As part of its campaign during the final weeks of the election to cut back on misinformation, in October Twitter made a change to its functionality: it made it slightly harder for users to retweet things.
As the company announced back in October, the change made it so temporarily users could no longer immediately retweet messages from other users, instead taking them straight to the “quote tweet” screen. Retweeting was still possible, but it required an extra step.
The reason for the change, Twitter said at the time, was that “we hope this encourages everyone to consider why they are amplifying a Tweet, and brings more thoughts, reactions & perspectives to the conversation.”
This week, Twitter announced that the temporary experiment was over, and that the traditional method of retweeting is back.
“After learning from this product experience, we’re sharing an update: today Retweet functionality will be returning to the way it was before,” the company tweeted from its @TwitterSupport account.
“Here’s what we saw while we prompted Quote Tweets,” the account continued. “Our goal with prompting QTs (instead of Retweets) was to encourage more thoughtful amplification. We don’t believe that this happened, in practice. The use of Quote Tweets increased, but 45% of them included single-word affirmations and 70% had less than 25 characters… The increase in Quote Tweets was also offset by an overall 20% decrease in sharing through both Retweets and Quote Tweets. Considering this, we’ll no longer prompt Quote Tweets from the Retweet icon.”
Other actions taken by Twitter around the election have been even more controversial, including numerous notes and disclaims that have been left on the tweets of President Trump, concerning his claims of voter fraud and other election malfeasance.
Most recently, early on Thursday, the president tweeted that “Michigan fraud witness totally debunks Dominion CEO,” which cited One America News and added the commentary “It was brutal!” The claim is accompanied by a disclaimer stating, “this claim about election fraud is disputed.”
The previous day, a Trump quote-tweeted a journalist’s report of a statement by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a hearing Wednesday. The quote from Sen. Paul was “The fraud happened. The election in many ways was stolen.” Trump’s tweet was a single word, “TRUE!,” but below that was another Twitter disclaimer stating that this claim about election fraud is disputed.”
There has been speculation that Twitter will suspend or ban Trump’s account, something it has resisted doing in the past, once he leaves office, since an existing Twitter policy grants leeway to world leaders, elected officials and political candidates. Once Trump is no longer president, he would no longer fall under that particular policy. However, Trump would still be a candidate should he announce he’s running again in 2024.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.