Twitter has taken another step towards the abyss. According to an article on BuzzFeed, the company plans to take control of its users’ news feeds, with a Facebook-style computer algorithm determining what content appears on their timelines. But Twitter’s users won’t take it lying down — they’ve been raising hell throughout the day.
The upcoming change was predicted by Breitbart in June, when Twitter began experimenting with content filters under the pretext of “preventing abuse.” It was the first time the company interfered with users’ personal control over their timelines.
According to Buzzfeed, the latest, radical alteration to Twitter’s user experience could come as early as next week, although the online outlet did not confirm whether the new system would be mandatory.
The news has led to the greatest backlash from Twitter’s userbase this year. #RIPTwitter has been trending internationally all day, with close to a million tweets on the hashtag. Celebrities and users from across the political spectrum are adding their voices to the online protest, and a change.org petition urging Twtter to change course is quickly gathering steam. Troublingly for Twitter, it doesn’t look like the controversy will fade anytime soon.
One of the great rewards of being an adult is deciding ON YOUR OWN who (and what) you should be interested in. #RIPTwitter
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) February 6, 2016
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) February 6, 2016
Things no @twitter user wants:
-More than 140 characters.
Things we do want:
— Ben Ferguson (@benfergusonshow) February 6, 2016
— Normie KNells (@NormieKnells) February 6, 2016
— Margaret’s in LA for a bit (@MargaretsBelly) February 6, 2016
In the end, we all become part of an algorithm. #RIPTwitter
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) February 6, 2016
— Allum Bokhari (@LibertarianBlue) February 6, 2016
— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) February 6, 2016
This is the latest in a series of crises for Twitter. Last month, the company got into an ill-advised battle with conservatives, which kicked off after Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos mysteriously had his “verified” status taken away on Twitter.
Just as its untimely alienation of conservative users began, Twitter’s stock price began to tank. The company’s shares have plummeted in value since the start of January, and now stand at just over $15. In early December, they were worth twice that figure.
Meanwhile, rumours are spreading that Twitter has instituted a secret “shadowbanning” system, where users’ tweets and profiles are hidden from search results without their knowledge. These complaints are primarily coming from the alternative right (alt-right), a constituency that is not popular with the mainstream media, which might explain the lack of coverage.
#RIPTwitter, however, is not confined to any particular political grouping. Twitter has alienated users from across the spectrum, including some of its biggest powers users. Twitter executives are no doubt hoping that the scandal blows over by Monday, when the stock market opens — but at the moment, that looks unlikely.