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Twitter got a ‘downvote’ button. Here’s what happens if you click it.

Can other people see your downvotes? How will this affect your timeline?

A screenshot from Twitter Support shows a downvote for a snarky reply to a person's question about New York City dining. People with access to the downvote button can use it on any tweet. (Twitter/Washington Post illustration)
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When Zach Bowders fired up his Twitter app Friday morning, a new feature was waiting for him: a small “downvote” arrow to the right of the “like” button.

Bowders, a data analyst living in Memphis, says he felt nervous. Would his downvote be public? Would the tweet’s author see it? Tentatively, he clicked, and the app assured him his downvote was totally private. In the future, he’d see fewer replies like the one he’d just downvoted, the message said.

“It rubbed me the wrong way in a lot of ways,” Bowders said. “We're continuing to narrow the perspective of the world that we see. We’re really just creating a false narrative.

Like Reddit and YouTube before it, Twitter is getting its own “dislike” button for replies or comments in response to original tweets. The feature, announced in July, started rolling out globally Thursday night, the company said. And like other Twitter updates before it, reception is mixed. Some people see the button as a way to curb harassment, trolling and misinformation. Others like Bowders worry that Twitter is offloading content moderation to its users and making it easier for people to silence and avoid opinions they don’t like.

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This is the latest Twitter update targeting content moderation challenges. In November, the company expanded its rules to prohibit sharing photos of people without their consent — unless it’s in the public interest to do so. Some neo-Nazis and far-right activists used the rule to report photos revealing their identities, while anti-extremism researchers found themselves targeted by a flood of bad-faith reports. The platform has long been plagued by problems with hate speech and harassment, including in its new audio chat rooms.

“We’re always looking for new ways to increase healthy participation and engagement on Twitter,” Twitter spokeswoman Celeste Carswell said. “We are still in the learning stage of this experiment and are looking to gain a better understanding of how Reply Downvoting could help us better surface the most relevant content for people on Twitter in the future.”

Carswell did not respond to questions about how the company will use downvotes to change what content people see, but she said that for now, downvotes will not impact the order in which replies show up.

Not everyone sees the downvote button yet, but it appears to be available to a growing portion of U.S. accounts.

To downvote a tweet, tap the downward-facing arrow below it. Twitter says you will see fewer similar tweets in the future, though it’s hard to know what that means or how the company will determine what makes two tweets similar. The tweet’s author won’t see that you downvoted — and you won’t know about any downvotes on your own tweets, either.

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