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Twitter nudges users to read before they retweet

Image credit: reuters

Twitter is testing a new feature which aims to boost well-informed discussion on the platform by urging users to read stories before they share them.

The nudge does not prevent a user from retweeting a link to an article before they click on it, but will ask the user if they would like to open and read it first.

The feature will be tested on a limited number of English-speaking Android users based in the US before Twitter makes a decision about whether to roll it out more broadly.

Twitter and other social media companies have been under pressure to get a handle on the dissemination of disinformation on their platforms since 2016, with that pressure now intensifying amid a coronavirus-related deluge of misinformation and disinformation which has inspired real-world harm such as arson attacks against mobile masts by conspiracy theorists. Twitter has recently started to apply fact-checking labels to misleading tweets, including those posted by US President Donald Trump.

False information can circulate particularly quickly on social media platforms on which users exist in increasingly separate – and sometimes increasingly extreme – echo chambers.

Social media companies have been experimenting with various tools to encourage healthier discussion between communities. For instance, Facebook employees worked on a 'Common Ground' project to encourage users with different political leanings to interact in a constructive manner by boosting posts which appear to build consensus among users while demoting comments which lead to polarising discussions. This project was shelved in 2018.

By encouraging people to read material before sharing it, Twitter is attempting to “promote informed discussion” between users.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has said that Facebook, Google and Twitter should begin to produce monthly reports on their efforts to tackle disinformation on their platforms, with a focus on coronavirus disinformation in addition to state-backed disinformation campaigns originating from Russia and China, which aim to influence European politics. This follows the signing of a Code of Practice by the three companies in 2018, which promised self-regulatory measures to tackle disinformation on their platforms.

Vera Jourova, European Commission head of values and transparency, commented: “Disinformation does not only harm the health of our democracies, it also harms the health of our citizens.”

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