Twitter is conducting user research on increased character limits through global beta group testing. Increasing the limit from 140 to 280-characters is meant to allow twitter users to more effectively express their intended meaning or emotion. Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, tweeted the news.
This is a small change, but a big move for us. 140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit. Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence! https://t.co/TuHj51MsTu
— jack (@jack) September 26, 2017
Details were further explained via Twitter’s blog Giving You More Characters to Express Yourself . According to product manager, Aliza Rosen, Twitter conducted research and identified a discrepancy in character use among languages. All languages except Japanese, Chinese and Korean frequently hit the 140-character limit when Tweeting. Specifically, 9 % of English Tweets reach 140-character limit, a significantly larger amount than Japanese Tweets (0.4%). Japanese, Chinese and Korean languages use characters that communicate twice as much information than do European languages. This limitation may not only restrict posted tweets, but discourage people from posting altogether. Twitter believes increasing the character limit will enhance the user experience (Rosen & Ihara, 2017).
Twitter, a product of Web 2.0, is a participatory forum open to everyone. Unfortunately, this freedom includes those who use social media to abuse, troll, harass and bully. “Anonymity abets anti-social behavior” and there are concerns that the “content, tone and intent” of social media is evolving in a manner that fosters a “culture of hate” (Raine, Anderson & Albright, 2017). Twitter themselves stated in the blog Progress on Addressing Online Abuse (2016) that online abuse has increased dramatically. They are widely criticized for not seriously addressing this problem, causing many Twitter followers to point out that increasing the character limit will further facilitate abuse.
Like, who would vote for double the crap?
— Simon Clifford (@simonclifford1) September 26, 2017
The Pew Research Report The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online discusses the challenge of maintaining access to information in a real-time, participatory social media culture, and monitoring and administering consequences for abusive behavior. The report explores the pros and cons of options for cleaning up social media including eliminating anonymity and privacy (Raine, Anderson & Albright, 2017). According to their blog, Twitter recognizes these challenges and is focusing on controls, reporting and enforcement of abuse to affect change. They have modified features and filters to give the individual user more control over the participatory experience. This includes filters that block material and accounts through key words and phrases, a Hateful Conduct Policy, and a direct way to report abuse (Twitter, 2017). Raine et al, (2017), agree with the concept of fostering a culture of collective support, stating that we need to return to behaving socially and exhibiting social control.
Twitter is a useful forum to gather and disseminate information. Like all online resources there are benefits and drawbacks to this real-time, open forum. Librarians must do what they can to foster a community of collective support, advocating inclusion and diversity, providing information including options on how to deal with online abuse, and role modeling positive, productive interactions on social media.
Raine, L. Anderson, J & Albright, J. (2017). The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online. Pew Research Center (online). Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/29/the-future-of-free-speech-trolls-anonymity-and-fake-news-online/
Rosen, A. & Ihara, I. (2017) Giving you more characters to express yourself. Twitter Inc. Retrieved from https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/topics/product/2017/Giving-you-more-characters-to-express-yourself.html
Twitter Inc. (2016). Progress on addressing online abuse. Retrieved from https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/a/2016/progress-on-addressing-online-abuse.html