Twitter is testing out a new, audio-only virtual meeting room option which will be built on top of its new Fleets, a Stories-like tool, providing yet another way to interact within the app.
As you can see in these screenshots, the new audio ‘space’ option will enable users to create an audio-only room that their connections can then join, either to just listen in or to actively participate. The audio meet-ups will be marked with a purple icon on the creators’ Fleets bubble, highlighting that an audio discussion is in progress.
The first shot above displays how the audio room will look when people tap on the bubble, with ‘Admin’, ‘Talking’, ‘Listening’ or ‘Request’ noted below each person’s profile image within the chat. You can see the ‘Request’ microphone icon down the bottom right of the screen, which you can tap to join in the discussion.
That could provide a range of new options for engagement via the app, though as noted by TechCrunch, it could also open up a slew of new content concerns for the platform, which has already had its fair share of moderation challenges and issues in times past.
The functionality clearly resembles Clubhouse, the invite-only audio platform which rose to notoriety earlier this year amid major buzz from Silicon Valley types.
Despite still only being available in limited form, Clubhouse has already been valued at $100 million – though the app has also strayed into controversy, with the live, unrestricted audio format seeing it host various controversial discussions, and even arguments, which have already triggered a backlash against the app.
When discussions are happening in real-time, effective moderation is impossible – which makes it a little concerning that Twitter’s looking to take that same approach and provide a similar platform to all of its users.
So how will Twitter avoid potential misuse, and stop its audio rooms from veering into more controversial? Concerning territory?
Twitter’s plan, at least initially, is to limit its audio spaces to certain groups.
“It’s critical that we get safety right – safety and people feeling comfortable in these spaces. We need to get that right in order for people to leverage live audio spaces in the ways we might imagine or in the ways that would be most helpful for them. So we’re going to do something a little different. We’re going to launch this first experiment of spaces to a very small group of people – a group of people who are disproportionately impacted by abuse and harm on the platform: women and those from marginalized backgrounds.”
I mean, that’s interesting – by limiting the option to only certain, marginalized groups to start with, Twitter’s taking a different approach to the problem. But will that really be effective, in any way, in the longer term?
Twitter is already the home of ‘cancel culture’, where pile-ons are commonplace, while it’s also where extremists on both sides of the political divide regularly clash via short, witty comebacks and jabs. More right-wing commentators appear, at present, to be switching to Parler in the wake of the US election, but Twitter will still end up being the main battleground for many controversial discussions and criticisms.
Will adding audio spaces into that make things better or worse?
Realistically, you can’t make product decisions on account of trolls and negative elements, so it makes sense that Twitter is trying it out anyway. But it could lead to more problems.
It might also lead to new opportunities, with virtual hangouts happening all the time, in which you can drop in and tune into the latest chats among people you follow, and maybe even participate, like being a podcast guest, helping to establish connections, and build a presence in your niche.
But it feels like a concern like it’s not going to go how Twitter would hope.
We’ll have to wait and see – Twitter’s launching its audio spaces in limited test mode shortly.