Twitter founder Jack Dorsey announced at a company event that Twitter would remove the ability to “like” individual tweets in an effort to improve the quality of debate on its website, according to a report in The Telegraph. Although Twitter has not released a definitive statement, its communications team said in a tweet that it is “in the early stages of the work” and has “no plans” to share details at this moment.
As we've been saying for a while, we are rethinking everything about the service to ensure we are incentivizing healthy conversation, that includes the like button. We are in the early stages of the work and have no plans to share right now. https://t.co/k5uPe5j4CW
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) October 29, 2018
“There is no specific timeline for changes or particular planned changes to discuss,” the company told The Telegraph. “We’re experimenting and considering numerous possible changes, all with an eye toward ensuring we’re incentivising the right behaviors to drive healthy conversation.”
Dorsey’s announcement follows comments he made in March that Twitter was committed to increasing the “collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation.” He admitted that Twitter “didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences” of their platform.
“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers,” he wrote at the time. “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough. While working to fix it, we‘ve been accused of apathy, censorship, political bias, and optimizing for our business and share price instead of the concerns of society.”
The news that the “like” button would be removed did not go over well with many of the platform’s users. Some pointed out that removing the feature would deal a heavy blow to artists and creatives who’ve used the platform for exposure. Others demanded that the company address the spread of spread of hate speech on its platform.
These people are all completely inadequate custodians of their own creations. @Twitter should create an advisory panel of, you know, humans. And nobody who doesn't understand the value of the Like button should be running the show. https://t.co/OrmoOIWjnD
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 29, 2018
This is not a fucking debate site and the people who harasss you and then attack you for not “debating” them are the ones that need to be removed, @jack @twitter, not the “like” button. Either remove the fucking racists or just admit that you’re on their fucking side. https://t.co/xIaGBJxXI3
— Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing) October 29, 2018
Twitter users: We'd like to edit tweets and for Twitter to take claims of harassment/abuse more seriously.@jack : We're taking away the like button
Twitter users: What https://t.co/XxN6sb6fy4
— Valerie Insinna (@ValerieInsinna) October 29, 2018
Everyone: a literal white supremacist terrorist used your platform for hate speech and threats.@jack: hmm got it, let's remove the Like button so fascists can get more actual RTs instead of those stupid hearts. https://t.co/glm4HZ1JzP
— Indrapramit Das (@IndrapramitDas) October 29, 2018
Seriously? The like button is solidarity. It says, “I see you” even when you’re too exhausted to form a reply. It’s a nod or a smile. It’s support.
This is a depressingly bad move, @jack.
— Gabe (he/they) (@Ava_Jae) October 29, 2018
Twitter reported a net loss of 9 million users in the third quarter of 2018, in part because of its initiative to remove bots and spam from the platform. Variety notes that Twitter “has seen a 20% quarter-over-quarter decrease in successful user-account signups since it rolled out new initiatives to reduce spammers, bots and other suspicious user accounts.” Despite these issues, Twitter has “exceeded Wall Street expectations on revenue and earnings, turning in its fourth straight profitable quarter.”