Twitter expands downvote test worldwide

If you’ve seen the option to downvote comments on Twitter, you’re not alone. The experimental feature, which Twitter began testing last year, is now being shown to a global audience, says the company.

The ability to vote was initially given to a select group of web users, but Twitter says it will soon extend the feature to iOS and Android users as well. Unlike sites like Reddit, the aggregate votes for upvotes and downvotes are not public, but are used by Twitter behind the scenes to customize which answers it shows users.

The company said the results of the experiment so far showed that users downplayed the comments they found offensive or irrelevant. This experiment also showed that downvoting is the most common way for people to flag content they don’t want to see. Presumably, this is instead of muting or marking a conversation as spam or irrelevant — options Twitter currently buries in clunky drop-down menus.

Twitter’s conclusion so far has been that access to downvote “improves the quality of conversations on Twitter,” suggesting the feature could eventually grow into a permanent addition to the site.

Downvotes and dislikes are an easy way for users to provide feedback about online content, but they can also be problematic. For example, they can be used in targeted harassment campaigns, and if they become part of Twitter’s algorithm, they can be used to silence dissent.

In the past, YouTube found dislikes so problematic that it made vote counting private from November last year. Facebook, meanwhile, has experimented with downvotes but has never implemented them, preferring to initially only give users the option to “like” content before expanding the reach of comments with emoji.

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