look to incorporate what it learns from the test for its overall tweet ranking algorithm, which could impact general tweets also.

It’s an interesting test, and it is interesting to consider the Reddit model as a template of sorts for this, with Twitter even coloring its downvote button in Reddit orange.

Essentially, it serves a similar purpose to Reddit downvotes, in surfacing the most engaging, most interesting discussion points within each thread to boost user engagement. And maybe, if it is successful, Twitter could consider expanding downvotes to all tweets.

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That would be a very interesting development. Twitter hasn’t suggested that it might be even considering this. But it could be the logical progression to boost user engagement.

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That would be a game-changer for the platform, and the court of public opinion.





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Elon Musk’s Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

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Elon Musk's Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

Okay, let’s just check in on the latest with the Twitter/Elon Musk takeover saga, and where things are placed to close out the week.

According to the latest reports, Musk’s team recently asked Twitter for more tweet info, in order to help it make an accurate assessment of bot activity in the app. This comes after Musk questioned Twitter’s claim that bots and fake accounts make up only 5% of its active user base, and said that his Twitter takeover deal could not go ahead unless Twitter could produce more evidence to support this figure.

Which Twitter did, by providing Musk with access to its ‘full firehose’ of tweets over a given period, which it shared with Musk’s team back on June 8th. Musk’s group has now had that data for a couple of weeks, but this week, it said that this info is not enough to go on, and that it needs even more insight from Twitter to make its judgment.

And after initially resisting calls for more data access, Twitter has now reportedly relented and handed over more tweet data access to Musk’s team.

Which may or may not be a concern, depending on how you see it.

In its initial data dump, Twitter reportedly gave Musk’s team info on:

  • Total user tweets (within a given time period)
  • Data on which devices were used

As noted, Musk’s team says that this has not provided it with the insight that it needs to conduct an accurate analysis of potential bot activity, so Twitter has now provided Musk with more ‘real-time API data’.

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It’s not clear whether that means that Twitter has provided everything that its API systems can provide, but that could mean that Musk’s team can now access:

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  • Real-time info on tweet text and visual elements/attachments
  • Data on retweets, replies, and quote Tweets for each
  • Data on tweet author, mentioned users, tagged locations, hashtag and cashtag symbols, etc
  • Date, time, location, device info

That should satisfy any analytical needs to uncover potential bot trends, and get a better handle on Twitter’s bot problem, though it also means that Musk has all your tweet info – which, again, it’s worth noting, Twitter up till now had been hesitant to provide.

I’m sure it’s fine. Musk’s team is beholden to disclosure laws around such, so it’s not like they can do anything much with that info anyway, in a legal sense. But the idea that the sometimes erratic Elon Musk now has all the tweets could be a little concerning for some.

But Twitter likely had to provide what it can, and if Musk is going to become CEO of the app soon anyway, he’s going to have access to all of that data either way.

But still, given Musk and Co’s past history of undermining and attacking critics, sacking trouble maker employees and digging up potential dirt on rivals, it sits a little uneasy.

Should be fine. No problems – no need to go deleting all your DMs (which are likely not included in the data that Twitter has provided at this stage).

According to reports, Musk’s team says that it now has the info it needs to make its assessment of bot activity, which should see the deal move forward (or not) sometime soon.

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Of course, no one knows what exactly is going to happen next, and whether Musk’s team will look to renegotiate, or even back out of the deal entirely as a result of its bot analysis. But it does seem like, one way or another, Musk will be forced to go ahead with the $44 billion transaction, with Twitter’s past bot reporting methodology already accepted by the SEC, giving it legal grounding to argue that it’s acted in good faith, regardless of what Musk’s team finds.

The next steps then, according to Musk, would be securing debt financing and gaining Twitter shareholder approval, clearing the last hurdles for Musk to change the app’s name to ‘Telsla Social’, and add a million references to ‘420’ into the platforms various terms and conditions.

Because of the memes, because weed jokes are still funny to the richest man in the world – because he vacillates between inspired genius and a massive nerd who now gets to play out some fantasy of being cool.

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Or something. Who knows what goes on in Elon Musk’s head – which is also why most are hesitant to bet against him, as nobody knows if and how he might be able to fix Twitter, and whether this is a great investment or a massive disaster.

It seems like we may soon find out. Maybe. Who knows. Either way, the memes should be great.



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