Will Tagging Original Tweeters Help Twitter’s Quest for Platform Health?
It hopes identifying “who started it” can change its reputation.
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For some time now, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has spoken about aims to improve the vague and hard-to-measure metric of “platform health.” While it was unclear on how the company would seek to make progress, one method currently in testing may make a dent.
A small number of Twitter users on iOS and Android devices have recently noticed an “Original Tweeter” tag on their posts. This tag is assigned to the individual who starts a conversation on the platform, and appears again when they reply, according to AdWeek. Similar features have popped up quietly on LinkedIn conversation threads and in Facebook Groups, but they could serve a different and more vital purpose on Twitter.
“Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation,” Twitter’s Director of Project Management Sara Heider shared in a statement that accompanied this announcement. “As part of this work, we’re exploring adding more context to discussions by highlighting relevant replies – like those from the original Tweeter.” This tag appears underneath the tweeter’s username and stands in stark enough contrast to the surrounding text as to make it unmistakeable who started the conversation. In early tests, users have expressed concerns about it being “too big” and “too intrusive,” but it stands to serve a purpose if deployed correctly.
Social Media Today notes the similarity of the tag to the microphone tag that appears on Reddit threads, and cites their usefulness for AMAs and other conversations that yield a lot of replies. “if a celebrity or well-known person is engaging in a discussion, it can be especially interesting to see what exactly they’ve chosen to reply to, which, if rolled out, you’d be able to do much faster, saving you the effort of scanning through the subsequent reply thread in detail,” they note.
To that end, it could also do the opposite: inform you when a fraudulent account, and not a verified individual, is seeking to sow discord in response to a message. The recent misrepresentation of Washington’s converging protests is being pointed to as an example of one tweet serving to play an outsized role in the online dialogue. The user whose misleading tweet sparked the firestorm has since been suspended, but the conversation continues on how to track the dissemination of willfully inaccurate information. Clearly identifying the initiator is one viable way to do this.
At this year’s CES, Twitter upheld its affirmation to conversations on the platform this year, echoing Dorsey’s promise to make the space a healthier one to inhabit. Making it clear “who started it” in a space often noted for its toxicity, is a small but significant step toward the shedding of that reputation.
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