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Is Brain Stelter Afraid of a Big Bad Ratio on Twitter?

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

I guess Brain Stelter has decided he doesn’t want feedback on some of his Twitter posts. He took full advantage of a new set of features the company announced in a rather strange way.

Users can now only see replies from accounts they mention in their tweet. From Twitter:

If you attempt to reply to the tweet, you can’t. You see this message:

A conversation between @TwitterComms and people they mentioned in this Tweet.

However, users quickly noted there was another feature that CNN’s Brian Stelter had immediately employed:

Stelter is sharing his morning newsletter. This is a weekday staple for the CNN commentator. So this morning, below his tweet, there is a notification that reads:

A conversation between @brianstelter and people they follow or mentioned in this Tweet.

It seems Stelter learned this might be a bad idea fairly quickly. Twitter meme lord Carpe Donktum must be an account that Stelter follows since all but one of the over 20 replies came from him. Donktum decided to share feedback on Stelter’s use of the feature from users that could not reply. The screencaps he shared with Stelter could be characterized as less than flattering.

Perhaps realizing the feature’s futility, Stelter has not applied this setting to any other tweets on his timeline after the one above. Stelter’s sidekick, Oliver Darcy, took note of something Twitter may have missed in preventing the truly sensitive blue checks from getting any feedback they may not want to hear:

I think what Tater and Tater Tot, my pet names for Stelter and Darcy, really want is unrelenting adulation, a Twitter echo chamber that just reinforces their scintillating observations about the talent and coverage at Fox News. As I have said many times, If Fox News was a person he or she would have a restraining order against these potatoes.

It is very hard to understand what Twitter is doing with these features. If a user wants to talk directly to another user and no one else, as with Twitter’s tweet, that can be accomplished in the direct message feature. Why you would have a conversation like that on a public timeline is beyond me.

A user who only wants to interact with people he or she follows can protect his or her account. This option is not available to accounts with the fancy blue checks like Tater and Tot. However, they are perfectly capable of blocking and muting users whose commentary they prefer not to see.

I personally think the mute function is simply the best thing Twitter has ever provided. I’ve given up on an edit feature. On my own account I have used the mute function on over 3,000 since its inception. There are some truly vile accounts on the platform, and as a conservative female I get some truly vulgar responses.

However, I have no interest in having accounts removed from the platform that do not threaten violence. It is a platform for people to speak their minds, no matter how wrong or ridiculous they wish to be. The mute function allows me to remove the commentary from accounts that are just argumentative or relentless from my mentions.

Responding to ideas you disagree with in our charged political climate can be cathartic. Those I have muted can still respond to me. I don’t see their comments, but occasionally one of my followers will. I am fairly sure there are some blue check commentators that have me muted, but it does not prevent me from commenting on their ideas. It is really quite effective.

It could be that Stelter was trying to avoid a phenomenon called a “ratio.” This refers to a tweet that generates significantly more replies than retweets. It implies other users are more inclined toward refuting your idea than toward sharing it. It is often noted when this happens to commentators with blue checks.

This would seem to be unlikely in the case of Stelter. Scrolling back a few days, on his own content he seems to max out between 2 and 150 retweets. Don’t tell him, though. he may react as badly as he did when Sister Toldja at RedState pointed out he only had 85,000 viewers for the week ending December 22, 2019.

As it stands, Twitter has provided more than enough tools for adults to manage their experience on the platform. To say that anything that could be defined as harassment can occur regularly on the platform seems overwrought, especially when the ability to remove feedback from particularly vulgar or rude users already exists.

Twitter is a platform built on being creative, funny, snarly, and even shocking. There is not really anything that is going to change the culture of the platform at this point. Getting traction in 280 characters and some visual media is a challenge — a challenge one popular users strive to meet.

If this is too much for you, check with your doctor to see if Twitter is right for you.

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