Wednesday 26th September 2018

Twitter is testing a new feature that encourages users to unfollow accounts

The new feature encourages users to "improve their timelines" by "reviewing accounts they may not need to follow".
Jason Smith
by on 30th August 2018

Twitter is testing a new feature that encourages users to review “accounts they may not need to follow”.

Yesterday, several Twitter users, including social media consultant Matt Navarra, posted screenshots of the new feature. In full, it reads:

“Control what’s happening here. You can improve your timeline by reviewing some accounts you may not need to follow”.

Twitter unfollow feature

It’s unclear how Twitter selects the accounts that are listed for a user to review. Explaining the new feature, the social network stated:

“We ran an incredibly limited test to surface accounts that people were not engaging with to check if they’d like to unfollow them”.

The social network has faced extensive criticism from journalists, activists and politicians in recent months, particularly over illegal content and hate speech.

The EU is also reportedly considering regulation that will give it the power to issue fines to online platforms found in contravention of its standards for the timely removal of extremist content.

Earlier this year, and in response to intense scrutiny, the social network also set about devising a “health metric” to better gauge and prevent “safety abuse, misinformation and manipulation” on the platform.

It opened the process to the public and reviewed hundreds of submissions.

Late last month, it announced it had whittled the proposals down to two research projects that will be conducted by a coalition of academics from institutions including Leiden University, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Oxford.

The research projects are entitled, “Bridging gaps between communities on Twitter” and “Examining echo chambers and uncivil discourse”.

Its efforts haven’t prevented it from being embroiled in controversy. Earlier this month it was criticized by progressive activists and commentators for only issuing a temporary ban to Alex Jones, owner of the controversial website InfoWars.

Likewise, conservative activists and commentators have criticized the platform for providing a blue verification tick to New York Times journalist Sarah Jeong, who was recently the subject of criticism for posting thousands of racialized tweets.

The new feature may also further corrode the platform’s relationship with prominent conservative commentators, many of whom believe Twitter disproportionately targets conservative opinion for moderation.

While Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Legal, Policy and Safety lead, has previously stated she can’t deny “[Twitter has] a lot of employees who have particular political views,” the social network has also expressed it remains “apolitical” in its content moderation decisions.

It has also recently denied claims it engages in shadow banning, which is a process it defines as “making content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster”.