Twitter lifts retweet roadblocks, Facebook follows suit | GeekComparison

Logos for Twitter and Facebook are photoshopped onto a hand-operated fire alarm.
enlarge / Ever noticed that no one talks about the procedure to to replace the glass after the emergency is over?

With the worst storm of disinformation — and misinformation — about the 2020 US presidential election behind us, both Facebook and Twitter are easing some emergency measures taken to limit its spread.

Twitter brings one-click retweets back

Twitter hoped that making simple retweeting a little more difficult would encourage a more thoughtful conversation.  The idea didn't work in practice as depicted in the first announcement here.
enlarge / Twitter hoped that making simple retweeting a little more difficult would encourage a more thoughtful conversation. The idea didn’t work in practice as depicted in the first announcement here.

Jim Salter

The most obvious changes taking place are on Twitter, which is removing a measure it introduced in October to encourage quote tweeting (QT) rather than simple retweeting (RT). The intent was to encourage users to add thoughtful commentary and perhaps read original content before amplifying it based on a headline alone.

Our purpose in asking for QTs (instead of Retweets) was to encourage more thoughtful reinforcement. We do not believe this has happened in practice. Use of Quote Tweets increased, but 45% of them contained one-word affirmations and 70% had fewer than 25 characters. The increase in Quote Tweets was also offset by an overall 20% decrease in both Retweets and Quote Tweets sharing. That’s why we no longer ask for Quote Tweets via the Retweet icon.

Twitter verification coming back in 2021

The company is also relaunching its somewhat controversial verification process — the measure by which someone gets a blue check mark next to their username on every tweet. The company continued the verification process on hold in November 2017, acknowledging issues with the perception of verified accounts as approved by Twitter. Since then, already verified accounts have retained the blue check, but few, if any, new accounts, even those that meet previous verification criteria, have been accepted.

Three weeks ago, Twitter early for public input on a new verification process, and today it has: announced plans for the revamped verification program, available in 2021. Not much seems to have really changed about the program or the enrollment process – highlights include the “News” category becoming “News and Journalists” and “Sports” becoming “Sports and esports” .”

There are a few other changes such as tweaks to the methods used to measure follower count for accounts that have to meet a certain barrier for verification, but for the most part the news here seems to be more “verification will be something again” in instead of major updates on what authentication means or how it works.

Facebook cuts boost for ‘authoritative’ news sources

Facebook’s News Feed algorithm constantly determines which items to prioritize or deprioritize, using a set of metrics designed to increase user engagement. Just days after the November election, it raised the priority of a metric it calls the NEQ score to News Ecosystem Quality.

Increasing the impact of the NEQ was part of Facebook’s “glass-breaking emergency plan” designed to respond to massively increased levels of misinformation as the people’s votes in the presidential election continued to be counted. The increased priority increased traffic for mainstream news publishers like CNN, NPR or The New York Times, while traffic for partisan sites like Breitbart or Occupy Democrats decreased.

According to The New York Times, some Facebook employees questioned whether the resulting “nicer news feed” could be a fixture. But according to Facebook CEO Guy Rosen, the changes were always meant to be temporary. “This was a temporary change we made to limit the spread of false claims about the election,” Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said. “We continue to ensure that people see authoritative and informative news on Facebook, especially during major news cycles and around important global topics such as elections, Covid-19 and climate change.”

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