Twitter Asks Android Users: ‘Did You Even Read the Article’?

Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP, Getty Images
Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP, Getty Images

In its latest push to promote more informed conversations, Twitter is rolling out a new feature for Android phone users that will totally call you out if you haven’t read an article before you retweet it.

“In an effort to help start healthier conversations, we want to help people know what they are sharing. So when someone is about to Retweet an article but they haven’t clicked into the linked article, they’ll see a prompt asking if they’d like to open the article before sharing,” a Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo.

If a user has already read the article, they can select ‘Retweet’ or ‘Retweet with comment,’ on the prompt.

I’m scrolling through Twitter on my Samsung Galaxy Note9 right now to see if the new feature has activated for me, but so far there’s nothing, even after applying the most recent app update. I’ve tried retweeting tweets with just a link to an article, and I’ve also tried retweeting tweets with text in addition to the article. Twitter provided Gizmodo with a little more detail, saying that this new feature is currently in the experiment phase, is only available to a select number of users in the US, and is limited to articles and tweets that are written in English. Rolling the feature out to a small number of users will allow Twitter to observe what impact it has on retweets, and tweak it accordingly.

But people should be able to hit ‘no’ on the prompt to retweet an article without reading it first. The worst-case scenario is that someone has to actually click on the link to open it within the Twitter app to make the prompt disappear so they can retweet something, but that doesn’t appear to be the case at this time. This feature also doesn’t address how it will handle articles behind paywalls.

It wouldn’t be in Twitter’s best interests to totally prevent people from retweeting things they haven’t read (unless they want the President to throw another temper tantrum). But for those of us who have called out others on the Internet about actually reading an article before commenting, it’s a small sense of justice to have a social media platform call them out on their bullshit, too. It won’t stop everyone from re-tweeting an article without reading it first, but maybe it will shame more people into reading more than the headline. What it probably won’t do is stop the spread of misinformation, but it could make someone think twice about retweeting an article if it seems sketchy.

Twitter has been cranking out updates and refining some of its policies at a rapid pace in the last couple of months alone. (Rapid for Twitter, at least.) The social media platform has started slapping fact-check links on tweets that tie the rollout of 5G to the spread of covid-19. It took down the Trump campaign’s George Floyd tribute video due to a copyright infringement claim. It fact-checked the President and hid some of his tweets because they glorified violence. And it recently rolled out another feature to some users that allows them to restrict who can reply to their tweets.