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It’s Easy to Be a Jerk on Twitter. And Twitter Wants to Fix That

It's Easy to Be a Jerk on Twitter. And Twitter Wants to Fix That

NT: You need a red checkmark if somebody’s a total dick. There’s some line they cross, and then they get a red checkmark next to their profile.

KB: It’s a funny example, but if you think about a service like Lyft or Uber, there is a disincentive to be a total jerk. As a passenger, I have a passenger rating. As a driver, I have a driver rating. And there’s an understanding within the marketplace that if you behave a certain way, that your reputation will be impacted in a way that can have adverse consequences. And I think that notion exists in some capacity on Twitter, but not enough.

NT: Let’s say somebody comes to you says, “You know what, I totally agree, Kayvon. Let’s do this. Let’s give everybody a troll score. And we’ll use our AI to determine how much of a troll they’ve been. Like how much shitposting they’ve done, how many cruel statements, how many times they’ve been flagged. We’ll make it one to five, it won’t be the most prominent thing, but it will be next to your follower count, right?” What’s wrong with that? Can we do that?

KB: It sounds like you want to be a product manager. Are you interested in doing that?

NT: If you will let me create a troll score on Twitter, I will be a product manager on Twitter tomorrow. That would be hilarious.

KB: Yeah, I think it’s a good example, with the troll score as a symbol of something we could do is a good example. There’s going to be account-level solutions. Then there’s content-level incentives, like the likes and the retweets are mechanics that exist at the content level, not necessarily at the account level. So there isn’t a single silver bullet here. But our plan is to be thoughtful about this stuff, continue doing a lot of research and experiment.

NT: So let’s get more specific. Instagram has announced that they’re heading toward demetrification. They’re not going to show the number of likes on the story, they’re going to either deemphasize or hide the number of followers you have. If you hid the number of followers that people have, you totally change the incentives of the platform. You might get less engagement, but my guess is you get more health. Why haven’t you done that?

KB: Well, so actually, we have in our public experimentation app that I mentioned, Little T, we did exactly that. We deemphasized the like count, the retweet count. And when you look at the conversation, we actually don’t show those metrics in the forefront. Similar to Instagram, we haven’t removed them, we buried them. And we wanted to understand what the implications of that are to how the conversation unfolds. But that’s a pretty minor step. Nevertheless, an interesting step. I think there are more extreme steps that we can consider.

NT: So what have you learned? Are you going to do this?

KB: That’s something that we’re actually moving into public experimentation with right now.

NT: So you’ve gone from—you’ve done the experimentation with Little T, you’re going to do public experimentation at some point in the next year, there may be an announcement, there may not be an announcement?

KB: Yes, but not again, I think it’s important to know that this isn’t just limited to visually removing or—suppressing or elevating metrics is one way to do it. I personally think that are even more meaningful ways that we can introduce new incentives.

NT: So actually more like adding a troll score or changing the structure of the algorithm?

What do you think?

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