One of the dominant features of Reddit is its users' ability to decide what is and is not important through the upvote and downvote feature. For every post on the site, users can mark it as up or down, thereby helping to determine what is the most valuable content on the site. Twitter has been testing a similar feature over the past few months, and now they are ready to turn it from a limited test into a "global experiment."
What is a downvote?
The feature on Twitter differs from its Reddit counterpart in a few major ways. First, it is not available on the initial post, only on replies. The stated reason for this is to help prevent offensive, abusive, or irrelevant replies on a thread. We've all seen a standard tweet go from informative to abusive in about 3 replies, so this could be a welcomed addition to the ecosystem.
The concept could easily be taken advantage of, with users simply downvoting a reply even if it makes perfect sense. We see this kind of thing happen when people don't like that a particular person replied to a post, where users will spam reply to them to try and annoy them. Twitter has tried to address this situation with a potentially clever solution. No one is actually able to see the results of a downvote.
Only the person who submitted the downvote and Twitter itself will know that the downvote happened. There is no public downvote count and no ability for the poster to know how much their reply has been hit. Instead, once a certain threshold has been reached, the comment will stop being surfaced quite as regularly. The hope is that without a public display, there will be less of a likelihood of a dogpile starting in order to stifle conversation.
Of course, a lack of a public count will not stop this behavior. Instead, users will gather in another comment in order to target a reply. Twitter is not a place for lively and productive conversation - it is known for being a terrible place for terrible people to be terrible to one another. Attacking someone for trying to start a deeper conversation is a core part of the Twitter community, and this has given them a new way to be terrible to one another.
In addition to the downvote feature, Twitter announced another new feature to attempt to keep the community calm. The system will scan a reply before you send it and attempt to determine if what you are about to send might be offensive or abusive. If it determines that it is, it will give you a dialog encouraging you to reconsider your post.
They say that in their tests, around 30% of users who saw the message deleted or restructured their messages to be kinder. We have no way of verifying this research, but if true, it might just have the ability to slow down the fairly quick conversation from calm to crazy on the site.