Twitter plans to test new privacy-related features aimed at giving users more control over their followers lists and who can see their posts and likes, in an effort to make people more comfortable interacting and sharing on the social network.
The tools are related to what Twitter executives call “social privacy,” or how users manage their reputation and identity on the service. This includes information such as a person’s list of followers, the tweets they like, and whether their accounts are public or private.
Among the features being considered are the ability to edit follower lists and a tool to archive old tweets so that they are no longer visible to others after a specified amount of time designated by the user. Hiding past tweets could be a popular feature with people who don’t want their messages to live online forever, offering an easier solution than manually deleting messages or combing through years-old messages to find messages you’d rather not have sent .
An internal investigation found that many of Twitter users don’t understand the basics of privacy, such as whether their account is publicly visible, said Svetlana Pimkina, a staff investigator at the San Francisco-based company. Those users are less active on Twitter because they don’t know what other people can see about them.
“If social privacy needs are not met, people limit their self-expression,” Pimkina says. “They withdraw from the conversation.” From September, Twitter will ask people to check whether their accounts are public or private.
The company’s privacy team is working on several products to address this uncertainty among users. Some of them will be tested soon, and others are still in the concept phase, according to interviews with members of the team.
Included in the list of potential products:
• Archived tweets – Twitter can allow users to hide old tweets after a certain time. Tweets would be visible to the account holder, but not to anyone else. The company is considering a range of time options, including hiding posts after 30, 60 and 90 days, or hiding tweets after a full year. This product has no launch date and is still in the concept phase.
• Remove Followers – Users will be able to remove followers soon. This is currently only possible by blocking someone. Twitter plans to test this feature starting this month.
• Hide Tweets you liked – Users will soon be able to control who – anyone, just their followers or selected groups – can see which tweets they like. There is no timeline to test this feature.
• Leave conversations – Users will be given the option to remove themselves from a public conversation on Twitter. Today, only the person who sends a tweet can choose who to name. Twitter plans to test this before the end of the year.
Part of Twitter’s motivation is that employees often see users coming up with creative solutions because these features don’t exist, such as blocking and then unblocking someone to remove them as a follower. Many other users manually delete old tweets or switch back and forth between public and private accounts depending on what they post.
In particular, archiving tweets can allay the fear of people worrying that their old posts will come back to haunt them later, such as while they’re looking for a new job, applying to college, or running for a job. political office. Rival companies like Snap and Instagram have had success with the disappearance of Stories products — a signal that users are drawn to apps where their posts won’t last 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 with users.
Twitter has long been open about its product roadmap, often testing features that haven’t fully launched yet. But the company also talks a lot about ideas in concept, some of which don’t materialize or take much longer than expected.
Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said in March that Twitter has been moving too slowly to launch new products in recent years. He said rolling out new tools faster was now a company-wide goal, along with revenue and user growth targets. In particular, Dorsey said he wanted to “double the number of features per employee that directly drive user growth or revenue growth.” A company spokeswoman declined to share the company’s progress on that goal.
This public expectation has created a new mindset and culture internally, employees say. “We’re becoming more and more metrics-driven in how we think about these things,” said Damien Kieran, Twitter’s chief privacy officer. “I think that helps us repeat and go faster.”
Twitter shares had changed little as the New York trade started Thursday.
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