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Twitter deserves credit for continuing to push for more innovative features on its social networking platform. The latest new feature to launch soon is called “Twitter Spaces,” and it’s a cool new voice-based social networking option, in which host moderators on Twitter will be able to invite others to have intimate voice-based conversations on topics that matter. To make Twitter Spaces as attractive as possible to new beta testers, Twitter is adding in a few new options, such as new reaction emojis (the raised fist, the peace sign, the wave) and near real-time audio transcriptions of conversations that take place in these Spaces.
The upside of Twitter Spaces
On one hand, of course, Twitter Spaces sounds truly innovative. While there are other social networking apps such as Clubhouse that already provide “drop-in audio chats” where people can interact via voice online, Twitter appears to be the first of the major social networking platforms where this could become a primary way to connect online.
Imagine being a huge sports fan of a certain team and being invited to have a personal conversation with a player and a head coach. Or imagine just hanging out with your friends and being able to have an impromptu group chat on something like where to meet for dinner and drinks. Instead of trading tweets, comments and DMs, you’d be able to host a voice conversation involving everyone. And, once the audio transcription feature gets hammered out, you’d be able to archive these conversations and (possibly) enable others to view them later.
The downside of Twitter Spaces
The problem, however, is that earlier movers in this mobile-social space have already encountered all kinds of issues with moderating voice-based commentary. There are some serious questions about user safety and privacy, ranging from abuse and bullying to cancel culture. Already, for example, Clubhouse has come under fire for online conversations that have led to anti-Semitism and harassment of a New York Times reporter.
If you think that Twitter is currently a cesspool of insults, disinformation and cyberbullying, then just wait to see what happens when you give an extra megaphone to these people. If Twitter wants the new Spaces feature to be successful, then it really needs to make sure that it can moderate conversations and ensure that these are “safe spaces” for all to communicate.
Future of Twitter
Clearly, there’s a lot going on at Twitter right now as it tries to find the right mix of free speech and user moderation online. Some new features – such as the highly controversial “Birdwatch” feature – seem designed to clamp down on free speech and censor certain viewpoints. And Twitter has been in the middle of a huge censorship scandal involving former President Donald Trump that has led to thousands of users deactivating their accounts and moving elsewhere. So the hope here is that Twitter makes the new voice-based Spaces social networking feature something that can encourage diversity of thought and expression, and not something that can be used to spy on, monitor and shut down conversations as they happen in real-time. Jack Dorsey, we’re watching you.