Twitter made a scientific oversight with its new 'like' button

Earlier this week Twitter made the controversial decision to nix its “favourite” feature. Previously Twitter users could “favourite” a tweet with a yellow star. Now instead they must “like” a tweet with a red heart.

Whether you prefer favourites or likes, the colour switch matters. Now the red “like” signal shows up right next to the green “retweet” signal in popular apps like Tweetdeck.

That may trip up some people who are colorblind:

The complaint may seem nit-picky, especially with symbols to help out amid the colours. But consideration counts to those with disabilities, and colour blindness affects a huge proportion of the population.

In fact, about 8% of men and 0.5% of women have some form of colour blindness, according to the National Institute of Health. The most common type is red-green colour blindness, where people can’t distinguish between red or green colours. Which is why this new Twitter feature’s coloration may pose a problem.

How colour blindness works

Our eyes have two types of cells called rods and cones that detect light. Rods can tell the difference between dark and light, while cones discern different colours.

According to the American Academy of Opthamology, most people have three different types of cones: one type that can see red wavelengths of light, one that can see green, and one that can see blue. The cones all work together, combining in different levels of intensity to allow you to see the whole colour spectrum. It’s sort of how when you mix blue paint with red paint you get purple — your brain interprets the signals from the cones and allows you to perceive the colour of an object.

If someone is colorblind, then one or more of these cones aren’t working right. In some cases the cones are missing completely.

The most common type of colorblindness is red-green colorblindness where a person’s red and/or green cones aren’t functioning correctly. They can’t distinguish between reddish or greenish colours:

If you’re colorblind and a frequent Twitter user, luckily there are a few Chrome extensions you can download that will turn red hearts back into yellow stars.

We’ve reached out to Twitter, and we’ll update the post if we hear back.

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