Speaking with BuzzFeed News, the man who developed the retweet button on Twitter over a decade ago now regrets his creation because it allows what BuzzFeed and Big Tech view as “extreme” or “radical” ideas to spread.
“We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,” Chris Wetherell said, according to BuzzFeed. “That’s what I think we actually did.”
The problem, according to the developer, is that the retweet allows a mob mentality to rule Twitter. Worse, he said is the quote retweet function, which allows a user to comment on someone’s else’s Tweet while sharing it.
“The biggest problem is the quote retweet,” Jason Goldman, head of product at Twitter when the retweet was built reportedly said. “Quote retweet allows for the dunk. It’s the dunk mechanism.”
The problem – according to one tech entrepreneur quoted by BuzzFeed – is that the retweet is a tool that most benefits “extreme content.”
“If I retweet the New York Times, they don’t care,” Ami Dash told BuzzFeed. “But extreme content comes from people who are trying to be voices, who are trying to be influential in culture, and so it has meaning to them, and so it earns me status with them.”
The BuzzFeed piece, if inadvertently, pulls back the curtain on the inner thoughts of those in the tech sphere. To them, “extreme” content is anything promoted by the political right. The “Gamergate” controversy is specifically listed by Wetherall as a the point when he realized the retweet tool was a problem. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why Big Tech would totally ban anybody on the political right who had a large following, and whose Tweets went viral often.
Instead of letting its adult users decide which content they deem worthy of sharing, Big Tech wants to play big brother, and decide for its users which content is worthy of sharing.
“The pursuit of that status has driven many Twitter users to write outrageous tweets in the hope of being retweeted by fringe power users,” BuzzFeed said. “And when they do get retweeted, it sometimes lends a certain credibility to their radical positions. The retweet and share, in other words, incentivize extreme, polarizing, and outrage-inducing content.”
It’s obvious that the subtext of this piece is about right wing news figures. Hamas – a legitimate terrorist extremist group – allowed to have a Twitter account. ISIS is allowed on Twitter. Jew-hating extremists Louis Farrakhan and Linda Sarsour are allowed on Twitter. But right wing voices have all been silenced. Those are the “extreme” content creators whom Twitter loathes.
Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, Alex Jones, among countless others, have been banned from the use of Twitter all together. All of them are right wing personalities who garnered large followings and often went viral. Apparently, their content was too “extreme” for Twitter.
Loomer, for her part, is suing Twitter and the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) after she was banned in November. Her account had 260,000 followers, and she was one of the most visible stars in the right wing media world.
As the for the fate of the retweet button, BuzzFeed left that for its readers to guess.
“Whatever the solution, Wetherell looks at the retweet very differently than he once did — a lesson that he thinks has broader implications,” BuzzFeed said. ‘I remember specifically one day thinking of that phrase: We put power in the hands of people. But now, what if you just say it slightly differently: Oh no, we put power into the hands of people.'”
Peter D'Abrosca is a freelance investigative reporter, author, and conservative political commentator.