Matt Navarra of The NextWeb says that Twitter recently tested a feature that could make unfollow recommendations to users. The feature was tested on an experimental basis and was withdrawn after a few days. In a statement to Verge, Twitter spokesperson spoke about people wanting a timeline that’s relevant. The limited test was run on a few surface accounts that were not being engaged with by users. The aim was to check of such users would like to unfollow such handles.
The feature that made unfollow recommendations looked to be a pretty simple and innocuous experimentation at first. However, many are viewing in the context of the bitter battle that Twitter is currently involved in over the issue of perceived liberal bias, with a few social networks and technology companies.
None other than the US President Donald Trump and other prominent right-leaning figures have stated that Twitter has a history of persecuting conservative voices and news outlets by using questionable practices such as shadow banning, bans, de-ranking using algorithmic changes, verification removal and bans. However, it is apparent that there is no evidence to black their claims and the accusations are extremely wild and grossly overstated.
This week, Trump has intensified his attacks on tech companies. This time around he has targeted Google accusing the tech giant of rigging search results to show the conservatives in a bad light. These allegations kicked off a flood of inquiries to members of the Congress and the White House on whether an impartial and detailed investigation into the liberal bias from the Silicon Valley will ever happen.
Trump also clubbed Facebook and Twitter together with Google in some more show of aggression. He warned that these companies “are on troubled territory,” and “better be careful,” lest the US government regulate them. But Trump has a poor record of following up on his threats as is evident from past utterances. He probably enjoys doling out those harsh words.
The news of Twitter trying out an unfollow suggestion list could be just what the critics wanted. If the list has some prominent conservative, the claims of liberal bias on the Silicon Valley would gain some credibility.
While making it easy for people to follow fewer accounts by unfollowing some that they don’t like could do some good to Twitterati timelines, Twitter has clearly blundered on the timing. The lack of disclosure is also something that will be used against Twitter in the days and weeks to come.