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The hidden benefit of Twitter’s hate-speech controls: avoiding TV spoilers

Twitter's new feature helps you keep an eye out for spoilers. Sorry, Glen.
AMC/Gene Page
RIP, Glenn.
By Zameena Mejia
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Twitter users now can mute words, phrases, and hashtags for a set time across all platforms, including iOS and Android devices. The filter feature, introduced as a tactic against online harassment in 2016, is being used by television viewers to steer clear of live tweeting.

Prior to Twitter’s March 27 update, Reddit was the only other major social-media platform that successfully concealed spoilers. In January, Reddit launched “spoiler tags” to mark posts containing spoilers and even pixilate the preview image. (Its users had been utilizing a workaround for years.)

Twitter’s mute feature, first introduced in 2014, initially only hid another user’s tweets and retweets from one’s timeline and prevented push/SMS notifications from that user. It’s a softer alternative to blocking, which almost completely prevents interaction or visibility. Before word-specific muting existed, Twitter users’ workaround for avoiding spoilers involved using at least one of the following:

Scrolling past any tweets starting or ending with #spoiler or #spoileralert:

Trusting users to tweet out a warning to mute them in advance:

Or threatening to unfollow or block users who spoil their shows:

Twitter product manager Rishi Tembe told Quartz in an email that helping its users avoid spoilers wasn’t the company’s main focus when working on the ability to mute language from the timeline, but it was a “fortunate byproduct.” 

Tembe noted in 2016, the three most tweeted-about shows were Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Grey’s Anatomy, which all featured major-character deaths and other big potential spoilers.

“Now, whether people are in a different time zone, or just can’t make it home in time for their favorite show, they’ll be able to better avoid spoilers on the platform,” Tembe said. 

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