OAKLAND, Calif. – Risking the wrath of its most famous user, President Trump, Twitter said Friday that it would turn off some of its routine features to control the spread of misinformation in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.
The first notable change, Twitter said, will essentially give users a timeout before they can click the button to retweet a post from a different account. A prompt will have them add their own comment or context before sharing the original post.
Twitter also turns off the system that suggests posts based on a person's interests and the activity of the accounts they are following. In their timelines, users only see content from accounts they follow and ads.
And when users try to share content that Twitter has flagged as incorrect, a notice warns them that they are about to provide inaccurate information.
Most of the changes will take place on October 20 and will be temporary, Twitter said. Labels warning users about sharing incorrect information will appear next week. The company plans to wait until the result of the presidential election is clear before reactivating the features.
“Twitter plays a critical role in protecting the integrity of the election interview. We encourage candidates, campaigns, news outlets and voters to use Twitter respectfully and to recognize our collective responsibility to voters to ensure a safe, fair and legitimate democracy process this November, ”Twitter executives Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour said in a Explanation.
They said the "added friction" in retweets was designed to "encourage everyone not only to consider why they were reinforcing a tweet, but also to increase the likelihood that people would bring their own thoughts, reactions, and perspectives into the conversation ".
If users decide they don't want to add anything, they can tweet again after the prompt.
The change is likely to have a direct impact on Mr Trump's online activities. He has had a Twitter tear since returning to the White House on Monday after being hospitalized for coronavirus treatment. For example, on Tuesday evening, he tweeted or retweeted posts from other accounts about 40 times.
Twitter has stopped shutting down its Trending Topics feature, a change that many reviewers say would do the most to combat misinformation, as users can play the feature to promote false or misleading information. Instead, Twitter will expand its efforts to verify fact and provide context on items that are trending in the US.
Social media companies have relocated in recent months to combat the spread of misinformation related to the presidential election. Facebook and Google have committed to banning political ads for an indefinite period after polls closed on November 3rd. Facebook also said a banner at the top of its news feed would warn users that no winner would be announced until news outlets called the presidential race.
Corporations are trying to avoid repeating the 2016 elections when Russian activists used them to spread falsehood and bipartisan content to destabilize American voters.
Over the past year, Twitter has slowly removed parts of its service that were used to spread false and misleading information. Jack Dorsey, the managing director, announced last year that the company would no longer allow political advertising. Twitter has been reviewing more aggressive factual information about the service – including misleading tweets from Mr. Trump.
That has sparked a backlash from the Trump administration. Mr Trump, who has 87 million followers on Twitter, has called for the removal of the legal protections that Twitter and other social media companies rely on.
However, Twitter's fact-checking continued. Recently, a start has been made to add context to trending topics to give viewers more information on why a topic has become a subject of widespread conversation on Twitter. This month, Twitter plans to add context to any trending topics featured on the For You page for users in the United States.
"This will help people more quickly gain a deeper understanding of the extensive public talk in the US and reduce the potential for the spread of misleading information," said Ms. Gadde and Mr. Beykpour.
Twitter's trends illustrate which topics are most popular on the service by highlighting content that is discussed frequently. The trends often serve as a point of contact for new users trying to figure out how to find information on Twitter. However, internet trolls and bots have often used the system to disseminate false, hateful, or misleading information.
As recently as July, trending topics were hijacked by white nationalists who promoted the anti-Semitic hashtag #JewishPrivilege and by QAnon, a conspiracy group that trended furniture company Wayfair on Twitter, with false claims that the company had been trafficking children. The embarrassing episodes prompted critics to take to Twitter to end trends altogether.