Twitter is unveiling a new set of features that could help address cancel culture. As anyone who’s ever been cancelled can attest — it’s your old tweets that get you in trouble.
Twitter knows this, and with that in mind, part of their ongoing plans to reduce toxicity on the platform are through a new set of privacy-related features that provide users with much greater control over their follower lists and who can see their posts and likes.
The tools are related to what Twitter’s executives are calling “social privacy,” or how users manage their reputations on the platform.
According to Bloomberg, one of the features is said to be the option to archive old tweets so that other users can’t see them after a set period of time designated by the account holder — such as 30, 60, or 90 days, or even a whole year. Hiding past tweets, or at least making them inaccessible to most users, would free Twitter users from having to purge their tweets using paid services while also maintaining some degree of privacy for old, often embarrassing posts. The feature has not yet been given a schedule for release and is still conceptual at this point.
Another one of the features being considered is the ability to edit follower lists without blocking people. It’s currently only possible to force someone to unfollow you by blocking them manually and then unblocking them so they don’t know they’ve been removed. This feature will be enabled in September.
Twitter will also soon allow users to hide the tweets they’ve liked, by allowing them to set who — everyone, just their followers, or select groups – can see their activity. Twitter did not provide a release date for this feature.
Finally, Twitter will allow users to remove themselves from a public conversation on Twitter — which is currently only possible by muting the entire thread. This feature will be tested before the end of the year.
Part of Twitter’s motivation is that employees often see users do creative workarounds because these features don’t exist, like blocking and then unblocking someone to remove them as a follower. Lots of other users manually delete old tweets, or toggle back and forth between public and private accounts depending on what they’re posting.
Archiving tweets, in particular, could help alleviate fears for people who worry their old posts will come back to haunt them in some way down the road, such as while looking for a new job, applying for college or running for political office. Rival companies like Snap Inc. and Instagram have had success with disappearing Stories products -- a signal that users are drawn to apps where their posts won’t exist forever. Twitter’s own Stories feature didn’t catch on with users, but a feature that does the same with tweets would likely be popular among users.
Twitter has long been open about its product road map, and often tests features that aren’t fully launched. But the company also talks a lot about ideas in concept, some of which fail to materialize, or take much longer than expected.