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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter's plan to allow users to control who can reply to their posts, announced Wednesday, is largely welcome news for those who are routinely harassed on the service — including many people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks and other groups often targeted by online mobs.

Why it matters: It could create an even riper environment for misinformation — especially when combined with Twitter's policy of allowing elected officials' tweets to stand, even when they violate the rules that apply to other users.

  • There are already concerns that the service gives politicians' speech special protections compared to regular users. Now the company would seem to be making it easier for them to screen out dissenting voices.

Driving the news:

  • Twitter on Wednesday announced it will let users decide who can comment on their tweets: all users, those who the user follows, just the people who are mentioned or no one at all.
  • The new feature is being tested now, but Twitter told Axios it plans to eventually give all users the option, including elected officials.
  • Twitter noted that users will still be able to "quote tweet" posts that have replies limited — meaning create a new post quoting the tweet in question. Also, per The Verge, Twitter said it will be watching the effect of the new rules on the spread of misinformation.

When it comes to politicians specifically, Twitter notes the policy announced last year that it may flag and limit promotion of tweets that violate its rules — or even take them down if they are found not to be in the public interest.

  • It's worth noting, though, that the company said it expects to use those options rarely — and Twitter has yet to flag any politician's tweets in this manner.

Between the lines: Even if this new reply option is a generally good thing, and even if it makes sense to allow politicians' rule-breaking tweets to remain, the combination of the two policies could be especially dangerous. In theory, it allows a politician to post knowingly false information to a wide audience and also limit who can directly respond with contrary evidence and arguments.

Yes, but: Some see signs that even though President Trump has a record of using Twitter to spark crises, the service had a de-escalating effect in this week's U.S. confrontation with Iran.

  • Wired's Garrett Graff, pointing to the way both Iranian officials and Trump used Twitter in real time Tuesday night to send messages, notes that "world leaders can communicate more quickly and directly than ever in times of crisis."

Our thought bubble: History suggests crisis diplomacy is better pursued in private, by professionals. Maybe next time, Trump and his foreign counterparts could at least exchange DMs instead?

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Wall Street bets it all on a vaccine

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It's the time of year when Wall Street shops are rolling out predictions for where they see the stock market headed in the coming year. There's one common theme: Widespread distribution of a vaccine is the reason to be bullish.

Why it matters: Analysts say vaccines will help the economy heal, corporate profits rebound and stock market continue its upward trajectory.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
55 mins ago - Podcasts

Walmart U.S. CEO talks Black Friday

Amazon may get more media buzz, but there is simply no retailer, or grocer, in America that does more business than does Walmart. And that gives John Furner, its head of U.S. operations, one of the best views into Black Friday and Thanksgiving grocery shopping.

Axios Re:Cap talks to Furner about what he's seeing from his unique perch, and what pandemic-driven changes he expects will outlast the virus.

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.