Twitter is to fundamentally alter the way replies work on the service – including giving people the ability to ban them entirely.

The major change is intended to make the platform less abusive and allow for more productive conversations, it said during a presentation at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

The company will give people new powers to restrict who can reply to their posts, or to ban people from doing so entirely. Users will be able to choose when posting who will be able to respond to their tweets.

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The change is aimed at helping avoid abusive pile-ons and harmful replies, though it could also make it more difficult to hold people to account for their posts.

It comes as social media firms including Twitter face sustained criticism over the abuse that is present on their sites. On Twitter, unsolicited replies particularly target women and minorities, and often serve as a space for harassment or other harmful behaviour.

Twitter has in recent years promised to do its best to increase the "health" of the conversations that happen there.

Late last year, it introduced the ability to hide certain replies on a tweet, meaning that they will be removed for everyone. That was intended as a way to clean up abusive content though has led to some people hiding replies that point out misleading information that is being shared.

The new tools will give people four different choices when they post a new tweet. A "Global" setting works as it is now, with anyone able to respond to posts; "Group" means that people can reply if they are followed or mentioned by the person posting; "Panel" lets only people mentioned in the post reply to it; and there will also be the option to stop replies altogether.

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