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Twitter users, say goodbye to the like button

How will you chase clout now?

Twitter continues to hint at small changes to its interface that don’t include tackling abuse or Russian bots. This time, reports say Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey told a private event that he plans on axing the ‘like’ button.

The Telegraph reported that he's taking aim at the heart-shaped button because he’s been questioning whether it hinders meaningful communication. Twitter then replied to the report and confirmed that it was “rethinking everything about the service to ensure we are incentivizing (sic) healthy conversation”.

It’s similar to comments Dorsey made last month at the Wired25 summit. “Right now we have a big Like button with a heart on it and we’re incentivising people to want (the number of likes) to go up,” he said on stage. “Is that the right thing? Versus contributing to the public conversation or a healthy conversation? How do we (incentivise) healthy conversation?”

However, if you’re a frequent Twitter user you’ll know that the ‘like’ button is usually your biggest contribution to the platform. Given that your feed is often made up of hundreds or thousands of voices, you might not have the time to reply to each thought, but you can lend your weight to a particular argument (or viral joke) with a low effort click.

On a more practical level, the ‘like’ category is a spot to save things for later and come back to, while other people’s ‘like’ sections are a window into their soul. How much tentative chirpsing or friendly support will Twitter negate too?

While this may not always trigger longer, more considered interactions I don’t think this is the source for most Twitter toxicity. It’s likely that the bigger, more insidious problems such as abuse, harassment, transphobia and white supremacy will still continue long after the site has dumped a function that is mostly used as positive reinforcement.

Let’s forget for a second that the US President has been left unchallenged by the platform when he’s used his feed to threaten wars – the way Twitter deals with abuse has long been thought as sub par. A woman named Rochelle Ritchie pointed out that a user who had threatened her online had been let off the hook by Twitter moderators. However, the same man went on to become the bombing suspect who sent packages to several politicians last week including Hillary Clinton and the Obamas.

The ‘like’ button debacle shows once more how out of step the company is becoming from its user base who don’t urgently need an edit button, and didn’t want 240 characters – they want to keep their ‘like’ button and above all they want to rid the site of abuse.

Here’s what other users had to say.