Twitter Is Testing Vibe Checks

Twitter announced on Wednesday that it’s working on a feature that will warn users before jumping into a thread that may be “heated,” in its latest attempt to make the social media platform that makes so many users angry and upset suck less.

“Ever want to know the vibe of a conversation before you join in?” the Twitter company account tweeted. “We’re testing prompts on Android and iOS that give you a heads up if the convo you’re about to enter could get heated or intense.”

According to screenshots of the feature Twitter posted, the prompts say “Heads up: conversations like this can be intense” under a tweet, and “Let’s look out for each other,” with three bullet points:

1. Remember the human: Communicating with respect makes Twitter better

2. Facts matter: Checking the facts help everyone

3. Diverse perspectives have value: Discovering new perspectives can strengthen your own.

The example tweets Twitter uses are actually very tame; someone’s making a statement about college athletes, and someone else replies with a very normal commentary that adds to the conversation. But people have gone to war over much less on this app, including over a (honestly, awful) BBQ platter

Twitter hasn’t given any more details about the vibe-check feature beyond the one Tweet, so it’s hard to say how its algorithm will judge a spicy thread from a mild one; if it’s curse words, like in its “hidden replies” feature, those are easy to bypass. If it’s a ratio (a phenomenon where more people are replying than retweeting or liking), it’s really hard to tell the difference between a good ratio and a bad one—are people agreeing with the original poster, or dragging them? Does OP deserve it and we’re all just having fun now?

This latest feature continues Twitter’s long-running streak of deploying features no one asked for—like Fleets, which are now dead—while studiously ignoring real problems on the site, like allowing white supremacy and non-consensual imagery to proliferate and needlessly deplatforming sex workers and sexual speech. It also adds to a slurry of popups and warnings it’s working on or already enabled, including one asking if you’ve read the article you’re about to retweet, and another telling you that your tweet may be offensive if it contains a bad word.

If Twitter actually follows through with this, the task of successfully rolling the feature out on what’s become a platform for bloodsport will be a monumental one. “Remember the human,” as a netiquette credo, has been around almost as long as the web itself, because people forgetting that another person exists on the other side of the screen has been a problem for that long; coined in 1994 by writer Virginia Shea, the phrase has been used in platforms’ terms of service and anytime a website or organization needs to remind people to calm down. 

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