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Why do people share misinformation about Covid-19? Partly because they’re distracted
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June 11, 2020, 12:34 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   June 11, 2020

After years of criticism about the ways it fuels anxiety and perpetuates misinformation — Twitter seems like it’s trying to make its platform a better place.

In the last few weeks, it’s rolled out some new features, including the ability to see quote tweets under the retweets section, Fleets (like Instagram Stories), and warning labels for tweets with possible misinformation.

On Wednesday, Twitter announced its latest experiment: it will start asking (just Android, for now) users to open the link to an article they’re about to retweet if they haven’t read it already.

In answering questions from users, Twitter Support said it’s only experimenting with links from news publishers and it would only check to see if a link was opened through Twitter. So in theory, if you had read the story in Safari, and later opened the same story on Twitter, it would still trigger the prompt.

Checking if someone has read an article before sharing it addresses a problem we’ve known about for a few years: they don’t. From the Washington Post in 2016:

According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.

Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas.

“People are more willing to share an article than read it,” study co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”

This isn’t the first time companies have tried to solve this problem. In 2017, we wrote about NRKbeta, the tech vertical of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, which introduced a multiple choice quiz on certain stories. Readers had to answer the questions to be able to post a comment.

But the Twitter feature still raises some security questions.

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