Twitter has launched a new way of managing the information its users receive, which will not only shape their timeline when following other accounts, but also allow them to follow specific topics.
There’s more to the proposal than might at first appear: one of the problems with social networks is the echo chamber syndrome, whereby we only follow people whose opinions we share. Twitter, as a public and open conversational network, tries to avoid this through hashtags: even if you have consciously decided to follow only certain people, clicking on a hashtag takes you, in a single click, to everything that is being published on that subject, regardless of the tendency of the writer. The topics option similarly provides a wide range of views, some of which, hopefully, will challenge our preconceptions.
Yesterday I invited the director of communication at Twitter Spain, Elena Bule, to a session in the MBA I’m currently teaching at IE Business School to discuss questions like this, as well as the health of the platform, and the measures Twitter is taking to try to improve the conversation and prevent behavior that go against its rules. In addition to commenting on the new feature, Elena talked about other possible future measures, such as some experiments with retweeting, quoting tweets or replying to tweets, to prevent them from being used in an unhealthy or destructive way. Together with the recent decision to eliminate political advertising, which does not fix the problem of possible misuse, does help to isolate it so the algorithms can identify bots, astroturfing or coordinated campaigns. The impression is that Twitter is doing its homework and is genuinely worried about the health of its platform, while improving the product to avoid some long-standing issues, which not all platforms can say.
Creating a platform that becomes a means of expression for the conversation of an entire society confers a certain power; and as Batman said, with power comes responsibility. Using it well, even if it may hit profits in the short term, is a way of assuming that responsibility, of trying to understand the situation Twitter has created, of trying to alleviate the problems it may have caused, although in many cases the problem is a lack of education, of human nature. Twitter finally seems to assuming its responsibilities, if other social networks are not prepared to voluntarily, then we might have to think about making them do so.
(En español, aquí)