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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

Food delivery "ghost kitchens" face major obstacles

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The growing popularity of food delivery has given rise to startups that open "ghost kitchens" — kitchens in warehouses or trailers that prepare food solely for delivery and have no option to dine in.

  • But they can come with a whole host of problems.

The big picture: The concept of "ghost kitchens" has been dubbed the next big thing in the future of services, with high profile backers like Uber founder Travis Kalanick. But these kitchens can be hard to run or unsafe.

2 hours ago - Health

Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health workers

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities nationwide.

The big picture: The order comes one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

CNN suspends Chris Cuomo indefinitely

Chris Cuomo in 2019. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for THR

CNN announced Tuesday evening that it has suspended anchor Chris Cuomo indefinitely following new revelations about his involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Driving the news: New documents released Monday showed that Cuomo used his contacts to garner information about the women accusing his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of sexual harassment, as well as of emerging media coverage relating to the scandal.