A new ‘Hide Tweet’ button has been spotted in Twitter’s code

Twitter has confirmed it’s developing a new “Hide Tweet” option, but has yet to provide detail about its launch plans for the feature. The new option, spotted in Twitter’s code, is available from a list of moderation choices that appear when you click the “Share” button on a tweet — a button whose icon has also been given a refresh, it seems. Like it sounds, “Hide Tweet” functions as an alternative to muting or blocking a user, while still offering some control over a conversation.

Related to this, an option to “View Hidden Tweets” was also found to be in the works. This allows a user to unhide those tweets that were previously hidden.

The “Hide Tweet” feature was first discovered by Jane Manchun Wong, who tweeted about her findings on Thursday.

Wong says she found the feature within the code of the Twitter Android application. That means it’s not necessarily something Twitter will release publicly, but typically indicates a feature that will move into testing.

Reached for comment earlier today, Twitter told TechCrunch some employees would soon tweet out more context about the feature. As of the time of writing, those explanations had not gone live.

However, a Twitter spokesperson did confirm the feature is something the company is actively working on.

Immediately, there were concerns an option like this would allow users to silence their critics — not just for themselves, as is possible today with muting and blocking — but for anyone reading through a stream of Twitter Replies. Imagine, for example, if a controversial politician began to hide tweets they didn’t like or those that contradicted an outrageous claim with a fact check, people said.

It also requires the user to click to view the Replies that were hidden, which some users may not know to do and others may not bother to do. They may then miss out on an important point in the conversation, or a critical fact check.

On the flip side, putting the original poster back in control of which Replies are visible may allow people to feel more comfortable with sharing on Twitter, which could impact user growth — a number Twitter struggles with today. And it could encourage people to debate things with less vitriol, knowing that their nastier tweets could get hidden view.

It wasn’t immediately clear from Wong’s first screenshots if the “Hide Tweet” button was something that hides the tweet from everyone’s view, or just from the person who clicked the button.

However, Wong later published the code reference itself, where the feature is described as a “moderation” action. That implies it’s more about the health of the conversation as a whole, not a personal setting.

The feature’s discovery comes at a time when Twitter has been under increased pressure to improve the overall conversational health on its platform.

In a recent interview, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that it puts most of the burden on the victims of abuse, which has been “a huge fail.” He said Twitter was looking into new ways to proactively enforce and promote health, so blocking and reporting were last resorts.

A “Hide Tweet” button doesn’t seem to fit into that plan, as it requires users’ direct involvement with the moderation process.

It’s worth also noting that Twitter already has a “hidden tweets” feature of sorts.

In 2018, the company introduced a new filtering strategy to hide disruptive tweets, which takes into consideration various behavioral signals — like whether the account had verified its email, is frequently blocked or tweets often at accounts that don’t follow it back, for example. If Twitter determined the tweet should be downranked, it moved it to its own secluded part of the Reply thread, under a “Show more replies” button.

Twitter tests a number of things that never see the light of day in a public product. More recently, the company said it was weighing the idea of a “clarifying function” for explaining old tweets. It’s also launching a prototype app that will experiment with new ideas around conversation threads.

Update, Feb 28, 2019, 4:55 PM ET: Added tweet with code reference.