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Illustration: Joel Plosz for Bloomberg Businessweek

Can Twitter Get Us to Be Nice?

Social networks are designed to make us angry and keep us coming back for more. Now, one of the worst offenders is trying to be less of a dumpster fire.

Twitter is great for lots of things. It’s one of the best places on the internet to get news. It’s full of funny and interesting commentary by comedians, celebrities, and journalists. It’s also a great place to watch people ruthlessly mock one another and very good for picking a fight with a stranger. No other technology is referred to as a cesspool more often. The app is great at being a cesspool.

But Twitter Inc. is trying to change that. It has spent the past year experimenting with subtle product tweaks designed to encourage healthier online behavior. It now alerts people who are about to retweet misinformation on topics such as elections and Covid-19, and it recently began asking people to actually read articles before retweeting. In some cases, if users try to tweet something mean or offensive, automated pop-ups now ask them to think twice before doing so.