A new Twitter test feature aiming to “promote informed discussion” will nudge users to read before they retweet. The company describes the test as a step to help people be more aware of what they’re sharing in a broader effort to inspire “healthier conversations” on the platform.
The experimental new prompt doesn’t stop a user from resharing a link before clicking to read it, instead just suggesting that they might want to and letting them click through. The limited test feature will only appear for some U.S.-based Android users for now.
Twitter and other social networks are regularly deluged with divisive conspiracy theories and other misleading claims, but misinformation isn’t the only thing driving users apart. Polarization is a baked-in feature in the way social platforms work, where sharing content that confirms existing biases is never more than a single click away. With the test feature, Twitter is tinkering with how to slow that process down by urging users to pause and reflect.
In May, Twitter began testing a prompt that warns users they’re about to tweet a potentially harmful reply, based on the platform’s algorithms recognizing content that looks like stuff often reported as harmful. Facebook tried out a similar test feature last year and reported that its results showed promise.
The idea is that giving users a chance to make different choices rather than forcing them to do so could help reshape some of the unproductive or actively harmful strains of behavior. In the case of the new Twitter test feature, that means nudging them to slow down and read the content of the link they’re about to share. What happens when those links are chock-full of harmful claims or conspiracies remains to be seen, but urging people to slow down on social networks rather than instinctively smashing the retweet button certainly doesn’t sound like a bad thing.