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Twitter Will Check if Articles Are Read Before Sharing – Search Engine Journal

Twitter announced a new feature that encourages Android Twitter users to read an article before reading it. This raised suspicions that Twitter was tracking user clicks.

The move is part of Twitter’s stated goal to encourage “informed discussion.” Often people share a link without reading the article.

That results in click bait titles getting widely promoted regardless of the content.

Click bait is generally created to trigger an emotional response by confirming or subverting a belief while the article itself might turn out to be less than what the title promised.

That results in the click bait title becoming the message even when that message is untrue.

According to Twitter’s announcement:

“Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you Tweet it.

To help promote informed discussion, we’re testing a new prompt on Android –– when you Retweet an article that you haven’t opened on Twitter, we may ask if you’d like to open it first.”

Twitter followed up with a tweet that explained that the goal was to “improve the health” of the discussion just as it begins:

We wanted to test a way to improve the health of a conversation as it gets started. And to see if reminding people to read an article before they share it leads to more informed discussion.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 10, 2020

Additionally, this feature only applies to links to news domains:

Hey Rachel, for this experiment, the prompts apply to links to news outlet domains.

Twitter said that this is an experimental feature and that they’re limiting it to Android, presumably to work out any bugs.

Keeping the experiment to one platform lets us build and test as fast and effectively as possible.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 11, 2020

Concerns Over Privacy Considerations

Some on Twitter raised concern about Twitter tracking users to see if they had read an article.

Who made you god and how do you know what i am doing in my other Browser tabs ? Also, why are you tracking what I read ?

— Paul Wouters (@letoams) June 10, 2020

But that’s not how the new nag prompt works:

For this experiment, if you tap to Retweet an article link, we’ll check if you’ve recently clicked the article link only on Twitter, not elsewhere.

When you see the prompt, you’ll always have the option to go ahead and Retweet.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 10, 2020

Twitter does not track what users do on another site. Twitter only checks to see if you clicked the article link on Twitter itself before sharing the article.

Twitter was also accused of creating a new way to show more ads. But Twitter replied that was not the case.

We’re not testing ad products with these prompts. They’re designed to empower healthy and informed public conversation.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 10, 2020

Possible Bug in Twitter Prompt

Someone tweeted that they are subscribed to and read newspapers outside of the Twitter ecosystem. So if they share something they read outside of Twitter it will cause a prompt from Twitter to read the article.

I don’t have either my NYT or my WaPo subscriptions tied into my Twitter account. I read my newspapers on a different device and have no interest in changing that. Just because I haven’t opened an article on Twitter does NOT mean I haven’t read it.

— Sydney 🥑🥩 (@Sydney843) June 10, 2020

Alan Bleiwess shared the same concern:

Sometimes I have already read something, ia amother path. Retweeting is legit in that scenario. Labeling can damage that. At least that is my concern.

— Alan Bleiweiss (@AlanBleiweiss) June 11, 2020

Takeaway:

If you have clicked to the article from a  Twitter link then Twitter won’t show the notice.

But if you haven’t clicked the article link then Twitter will show a notice encouraging you to read the article.

Something like this has the potential to annoy many users who share articles they have read outside of Twitter, without having clicked a link on Twitter.

In a test limited to Android, Twitter is prompting users to read an article before sharing. The goal is to encourage “informed” discussions.

The goal behind this new feature is a good one. Many may welcome better discussions if this works. Others are already complaining about it.

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