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Twitter is testing downvotes.  Experts are divided on how they would affect the platform.

Twitter is testing a negative vote feature through a handful of iOS users, the platform said on Wednesday, and experts say they are eager to see how a possible deployment could affect the dynamics of the platform.

“Some of you on iOS may see different options for voting up or down on responses. We’re testing this to understand what types of responses you find relevant in a conversation, so we can work on ways. display more. Your negative votes are not public, while your positive votes will be displayed as likes “, Twitter said in a tweet.

On social media, many called the new feature a way to give users a “dislike” button. But Twitter said that’s not quite the point of the test.

In a statement to NBC News, Twitter said testing the upvote and downvote functionality is a way for the platform to try to figure out if it is showing people the best answers for them in a conversation.

“So we’re doing a little research experiment to find out which responses people find most relevant in conversations on Twitter,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an email. “We hope to gain a better understanding of what people think are relevant responses and how that matches what Twitter suggests as the most relevant responses under a Tweet.”

For now, downvotes, which cannot be seen by the public, will not impact the ranking of responses. During the course of this test, the “Like” button will be removed and users will be able to click on a “vote for” button instead.

The move could give users a new way to interact with tweets they find unnecessary or in bad taste. Twitter has said it is only using the feature for research at the moment, but experts say they are eager to see how the negative vote button plays out and how it could shape the future of the platform. form if it sees wide public distribution.

“I guess what they’re trying to do is give people a more clinical way of expressing their distaste for something on social media,” said Scott W. Campbell, chairman of the communications and media department. from the University of Michigan.

Campbell said that while he was unaware of Twitter’s announcement, his knee-jerk reaction to the announcement of the test feature was that it could positively affect the site and its culture.

“Little thumbs down is better than [commenting], ‘Take a nap,’ “he said.

Campbell said he predicted the feature could have “massive unintended consequences.”

Brooke Erin Duffy, associate professor of communications at Cornell University, agreed. Duffy said she was concerned about how the negative vote might be exploited to silence marginalized groups.

“It has the potential to increase negativity and abuse because through this negative voting feature we could see these anonymous network campaigns to thwart marginalized voices,” Duffy said.

Duffy said the negative vote could allow users to control bad actors, but “concerted hate campaigns” could also allow coordinated negative voting, which could potentially affect the way responses are displayed if Twitter used the feature. as a way to classify certain responses.

“For now, they say they won’t use it to categorize responses, but that’s a guess,” Duffy added.

Twitter wouldn’t be the first platform to have a negative vote button, if the functionality became permanent. Reddit already allows users to vote for and against responses to posts, and Facebook gives users the option to choose an emoji response to a post, including happy, angry, and sad emojis.

“In some ways, it’s clear that they’re emulating Reddit, and YouTube, of course, has its similar and similar functionality,” Duffy said.

While social media has become more polarizing in recent years, Twitter appears to be taking steps to make the site less hostile. In May, the platform released a feature that makes users think twice before posting a tweet that might be perceived as cruel or unnecessary.

Other social media giants, like Facebook-owned Instagram, have rolled out features to allow users to hide like accounts on their posts. The move was intended to address lingering concerns about mental health and users seeking validation through engagement with their posts.

“What I think is interesting is that they are charging this to the audience in a way that seems very similar to how Instagram has presented its concealment of likes. Namely, as a way to improve the experience. and user safety, ”Duffy said. “At the end of the day, I think these decisions and platform changes… boil down to impact on bottom line.”

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