Artists are irked by Twitter’s change to retweets

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Artists on Twitter have a request: stop quote-tweeting their work.

It’s all the more pressing now that Twitter has, temporarily at least, changed its retweet system to encourage users to quote tweets and add their own words on top, rather than simply boost someone else’s message. Artists say quote tweets take attention away from their profiles, making it harder for them to be discovered, while someone else gets the glory.

“When you’re quote tweeting an artist, it’s almost like saying ‘I feel like what I have to say about this piece is more important than the actual piece,’” RadiantG, an artist, journalist, and indie game developer, told The Verge.

Twitter made the change yesterday as part of an effort to “encourage more thoughtful consideration” of tweets — and presumably, to curb the spread of misinformation — around the US election. Twitter no longer plainly presents the option to retweet someone else’s post and instead jumps straight into the quote retweet interface. You can still post a straight retweet by not adding a comment, but the interface is designed to discourage it. Twitter said the change was “temporary” and would remain in place through “at least the end of Election week.”

It’s a problem for artists who have found Twitter to be a particularly useful platform for getting discovered and getting work. Amalas Rosa, an illustrator whose work includes video game concept art, album artwork, and an in-progress graphic novel, said that most of her jobs have come through people finding her work on Twitter. “Especially this year,” Rosa said, “a lot of remote work is actually due to Twitter.” Radiant said that all of his commissions this year have come through Twitter.

That’s why it’s important to artists that they get the signal boost directly when someone wants to share their work. “It’s easy to go to our profile,” Rosa said, “but many people don’t check it out if it’s only a quote retweet that’s doing the numbers.” Rosa said she doesn’t mind when people quote-tweet her work, but she’s concerned the new interface will confuse people who might otherwise want to directly promote an artist.

In response to Twitter’s change, artists have been retweeting each others’ messages about the new system, with some posts gaining thousands of retweets. Several artists have annotated screenshots about how to skirt the new system and send a plain retweet. One artist even illustrated a diagram about how to avoid the quote retweet.

Quote tweets were a sore spot even before this week’s update was put in place. Many artists already had “No QRT” (for “no quote retweet”) or a similar request in their name, bio, or location, Radiant said.

Twitter said it was aware of artists’ concerns, though the company didn’t indicate that it would make any adjustments. “We heard your overall feedback and understand that some of you, like artists who share their work on Twitter, value Retweets,” the company wrote yesterday. “You can still Retweet by not adding anything into the QT composer.”

While the change remains in place, artists will have to keep educating followers about best practices for supporting their work, Radiant said.

“We’re not telling you how to use the platform,” Radiant said. “All I’m saying is how to best support us.”

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