Twitter Criticized for ‘Conversational Health’ Changes

March 13th, 2019 5:13 PM

Twitter is getting ready to make major changes that are already being criticized as new ways to limit speech and benefit what the company CEO calls “healthy conversation.” 

Twitter unveiled new changes at the SXSW (South by SouthWest) tech conference being experimented within their Twttr app to be implemented into the main Twitter platform. The company hasmet swift criticism from conservatives like Lila Rose who blasted them for making the platform “more hostile to diversity of ideas.” 

Free speech YouTuber Dave Rubin openly mocked the reforms as rigging the game to compensate for losing ideas, “They’ve officially realized the people they don’t like are getting all the traction.” 

Radio host Austin Petersen joined in, observing “That's why tyrants can't have free speech, Dave. Eventually everyone sees that the emperor is wearing no clothes”

TechCrunch described Twttr as the prototype build “created to give Twitter a separate space outside its public network to experiment with new ideas about how Twitter should look, feel and operate.”

One of the changes will be hiding the numbers of likes and retweets on posts until you actively engage with the posts themselves. As TechCrunch wrote “engagements are hidden on people’s individual tweets. That is, there’s no heart (favorite) icon, no retweet icon, no reply bubble icon and no sharing icon, like you’re used to seeing on tweets today.” The past few months have had numerous incidents of platforms pushing propaganda which has been roundly rejected by users, to the point where YouTube has openly discussed getting rid of the dislike button. 

The internet term for this phenomenon is getting “ratio’d” when the number of critical comments on a post vastly outnumbers the likes. Pro-Life activist Lila Rose condemned this change as “Without likes and retweets, Twitter won’t be ‘friendlier,’ but more hostile to diversity of ideas.” She added that “No likes/RTs wld make it MUCH easier for Twitter ideologues to quietly control conversation and suppress ideas/tweets they disagree with.”

NBC quoted Twitter’s head of consumer product Keith Coleman, who stated that the company is working on “changing the product and changing the policies to improve the health of the conversations.” He specifically pointed to more  “proactive” enforcement including the purges of accounts pushing “hoaxes” and “conspiracy theories.”

Coleman also proclaimed that the reforms will be far more centered on smart camera features, so that the app “knows where you are and what’s going on around you.” He provided the example that "So if you’re at SXSW, it knows that, and it will suggest you add the SXSW hashtag.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted on March 1 that the company is “committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”

He lamented  “real-world negative consequences” caused by Twitter’s powerful reach, specifically phrasing it as having been a platform for “abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers.” 

He also mentioned that while attempting to fix the problem his team  have “been accused of apathy, censorship, political bias, and optimizing for our business and share price instead of the concerns of society.”

One of the key phrases he used was “conversational health” a one-size-fits-all cultural set of metrics used to somehow evaluate all interaction across the globe. 

“...Our friends at @cortico and @socialmachines introduced us to the concept of measuring conversational health. They came up with four indicators: shared attention, shared reality, variety of opinion, and receptivity.”