They weren’t to know what they were building
‘I regret building this important social media feature’ is a popular style of article these days. Yesterday it was the turn of the man who led the creation of the Retweet button to express his feelings of guilt.
The article paints the Retweet button as “the button that ruined the internet” because it encouraged people to quickly share articles without reading them, and amplify awful opinions without thinking about them.
There’s no arguing that being able to quickly share without thought has poisoned discourse and led to the loudest, most controversial opinions getting more mindshare than they deserve. But I don’t think individual creators of features like the Retweet button should feel too guilty.
I remember criticism of the button when it launched 10 years ago, but this was largely around people wanting to add context to their retweets. This was fixed with the later introduction of the quote-tweet (not without its opportunities to be used for harassment, of course). No-one could have predicted just how toxic public discourse would turn. 10 years ago, Twitter – and social media in general – was an optimistic place full of fun, jokes, news, and very little drama
So, while it makes for a good story, let’s not go back and blame creators for not understanding how their tools would be used in the future. Let’s fix those tools, instead. A ‘you can only share this link if you’ve clicked it’ rule might be a good start!