Everyone knows that Twitter can be a cesspool of misinformation. From bots that spam inaccurate facts to users that retweet and share links to unresearched and biased articles, the platform has struggled with the issue for many years. Now, Twitter is taking an interesting approach to halt the spread of misinformation.
The social media giant wants its users to actually read an article before deciding to retweet it. A test is now underway for a feature that prompts users to do so before sharing.
Stopping the Spread
Conversations about the spread of misinformation have picked up dramatically in the past few years. False claims about politics, the environment, and especially current events like COVID-19 are just a few hot issues. Twitter is known for taking a more aggressive stance on the issue of disinformation compared to some other platforms.
As such, the fact that it is rolling out a new feature shouldn’t be too surprising. Nor is it asking too much of users. Everyone who is willing to share an article on social media should, at the very least, take the time to skim through it and know what they are sharing.
Twitter’s official support account says, “Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you Tweet it. 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.”
Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you Tweet it.
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.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 10, 2020
A few things are worth noting. First, Twitter won’t actually require users to click on an article before they share it. The reminder will simply serve as a way to nudge people to do so. It may also guilt users into being knowledgeable about what they are sharing.
Moreover, the feature is only being tested on the Android platform right now. Twitter is notorious for testing new features on only one platform at a time so that likely isn’t worth reading into. While they aren’t getting official reminders just yet, iOS users should also take the time to check out an article before aimlessly retweeting it.
It’s all-too-easy to click retweet after reading a captivating headline. However, the contents of an article are what’s important. Without reading it for yourself, you have no idea what it says or whether it is reputable.
Even so, a 2016 study by Columbia University found that 59 percent of articles shared on social media aren’t actually read by the person sharing them.
“People are more willing to share an article than read it,” says co-author Arnaud Legout. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”
As Twitter’s new feature is rolled out, there will likely be some pushback. Unfortunately for those averse to reading what they share, the feature is for the best.