Can Twitter Get Us to Be Nice?

October 14, 2021


Twitter is great for lots of things. It’s one of the best places on the internet to get news. It’s full of funny and interesting commentary by comedians, celebrities, and journalists. It’s also a great place to watch people ruthlessly mock one another and very good for picking a fight with a stranger. No other technology is referred to as a cesspool more often. The app is great at being a cesspool.

But Twitter Inc. is trying to change that. It has spent the past year experimenting with subtle product tweaks designed to encourage healthier online behavior. It now alerts people who are about to retweet misinformation on topics such as elections and Covid-19, and it recently began asking people to actually read articles before retweeting. In some cases, if users try to tweet something mean or offensive, automated pop-ups now ask them to think twice before doing so.

... t’s a conflict that may not be fixable, says Rebekah Tromble, a George Washington University professor who has studied Twitter for years. “Until the business model changes in a way that people are no longer incentivized to just say outrageous things over and over and over again, Twitter—and really just about every other large social media platform—is likely never going to be a truly healthy place,” she says.

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