Life Tech Twitter unveils ‘fleets’ as it faces grilling over US election action

Twitter unveils ‘fleets’ as it faces grilling over US election action

Wonder how many ‘fleeting thoughts’ outgoing US president Donald Trump will post a day? Photo: Getty
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The platform at the centre of dispute over how social media giants should handle false political claims is rolling out “fleeting thoughts” posts that can’t be retweeted.

Twitter has revealed it will roll out “fleets” globally this week following trials in South Korea, India, Italy and Japan.

Unlike tweets, Twitter fleets cannot be retweeted, shared, liked or publicly commented on. The post will sit at the top of a user’s profile for 24 hours but will not be visible in the main timeline.

First popularised by Snapchat Stories in 2013, the feature has been copied by other platforms including Instagram and Facebook which allow users to post to their “story”.

The company said it had found many users, especially those new to the service, are fearful of posting permanent tweets which, even if they’re deleted, can remain cached or cross-posted on third-party sites or search engines.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies at a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Facebook and Twitter. Photo: AAP

“Instead of tweeting, people follow along silently or just lurk. We see people draft tweets and don’t send them,” Joshua Harris, director of design at Twitter, told reporters on a call.

Fleets create “a lower-pressure way for people to join the conversation,” Mr Harris said.

The move has already attracted criticism, with some tech media labelling the feature “coward mode” and reports Twitter was crashing or slow for some users on Wednesday morning.

The announcement about the platform change is unlikely to detract from ongoing questions over the way social media giants have censored posts in recent weeks – including, most controversially, about a dozen from President Donald Trump.

Chief executives for Facebook and Twitter were summoned to answer questions from US senators about how their platforms had limited distribution of a controversial article about Joe Biden’s son.

They have also been challenged over their handling of posts by Mr Trump and others who have contested the vote’s result.

Republicans have accused the CEOs of having an anti-conservative bias.

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey acknowledged the decision to block links to the New York Post article about Hunter Biden had been “wrong”.

Its failure to subsequently restore the newspaper’s own tweets about the story had required a further policy change, Mr Dorsey said.

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