Twitter announced today that it would be adding a new feature to the popular social media platform that still doesn't address the rampant harassment on the website: audio tweets!
Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has changed dramatically. From the added character count to the Explore page, the brevity-focused social media platform has gone through some serious transformations over the years, often at the behest of users.
But with Twitter now launching audio tweets during one of the most significant civil rights movements in history, one question comes to mind: Who asked for this?
Twitter Rolls Out Audio Tweets for iOS
In a company blog post, Twitter announced the audio tweets would be rolling out this week on iOS for “a limited group of people.” And, in true Twitter fashion, they had to be cute about it.
Tweets with audio are rolling out on iOS and we only have one thing to say about it pic.twitter.com/CZvQC1fo1W
— Twitter (@Twitter) June 17, 2020
As Twitter pointed out in the blog post, it's pretty easy to take advantage of the new feature. Just “open the Tweet composer and tap the new icon with wavelengths.” Audio tweets are limited to 140 seconds — a shoutout to the original character limit on written tweets — and going over that time will automatically create a thread, so you can finally use all that audio content you've been saving for this very moment.
Seriously, who needs this?
Who Needs Audio Tweets?
In an industry that's been toting video as the future for years, Twitter's addition of a standalone audio feature seems perplexing. After all, audio tweets in one form or another exist across the industry via video files with stagnant images, which is basically what this feature does. And Twitter's statement on why they're adding it doesn't shed much light on the matter either.
“Sometimes 280 characters aren’t enough and some conversational nuances are lost in translation,” wrote Maya Patterson and Rémy Bourgoin of Twitter in the blog post. “So starting today, we’re testing a new feature that will add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter – your very own voice.”
Adding features for the sake of adding features is a time-honored tradition for the tech industry, particularly in the social media sector, so the move is far from surprising. However, given the national discussion taking place at the current moment and Twitter's history of inaction on matters of harassment, the move seems poorly timed at best and willfully ignorant at worst.
Twitter and Harassment
Let's be honest, the idea that audio tweets will be used for anything more abject harassment is laughable. Sure, people will enjoy the novelty for the first few weeks, but once that wears off, trolls will be rewarded with another tool in their utility belt of aggression. And that's the problem.
A report from Amnesty International in 2017 — one of the largest such studies on the topic covering hundreds of thousands of tweets — showed that 1.1 million abusive tweets are sent to women on an annual basis, which makes for an average of one abusive tweet every 30 seconds.
Simply put, when it comes to added Twitter features, the world is still waiting with bated breath for a comprehensive solution to the rampant harassment found throughout the site. The company has admittedly taken more notable action than, say, Facebook, but Jack Dorsey is going to have to do more than take a stand on false political ads to root out the many problems plaguing the social media platform.