Million Miles Technologies

X weighs adding a downvote button to replies — but it doesn’t want to emulate Reddit

X, formerly Twitter, could be bringing back a downvote feature for posts — something it had previously tested back in 2021, ahead of Elon Musk’s acquisition of the social network. At the time of the original experiment, Twitter had tested both upvoting and downvoting buttons, similar to how users can vote on the social forums site Reddit. But now, code references found in the X iOS app indicate that the company could be considering adding downvotes for replies only to improve how they’re ranked.

The code was first spotted by reverse engineer Aaron Perris, @aaronp613 on X, who regularly uncovers new app features ahead of launch; the code references were discovered in Tuesday’s iOS app update, Perris told TechCrunch.

Finding a reference in an app’s code about a new feature or functionality doesn’t necessarily mean the company is planning to bring the feature to the public. Companies, and particularly social media apps, internally test new features all the time before deciding whether to expand a project or scrap it.

However, in this case, at least one X engineer as well as X owner Elon Musk have now commented on the possible addition.

According to Jay Baxter, senior staff machine learning engineer at X who works on Community Notes, the idea to leverage a negative signal could be useful, as it’s something that works for X’s crowdsourced fact-checking feature, too.

He explains that if you simply added up all the negative signals, you could get a “hivemind like Reddit.” But one way to improve this system would be to only downrank those posts that had negative ratings from people who typically disagree, he said on X.

This is similar to the system X uses with Community Notes, a feature that requires consensus among people who don’t typically agree before its fact-checks go live.

While Baxter didn’t specifically confirm that downvotes were in development, he said that Community Notes relies on private ratings to avoid a “hivemind,” and that the private rating data was released anonymously after 48 hours to make the ratings public without “poisoning the rating process” itself.

Musk also chimed in on the thread with a one-word comment: “True.”

Using a consensus-building algorithm to rank posts could help X highlight the better replies in long threads, and could inspire other companies to use similar tools on their platforms. Already, X’s Community Notes feature has inspired YouTube to test its own version, simply called Notes. In a day and age where people don’t always agree on the truth, it’s a way to center what “most people” agree on as the accepted fact, while still citing sources. But it’s managed by the social network’s users, not by a central authority.

Other social startups are exploring different ways to moderate their communities, however. Bluesky, for instance, is experimenting with composable moderation, where users can subscribe to their own moderation service providers to customize the app to their liking — even layering one service on top of another.

Downvotes may not be the only change coming to X. Another post from Perris now floating around X shows a user interface that hides engagement buttons, such as the “Like” and “Repost” buttons, by default in favor of a new gesture-based menu to access these and other actions.

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