Twitter “likes”, “retweets” and “replies”

On 9 February 2022, we posted CDM Tribunal considers “liking” tweets, which reviewed a recent case considered by the Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Southwark that addressed the issues resulting from a priest’s use of the “like” function on his Twitter account. The Tribunal stated: “[t]he consequence of the Respondent liking these images was that those who followed him would be exposed to those images without any action being required on their part” [14].

This meaning of this was not intuitively obvious to ourselves (or to others), but subsequent examination of Twitter’s modus operandi, summarized below, indicates that the implications of the statement become clearer given an awareness of how information is treated on the Twitter platform, from the point of view of both the sender’s and the recipient’s accounts.

A recent review of the operation of Twitter in 2022 explains that Twitter is powered by multiple algorithms determining all aspects of how content is served on the platform. It states: “Twitter gives people a choice: the Home timeline (aka Top Tweets) or Latest Tweets. In other words, Twitter algorithm or no algorithm”. The Twitter feed algorithm does not affect the main timeline for those using the Latest Tweets view, a simple list of Tweets from followed Topics and accounts in reverse-chronological order. However, it does structure the timeline for those using Home view.

The use of the “like”, “retweet” and “reply” functions is described on Twitter’s own web pages, and relevant extracts are reproduced below. The use of the first person plural in these extracts refers to the Twitter corporate “we”, not to L&RUK; the use of the second person singular refers to the initiator of the Tweet.


About your Home timeline on Twitter

What’s in your Home timeline

  • Home serves Tweets from accounts and Topics you follow as well as recommended Tweets. You’ll also see features that help you manage your Home timeline.

Accounts and Topics you follow

  • Your Home timeline displays a stream of Tweets from accounts you have chosen to follow on Twitter. You may see suggested content powered by a variety of signals. You can replyRetweet, or like a Tweet from within Home.
  • You can choose between viewing top Tweets in Home first, or the latest Tweets first in your timeline (available on Twitter for iOS and Android, and twitter.com). Home, or top Tweets, are ones you are likely to care about most, and we choose them based on accounts you interact with frequently, Tweets you engage with, and much more. You can find instructions on how to toggle between the two timeline views below.
  • You may see Tweets for Topics you follow, Tweets for Topic suggestions, and a summary of the most interesting Tweets you might not have seen, labelled as In case you missed it.
  • You may also see content such as promoted Tweets or Retweets in your timeline.

About content you may see from outside your network

  • Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. We make recommendations to make it easier and faster to find content that contributes to the conversation in a meaningful way, such as content that is relevant, credible, and safe. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We recommend Tweets to you based on who you already follow and Topics you follow, and don’t recommend content that might be abusive or spammy. We share recommendations via push notifications, your Notifications tab, and by adding them to your Home timeline.

New user FAQ

Who reads my updates?

  • Your followers read your Tweets. If your Tweets are public, anyone who runs a search for a keyword in your Tweet may be able to see that message. Your Tweets are public by default; if you’re hesitant to have people you may not know read your updates, protect your Tweets to approve followers and keep your updates out of search.

What does it mean to follow someone on Twitter?

  • Following someone means you’ve chosen to subscribe to their Twitter updates. When you follow someone, every time they post a new message, it will appear on your Twitter Home timeline.

What are replies?

  • reply is a response to another person’s Tweet. Click or tap the reply icon on another person’s Tweet to reply to it. Please note that if your Tweets are protected, people who are not following you will not see your replies or mentions. 

What are Direct Messages?

  • Direct Messages are private messages sent from one Twitter account to other Twitter account(s), and they do not appear in public for anyone else to read. You can start a conversation with anyone who follows you. 

What is the difference between a reply and a Direct Message?

  • reply is a public message sent regardless of follow-ship. Anyone can view it (if your Tweets are public). A Direct Message is a private message, and can only be seen by the sender and intended recipients.

What is a Retweet?

  • A Retweet is a re-posting of a Tweet. Twitter’s Retweet feature helps you and others quickly share that Tweet with all of your followers. You can Retweet your own Tweets or Tweets from someone else.
  • Retweets look like normal Tweets with the author’s name and username next to it, but are distinguished by the Retweet icon and the name of the person who Retweeted the Tweet. If you see content from someone you do not follow in your timeline, look for Retweeted by info in the Tweet—the Retweeter should be someone you follow.

Comment

Although we tweet on law and religion at Law & Religion UK@FCranmer and David Pocklington@dnpocklington, the above aspects of IT are not our specialist skills, and we would welcome further information on the operation of Twitter from those with expertise in this area. However, comments relating to the case itself, and the use of Twitter in general, are closed.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Twitter “likes”, “retweets” and “replies”" in Law & Religion UK, 17 February 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/02/17/twitter-likes-retweets-and-replies/

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