3 min read

Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey announced that the popular social media platform might eliminate its heart-shaped like button, according to The Telegraph. The Twitter communications team further clarified in a tweet, “eliminating the like button is a ‘commitment to healthy conversation,’ it was ‘rethinking everything about the service,’  including the like button”.

At the Wired25 summit held on the 15th of October, Dorsey made an onstage remark questioning the “like” button’s worth in facilitating meaningful communication. He said, “Is that the right thing? Versus contributing to the public conversation or a healthy conversation? How do we incentivize healthy conversation?”

Twitter has also vowed to “increase the collective health, openness, and civility of the dialogue on our service”, in their blog post in July. Prior to this, the company had also introduced ‘Bookmarks’, an easy way to save Tweets for quick access later without having to like them.

Ben Grosser, an artist, and professor at University of Illinois, says “I fear that if they remove the Like button the fact that there are other indicators that include metrics will just compel users to use those other indicators.”

A Twitter spokesperson told the Telegraph, “At this point, there is no specific timeline for changes or particular planned changes to discuss”. He added, “We’re experimenting and considering numerous possible changes, all with an eye toward ensuring we’re incentivizing the right behaviors to drive a healthy conversation.”

Should Retweet be eliminated instead?

The Atlantic speculates that “If Twitter really wants to control the out-of-control rewards mechanisms it has created, the retweet button should be the first to go.”

Retweets and not likes are Twitter’s most powerful method of reward, according to The Atlantic.

More the retweets for the post, more it is likely to get viral on social media.

According to MIT research, Twitter users retweet fake news almost twice as much as real news. Other Twitter users, desperate for validation, endlessly retweet their own tweets, spamming followers with duplicate information.

Twitter introduced retweets to ensure that the most interesting and engaging content would show up in the feed and keep users entertained. The tweets shown on the platform are a result of an algorithmic accounting of exactly what the most interesting and engaging content is.

In April, Alexis Madrigal wrote about how he used a script to eliminate retweets from his timeline and how it transformed his experience for the better. “Retweets make up more than a quarter of all tweets. When they disappeared, my feed had less punch-the-button outrage,” he wrote. “Fewer mean screenshots of somebody saying precisely the wrong thing. Less repetition of big, big news. Fewer memes I’d already seen a hundred times. Less breathlessness. And more of what the people I follow were actually thinking about, reading, and doing. It’s still not perfect, but it’s much better.”

This week, Alexis along with Darshil Patel and Maas Lalani, two 18-year-old college freshers, launched a browser extension that hides the number of retweets, likes, and followers on all tweets in users feed.

Elimination of the native retweet buttons will definitely refrain people from quote tweeting. According to The Atlantic, “it could just send everyone back to the dark ages of the manual retweet when users physically copy-pasted text from another tweet with the letters “RT” plastered in front. But killing native retweets is certainly a step in the right direction.”

For a complete coverage of this news, head over to The Telegraph.

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