The man who invented Twitter’s “retweet” button now believes it was a very bad idea.
In an interview, Chris Wetherell said he recalls thinking, “We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon.”
The retweet feature is a core part of Twiter, responsible for sparking needed conversations on a wide range of topics, but also responsible for spreading misinformation and being harnessed by bad actors like Russia.
Prior to the retweet, users had to copy and paste text into a new tweet, giving them a bit more time to deliberate about tone, intent and content. Afterward, things changed.
Wetherell said that Twitter staffers were not prepared for how the feature would dramatically change engagement on the platform.
“Only two or three times did someone ask a broader and more interesting social question, which was, ‘What is getting shared?’” Wetherell said. “That almost never came up.”
Misinformation, whether being spread by Russian bots or regular Americans, spreads much faster thanks to features like the retweet button.
For its part, the tech company says it is considering a wide range of remedies in order to make the space “healthier.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that Twitter is “definitely thinking about the incentives and ramifications of all actions, including retweet.”
Dorsey also suggested that Twitter could instead emphasize the quote tweet function.