Twitter is testing a few features that, at a surface level, seem like they could be at odds.
On the one hand is a new ‘humanization’ feature designed to remind users that the people they reply to are also people. On the other is Spaces, a new room-based voice chat system that’s very similar to the controversial social start-up Clubhouse.
If you haven’t heard of it, Clubhouse allows participants to host online chat rooms where people can discuss different topics. However, it also came under fire for the little — or non-existent — moderation practices, which came to light after Clubhouse became a platform for attacking journalists like The New York Times’ technology reporter Taylor Lorenz.
Twitter’s new humanization feature hopes to reduce toxic encounters on the platform — to be clear, the regular Twitter platform and not the new Spaces platform — by reminding users that other people they interact with are humans. It does this by showing things users may share in common when one tries to reply to another’s tweet. An example shared by Twitter shows a blue box that lists shared interest topics like Soccer, Dogs and Rap.
However, there’s a good chance you won’t see the test, at least for a while. Mashable reports that Twitter will reportedly try the humanization experiment on approximately 10 percent of English-speaking, Android Twitter users.
Whether Twitter’s new humanization project will help the state of discourse on the platform remains to be seen. Other measures the company has taken, such as emphasizing quote tweets, didn’t have the intended effect, while features like limiting who can reply to a tweet were well-received.
Twitter appears to focus on moderation in Spaces
As for the Clubhouse-like Spaces feature, The Verge reports that moderation seems to be a major focus of Spaces, with creators being able to control who can or can’t speak in a Space. There are also reporting and blocking features include in the initial version.
On top of that, Twitter says it plans to give Spaces access to women and people from other marginalized communities first. The logic is that these groups are more likely to be subjected to harassment and abuse when engaging in conversations, especially in comment-based discourse like what you’d find on the typical Twitter platform.
Twitter is also testing emoji reactions, tweet sharing and an early version of live voice transcription.
aye we’re live! what up y’all, we're the team behind Spaces––a small experiment focused on the intimacy of the human voice🧵
— Spaces (@TwitterSpaces) December 17, 2020
Interestingly, The Verge also notes that joining a Space requires users to enable Periscope integration, despite Twitter recently announcing it would shut down the live streaming service. Perhaps some of the technology behind Periscope will shift over to the new Spaces feature.
Ultimately, it remains to be seen how Twitter handles Spaces. If the company manages to get moderation on the platform right, Spaces could prove a popular new feature. There was plenty of positive buzz around Clubhouse before the controversy — Twitter may be able to capitalize on that.
In other Twitter news, the social network recently confirmed that it plans to relaunch its verification program later this month.