Borrowing a page from both Snapchat and Instagram, and showing again the tendency of all of the major social media companies to constantly borrow ideas from one another, Twitter has announced a move into ephemeral content.
“That thing you didn’t Tweet but wanted to but didn’t but got so close but then were like nah,” Twitter described the new feature as, in a message Tuesday. “We have a place for that now—Fleets!”
Per a video posted alongside the message, Fleets—which presumably is a neologism meaning “fleeting tweets”—function similarly to Instagram stories. Users can post them, and then they go away after twenty-four hours. The feature is rolling out to all users Tuesday.
Like most changes and new features added to Twitter in recent years, much of the user base reacted by asking why Twitter did this in particular, and not by adding an edit button, or by striking back against harassment on the platform. Some pointed out that the option of making tweets disappear has existed all along, via the delete button.
Others had witty reactions.
“Naming tweets after a bespoke enema seems pitch-perfect to me, tbh,” tweeted writer Jacob Bachrach.
“Reminder that the things that you were gonna tweet but then were like ‘nah’ to are usually the sort of thing that others will screenshot against the inevitability of you deleting it once you start being ratioed, so.... yeah. This is actually not the answer to that,” novelist John Scalzi said.
The new feature comes at a time when Twitter is once again under fire from Congress. For the second time in two months, the chief executives of Twitter and Facebook—Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg—are testifying Tuesday before a Senate committee over supposed anti-conservative bias by the tech industry.
This time, it is the Senate Judiciary Committee, asking questions of the CEOs over their handling of the election, specifically the many disclaimers that have been placed on tweets by President Trump. Many such tweets have spread false conspiracy theories about the election, vote-counting and other aspects of the presidential election.
A different Senate committee, the Commerce Committee, had held a hearing in October, with Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, which specifically focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Next, Twitter is facing the question of whether President Trump’s Twitter account will outlast his presidency. Twitter has a “public interest” policy that gives a certain amount of leeway to the accounts of world leaders, something that will no longer apply to Trump’s account once he leaves office. While it has placed disclaimers on many of the president’s tweets, Twitter has never suspended or banned his account.
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.