There are quite a few problems with the way Twitter works, from users curating their timelines to never see an opinion they disagree with, to the potential for dogpiles and harassment, and the lack of an edit button.
But one of the more enduring ones is the tendency for Twitter users to share things without reading them, based on the headline only. Twitter’s structure makes it very easy to share a link without opening it, or even leaving Twitter at all.
Now, Twitter appears to be doing something about it.
Techcrunch reported in June that Twitter had begun testing a feature, on Android devices, that would prompt Twitter users to read articles before sharing them.
“Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you Tweet it,” the Twitter support account tweeted at the time. “To help promote informed discussion, we’re testing a new prompt on Android—when you Retweet an article that you haven’t opened on Twitter, we may ask if you’d like to open it first.”
The prompt itself included a note that said “headlines don’t tell the full story-You can read the article on Twitter before Retweeting.”
Now, TechCrunch reports in a follow-up, the test has gone so well that Twitter is getting ready to expand it “very soon.”
Twitter’s communications account tweeted about the test program, noting that with the prompts, users are opening articles 40% more often, and opening before retweeting 33% more often. In addition, the account said, “Some people didn’t end up RTing after opening the article—which is fine! Some Tweets are best left in draft.”
Twitter’s next step, it said on its account, is “making the prompt smaller after you’ve seen it once, because we get that you get it,” and “working on bringing these prompts to everyone globally soon.”
Throughout the year, especially with the coronavirus pandemic and presidential election in progress, Twitter has been working to combat disinformation, about both of those things as well as other subjects. The social network has removed videos sharing false information about coronavirus and “cures” for it, including more than one tweet and video shared by President Trump.
As a result, the president has sought to strike back against Twitter and other social media companies, first with an executive order in the spring that was widely seen as legally dubious. The Department of Justice, this month, followed with draft legislation to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that prevents social media companies from being held liable for content posted by their users.
In July, Twitter announced a crackdown on those sharing the QAnon conspiracy theory, and in
August, Twitter took steps to crack down on “copy pasta.”
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.