The Corner

Science & Tech

An Unlikable Explanation for Getting Rid of the ‘Like’ Button

The U.K. Daily Telegraph, today:

Twitter is planning to remove the ability to “like” tweets in a radical move that aims to improve the quality of debate on the social network.

Founder Jack Dorsey last week admitted at a Twitter event that he was not a fan of the heart-shaped button and that it would be getting rid of it “soon.”

Sure, Twitter, that’s the problem with the quality of debate on your platform: the like button. Not the prevalence of hateful maniacs, not Russian bots, not the twisted incentive structure and algorithm that equates controversy with quality. Not the persistent claims that Twitter “shadow bans” certain users or that the site has “unwritten rules” about which accounts can be promoted and which ones can’t.

No, all along, the problem was the like button.

For ages, Twitter users have begged for an “edit” feature so that we can fix a typo in a Tweet. We can edit posts on Facebook and plenty of other social-media sites, but for some reason, once you send a Tweet, you can’t go in and change anything. Lord knows how many times I’ve sent off what I thought was a brilliant, insightful, hilarious tweet with a perfect illustrative gif and then belatedly noticed that I wrote “teh” instead of “the.”

Or Twitter could lay out specific rules for what gets an account suspended or banned. Whatever the rules are, apparently the Florida bomber never crossed the line in all of his threats against prominent figures, and apparently Louis Farrakhan has never posted something that violated the Terms of Service. But apparently Bruce Carroll is “hateful.”

The explanation is such a non sequitur that it raises the question of whether Twitter was thinking of getting rid of the “like” button for some other reason — Not interactive enough? No revenue-generating factor? — and thinks the move will be more popular with the “improve the quality of debate” explanation.

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