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Twitter Tests Novel Approach Of Asking Users To Read Before Sharing

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Twitter is considering a new approach to combat misinformation, asking users to read the articles they retweet beforehand. The company’s official Twitter Support account took to the social media network with a tweet about the concept this week. Reportedly, Twitter hopes to rely on prompts to accomplish its goal. And, at least to start with, its prompts will only apply to retweets.

With the test now live on the platform, some users who retweet an article or news story without reading it first will see a prompt. That prompt will appear when users haven’t explicitly read the article on Twitter. And it won’t explicitly ask users to read. Instead, it will simply ask users if they’d like to “open” the article before “retweeting” it.

Sharing an article can spark a conversation

The social media giant hasn’t been entirely clear about what exactly it hopes to accomplish here. Instead, it simply alludes to the fact that  “sharing an article can spark conversation.”

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That statement is absolutely not entirely without meaning, though.

As implied above, at least initially, Twitter’s goal here appears to be two-fold. First, the feature will likely encourage at least some readers to consider the content they’re sharing more thoroughly. That should, in theory, help users to understand the entire story rather than clinging to headlines. Especially since those headlines are often misleading or deliberately exaggerate what’s contained within.

Misinformation and the spread of that have presented a sizeable challenge to Twitter over the past several years. That’s not only led to confrontations between the social media giant — and others — and the current US presidential administration. Freedom of speech, in general, has been far more consequential on social media since concerns are often shared unvetted. As a result, conspiracy theories and other similar misinformation have propagated on the platform.

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One other example of that is the spread of fake news about 5G and the decidedly ridiculous possibility that the technology is related to certain diseases. That misinformation is patently false but has spread anyway, resulting in the destruction of networking equipment among other things. Twitter is combatting those claims specifically via fact-checking labels.

Secondary to those reasons, this could also help bolster Twitter since it means that more people will probably be reading articles shared on the platform. More importantly, they’ll be reading those on the platform itself rather than through another app or browser.

Finally, asking users to read their reshares will likely help protect at least some subset of users from looking foolish when they share articles they don’t understand the content of.

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Will forcing people to read before sharing via a retweet on Twitter work?

As is implied above, at least initially, the feature would begin as a test to see if it accomplishes the social media giant’s underlying goals. Of course, that test will also determine how disruptive or harmful the feature might be. And it’ll offer up an opportunity to garner feedback from end-users.

That means it will likely have limited reach, at least to start. Not every user is going to see the feature right from the start, if ever. At least to start, it will only appear in the mobile app. And Twitter explicitly points to Android as its first test platform.

As with other test features, conversely, there is a chance that this won’t have its desired impact. Twitter, like other social media apps, has faced down backlash over similar features in the past. Users generally don’t like being told what to do. But it remains to be seen if that’s going to be the case here since Twitter isn’t actively forcing anybody to read anything.

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