New Twitter feature challenges users to read articles before sharing

This one goes out to all the Twitter users who only read the headlines.

In an effort to suppress misinformation and knee-jerk retweets, the social-media company is testing a new feature that would ask users whether they’ve actually read the content they’re about to share.

The new function has already been added to some Android devices.

“Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you tweet it,” said Twitter in a statement. “To help promote informed discussion, we’re testing a new prompt on Android — when you retweet an article that you haven’t opened on Twitter, we may ask if you’d like to open it first.”

Studies have shown that users share and comment on links and articles before reading them more often than not. A joint study between Columbia University and Microsoft in 2016 found that 59% of links shared on Twitter are never clicked. Those findings seemed to be confirmed by a fake story with the alarming headline that 70% of Facebook users only read the headlines before commenting on the post. That story came from the fake news website The Science Post which collected 127,000 shares for the article but consisted of a fabricated headline and gibberish filler text.

Twitter cannot bar users from sharing content which they have not read, but hopes to add “friction” at a moment when there may still be an opportunity to tweet in good faith.

The tech company has lately tested several proposals to curb the spread of fake news on its site. Last month, they sparked controversy when they flagged one of President Donald Trump’s tweets as one that broke their policy of “glorifying violence,” although the tweet remained publicly accessible. Days before, they “fact-checked” the president by referring to one of his misinformed tweets regarding voting in an official Twitter thread filled with links that refuted his claim. The tweets came with the warning, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”

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