Tech developer regrets building Twitter's retweet button

Tech developer regrets building Twitter's retweet button
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The developer who created Twitter's popular "retweet" button a decade ago admitted he regrets it to this day.

Developer Chris Wetherell, in an interview with BuzzFeed News, recalled the day he witnessed the first Twitter mob use the sharing tool he built. 

“We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,” he told BuzzFeed. “That’s what I think we actually did.”

Before Twitter unveiled its retweet option, users would manually type "RT" and copy and paste another user's post.

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Wetherell, now a co-founder of a startup not yet announced, told BuzzFeed when the Twitter team was making the retweet button they often didn't ask the "broader and more interesting social question, which was, ‘What is getting shared?’ "

"That almost never came up," he told the outlet. 

Ten years later, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told BuzzFeed News he's "definitely thinking about the incentives and ramifications of all actions, including retweet."

Jason Goldman, the head of the product at the time the retweet button was created, told the outlet the "quote retweet" is the "biggest problem" facing Twitter today. 

“Quote retweet allows for the dunk. It’s the dunk mechanism," Goldman told BuzzFeed. 

Wetherell said he thought the button could help elevate voices from underrepresented communities.

But, in fact, the feature also gave way to allow for some extremist, fringe groups to coordinate attacks and for the spread of false information.  

Wetherell told the outlet he realized the button would cause problems in 2014 when participants in Gamergate, a harassment campaign against women in gaming, used the retweet button to coordinate attacks. 

Wetherell told BuzzFeed it was easy for Gamergaters to "brigade reputational harm on someone they didn't like" by using the button. 

"Ask any of the people who were targets at that time, retweeting helped them get a false picture of a person out there faster than they could respond. We didn't build a defense for that. We only built an offensive conduit," he said. 

"It dawned on me that this was not some small subset of people acting aberrantly. This might be how people behave," he added, speaking of Gamergate. "And that scared me to death."