On Friday, Twitter unveiled a new default profile pic for users, swapping out the site’s ubiquitous egg avatars for a human-like blob. According to the company, the move was made to encourage “people to express themselves” after noticing “an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behavior.”
To recap, here’s what Twitter has done this week: made threads even more confusing to follow, enabled users to loop you into never-ending hell threads with 49 other people, and changed the default profile picture to a generic gray humanoid. Here’s what Twitter hasn’t done this week: solve the massive abuse problems that are driving users away from the site.
A lot of Twitter’s vitriol spewing, hate-filled accounts feature the default egg profile. If you use the service for a week and tweet about anything even tangentially related to politics, you’ll notice that. So, now, these accounts will have... a different profile picture. Ok, uh, great. This solves literally nothing!
Twitter has made a big show about trying to solve the seemingly endless amount of abuse and targeted harassment on its platform. Unfortunately for users who still love the service despite the Nazis in their mentions, it doesn’t have much to show for it.
The design team wrote a long blog post about making sure the new profile picture is inclusive, and how it worked to make sure it didn’t use the typically masculine wayfinding iconography. That’s wonderful, and I’m glad Twitter is thinking about stuff like this, because it matters. But I sure do wish that Twitter applied this genuinely thoughtful and positive thought process to the accounts spreading lies and hatred on its platform. None of Twitter’s users really cared that the default profile picture was an egg, but they do care when they can’t look at their mentions because some lonely white nationalists have found a tweet they don’t like.
Twitter has realized it needs to change in a substantial way, but it seems like the company is confused on what exactly needs to get fixed.