Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter hires God-is Rivera as global director of culture and community

Twitter has brought on its first-ever global director of culture and community, God-is Rivera. As global director of culture and community, Rivera will report to Global Head of Culture, Engagement and Experiential Nola Weinstein. Rivera previously led internal diversity and inclusion efforts at VMLY&R, a digital and creative agency.

“As a black woman who has worked in industries in which I have been underrepresented, I feel a great responsibility to amplify and support diverse communities, and they exist in full force on Twitter,” Rivera said in a statement. “The team has shown a passion to serve and spotlight their most active users and I am honored to step into this new role as a part of that commitment.”

For context, 26 percent of U.S. adults who identify as black use Twitter, while 24 percent of white-identified adults and 20 percent of Latinx-identified adults in the U.S. use Twitter, according to a March 2018 survey from Pew Research Center.

At Twitter, the plan is for Rivera to “better serve and engage communities” on Twitter through the company’s brand marketing, campaigns, events and other experiences. Internally, Rivera will be tasked with ensuring Twitter’s campaigns and programs are inclusive and “reflective of the communities we serve,” according to Twitter’s press release. Externally, Rivera will be responsible for developing relationships and programs with content creators, community leaders, brands and more — similar to the one with HBO’s Insecure.

Here’s the internal note Weinstein sent to Twitter employees earlier today:

Team,

I am so excited to welcome @GodisRivera to the team as Twitter’s new Global Director of Culture & Community. She captivated us at #OneTeam with her enlightening presentation on #BlackTwitter and we are thrilled that she will now be bringing her passion and perspective inside.

In this newly created role, God-is will help lead our efforts to better serve and engage the powerful voices and global communities who take to Twitter to share, discover and discuss what matters to them. This will come to life through Twitter’s brand efforts, campaigns, events and experiences. She will help ensure that our programs are connective, inclusive and reflective of the communities we serve. You can imagine more efforts that engage and excite our communities like #HereWeAre, #NBATwitter, thoughtful tweetups, etc.

God-is’ deep expertise in marketing and social strategy, cultural understanding and ability to elevate and connect communities makes for a rare and incredibly powerful combination. She was previously Director, Inclusion and Cultural Resonance at VMLY&R, where she led internal diversity efforts to fuse the importance of internal culture and representation to creative work outputs. In 2018, God-is was named an Ad Age “Woman to Watch” and Adweek “Disruptor” for continuing to fight for representation and equity in the advertising industry. She currently resides in New York, NY with her husband and daughter.

On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of spending time with God-is at #HereWeAre, #Influence, and #OneTeam and her energy, passion and positivity are infectious. I know her presence will make a difference and am excited by all that the culture & experiential team will create together.

God-is will start on November 12th and will be based in NYC reporting to me.

Please join me in welcoming her to the flock!

Twitter tests homescreen button to easily switch to reverse chronological

Twitter is digging one of its most important new features out of its settings and putting it within easy reach. Twitter is now testing with a small number of iOS users a homescreen button that lets you instantly switch from its algorithmic timeline that shows the best tweets first but out of order to the old reverse chronological feed that only shows people you follow — no tweets liked by friends or other randomness.

Twitter had previously buried this option in its settings. In mid-September, it fixed the setting so it would only show a raw reverse chronological feed of tweets by people you follow with nothing extra added, and promised a more easily accessible design for the feature in the future. Now we have our first look at it. A little Twitter sparkle icon in the top opens a menu where you can switch between Top Tweets and Latest Tweets, plus a link to your content settings. It would be even nicer if that was a one-tap toggle.

Twitter’s VP of Product Kayvon Beykpour tweeted that “We want to make it easier to toggle between seeing the latest tweets the top tweets. So we’re experimenting with making this a top-level switch rather than buried in the settings. Feedback welcome.. what do you think?”

Given the backlash back in 2016 when Twitter started shifting to an algorithmically sorted timeline based on what you engaged with, many users will probably think this is great. Whether you’re trying to follow a sports game, a political debate, breaking news, or are just glued to Twitter and want the ordering to make more sense, there are plenty of reasons you might want to switch to reverse chronological.

Still, Twitter’s apprehension to make the setting too accessible makes sense. Hardcore users might prefer reverse chronological, but for most people who only open Twitter a few times per day or week, that’d mean they’d likely miss the tweets from their closest friends that could be drown out by the noise of everyone else. Twitter’s user growth rate perked up after the shift to algorithmic.

We’ve asked whether the setting reverts to the Top Tweets default when you close the app. That might be frustrating to some expert users, but could prevent novice users from accidentally getting stuck in reverse chronological and not knowing how to switch back. The company tells TechCrunch that it’s trying out several different duration options for the setting based on user inactivity to see what works best. For example, one version will revert the setting to the Top Tweets default if they’re gone for a day. That method would make sure people who’ve been inactive long enough to forget changing their timeline setting will get the default back and not end up stuck in a chronological abyss.

If Twitter gets the reversion to default situation figured out, the new button could make the service much more flexible, thereby boosting usage. You could start algorithmic in the morning or after a weekend away to see what you missed, then quickly toggle to reverse chronological if something big happens or you’ll be on it non-stop all day to get the real-time pulse of the world.

Twitter’s spam reporting tool now lets you specify type, including if it’s a fake account

Twitter is adding more nuance to its spam reporting tools, the company announced today. Instead of simply flagging a tweet as posting spam, users can now specify what kind of spam you’re seeing by way of a new menu of choices. Among these is the option to report spam you believe to be from a fake Twitter account.

Now, when you tap the “Report Tweet” option and choose “It’s suspicious or spam” from the first menu, you’re presented with a new selection of choices where you can pick what kind of spam the tweet contains.

Here, you can pick from options that specify if the tweet is posting a malicious link of some kind, if it’s from a fake account, if it’s using the Reply function to send spam or if it’s using unrelated hashtags.

These last two tricks are regularly used by spammers to increase the visibility of their tweets.

Often, high-profile Twitter users will see replies to their tweets promoting the spammers’ content. For example, check any of @elonmusk’s thread for crypto scammers’ tweets — a problem so severe, that when Elon played along one time as a joke, Twitter locked his account.

Using hashtags, meanwhile, allows spammers to get attention from those people searching Twitter’s Trends.

And of course, spammers are often posting prohibited content, like malicious links, links to phishing sites and other dangerous links.

But Twitter users will probably be most interested in the new option to report fake accounts.

There’s been a lot of name-calling on Twitter today following the emergence of reports of Russian bots and trolls flooding Twitter, in an attempt to influence U.S. politics with disinformation. Often, users in disagreements on the site will call someone “bot” as a way to shut down a conversation.

Twitter itself has been suspending real bots left and right in recent months. It deleted 200,000 Russian troll tweets earlier this year, for example, and suspended more than 70 million fake accounts in May and June, according to reports.

Now users will be able to report those accounts they believe to be bots, as well.

To what extent Twitter will rely on these user-generated reports over its own algorithmic-based bot-detection systems, or other factors (like IP addresses or suspicious behavior), is unclear.

It’s also unclear if people can ban together to mass report an account as “fake” in an attempt to remove a real person’s account. But someone will surely soon test that out.

Prior to the change, users were able to report spam but not the type of spam, Twitter’s documentation today still confirms.

Twitter tells us the updated reporting flow will simply allow the company to collect more detail so it can “identify and remove spam more effectively.”

The feature is live now on the web and in its mobile apps.

Twitter’s U.S. midterms hub is a hot mess

Today, Jack Dorsey tweeted a link to his company’s latest gesture toward ongoing political relevance, a U.S. midterms news center collecting “the latest news and top commentary” on the country’s extraordinarily consequential upcoming election. If curated and filtered properly, that could be useful! Imagine. Unfortunately, rife with fake news, the tool is just another of Twitter’s small yet increasingly consequential disasters.

Beyond a promotional tweet from Dorsey, Twitter’s new offering is kind of buried — probably for the best. On desktop it’s a not particularly useful mash of national news reporters, local candidates and assorted unverifiable partisans. As Buzzfeed news details, the tool is swimming with conspiracy theories, including ones involving the migrant caravan. According to his social media posts, the Pittsburgh shooter was at least partially motivated by similar conspiracies, so this is not a good look to say the least.

Why launch a tool like this before performing the most basic cursory scan for the kind of low-quality sources that already have your company in hot water? Why have your chief executive promote it? Why why why

A few hours after Dorsey’s tweet, likely after the prominent callout, the main feed looked a bit tamer than it did at first glance. Subpages for local races appear mostly populated by candidates themselves, while the national feed looks more like an algorithmically generated echo chamber version of my regular Twitter feed, with inexplicably generous helpings of MSNBC pundits and more lefty activists.

For Twitter users already immersed in conspiracies, particularly those that incubate so successfully on the far right, does this feed offer yet another echo chamber disguised as a neutral news source? In spite of its sometimes dubiously left-leanings, my feed is still peppered with tweets from undercover video provocateur James O’Keefe — not exactly a high quality source.

In May, Twitter announced that political candidates would get a special badge, making them stand out from other users and potential imposters. That was useful! Anything that helps Twitter function as a fast news source with light context is a positive step, but unfortunately we haven’t seen a whole lot in this direction.

Social media companies need to stop launching additional amplification tools into the ominous void. No social tech company has yet exhibited a meaningful understanding of the systemic shifts that need to happen — possibly product-rending shifts — to dissuade bad actors and straight up disinformation from spreading like a back-to-school virus. 

Unfortunately, a week before the U.S. midterm elections, Twitter looks as disinterested as ever in the social disease wreaking havoc on its platform, even as users suffer its real-life consequences. Even more unfortunate for any members of its still dedicated, weary userbase, Twitter’s latest wholly avoidable minor catastrophe comes as a surprise to no one.

Twitter’s doubling of character count from 140 to 280 had little impact on length of tweets

Twitter’s decision to double its character count from 140 to 280 characters last year hasn’t dramatically changed the length of Twitter posts. According to new data released by the company this morning, Twitter is still a place for briefer thoughts, with only 1% of tweets hitting the 280-character limit, and only 12% of tweets longer than 140 characters.

Brevity, it seems, is baked into Twitter – even when given expanded space, people aren’t using it.

Only 5% of tweets are longer than 190 characters, indicating that Twitter users have been for so long trained to keep their tweets short, they haven’t adapted to take advantage of the extra room to write.

Meanwhile, most tweets continue to be very short, Twitter says.

The most common length of a tweet back when Twitter only allowed 140 characters was 34 characters. Now that the limit is 280 characters, the most common length of a tweet is 33 characters. Historically, only 9% of tweets hit Twitter’s 140-character limit, now it’s 1%.

That said, Twitter did see some impact from the doubling of character count in terms of how people write.

It found that abbreviations are used much less than before. Instead of writing in “text speak” like “u r,” “u8,” “b4” and others, people are now using proper words. For example, the use of abbreviations like “gr8” is down by 36%, use of “b4″ is down by 13%,” and “sry” has dropped 5%. Other words have increased as result, including “great” (+32%), “before” (+70%) and “sorry” (+31%).

Twitter also points out that the use of “please” and “thank you” have increased over the year since the character count change, by 54% and 22%, respectively. But don’t take those metrics to mean that Twitter’s community itself has a kinder, gentler tone. Sentiment expressed on the network can’t be tracked by use of polite words alone – especially when they’re a part of less than polite conversations, or used sarcastically, for example. You’d need real sentiment analysis for that.

Perhaps unrelated to character count increases, Twitter found that the number of tweets with a question mark have increased by 30%, and overall, tweets are receiving more replies.

To be clear, the data is for English use of Twitter, but the company says the findings are consistent across the seven languages analyzed.

One thing Twitter didn’t measure was the use of threading, which seems to be the more popular way today of expressing longer thoughts. Threads, which are connected series of tweets telling a longer story, seem to be more popular than ever before. They also appear to take advantage of the extra characters, in many cases. These longform tweets often even announce themselves, by tweeting “THREAD” at their start.

But Twitter didn’t analyze the use of threads, or character counts within them, so it’s unclear to what extent they’ve changed following the increase to 280. (We’ve asked if they have access to this data, and will update if they can provide it.)

As a proxy, however, tools that help Twitter users read threads have seen a boost in usage in recent months. For example, Thread Reader App in August tweeted a chart showing its website’s global ranking climbing.

 

 

Twitter suspends accounts linked to mail bomb suspect

At least two Twitter accounts linked to the man suspected of sending explosive devices to more than a dozen prominent Democrats were suspended on Friday afternoon.

Facebook moved fairly quickly to suspend Sayoc’s account on the platform, though two Twitter accounts that appeared to belong to Sayoc remained online and accessible until around 2:30 p.m. Pacific. Both accounts featured numerous tweets, many of which contained far right political conspiracy theories, graphic images and specific threats.

TechCrunch was able to review the accounts extensively before they were removed. Both known accounts, @hardrockintlet and @hardrock2016, contained many tweets that appeared to threaten violence against perceived political enemies, including Keith Ellison and Joe Biden, an intended recipient of an explosive device.

In one case, those threats had been previously reported to Twitter. Democratic commentator Rochelle Ritchie tweeted that she reported a tweet from @hardrock2016 following her appearance on Fox News. According to a screenshot, Twitter received the report and on October 11 responded that it found “no violation of the Twitter rules against abusive behavior.”

The tweet stated “We will see u 4 sure. Hug your loved ones real close every time you leave home” accompanied by a photo of Ritchie, a screenshot of a news story about a body found in the everglades and the tarot card representing death.

Between the two accounts linked to Sayoc, many of the threats were depicted with graphic images in sequence. In one tweet on September 18 to former Vice President Joe Biden, the account tweeted images of an air boat, a symbol depicting an hourglass with a scythe and graphic images of a decapitated goat.

Threatening messages that emerge out of a sequence of images would likely be more difficult for machine learning moderation tools to parse, though any human content moderator would have no trouble extracting their meaning. In most cases the threatening images were paired with a verbal threat. At least one archive of a Twitter account linked to Sayoc remains online.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Twitter stated only that “This is an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We do not have a comment.” The company indicated that the accounts were suspended for violating Twitter’s rules though did not specify which.

Twitter beats Wall St Q3 estimates with $758M in revenue

Twitter came in ahead of analysts’ financial estimates in its third quarter, reporting $758 million in revenue (a 29 percent year-over-year increase) and earnings per share of 21 cents.

Analysts had predicted revenue of $703 million and EPS of 14 cents per share. Ad revenue was also up 29 percent, to $650 million, and Twitter says total ad engagements increased 50 percent year over year.

However, user growth didn’t quite match expectations, with 326 monthly active users, lower than predictions of 330 million, and also a decline from the same period last year, when Twitter had 335 million MAUs.

In the earnings release, the company says its user growth was “impacted by a number of factors including: GDPR, decisions we have made to prioritize the health of the platform and not move to paid SMS carrier relationships in certain markets, as well as a product change that reduced automated usage and a technical issue that temporarily reduced the number of notifications sent.”

In a statement, CEO Jack Dorsey similarly suggested that the company has been focusing on the “health” of the community, rather than pursuing growth at all costs.

“We’re achieving meaningful progress in our efforts to make Twitter a healthier and valuable everyday service,” Dorsey said. “We’re doing a better job detecting and removing spammy and suspicious accounts at sign-up. We’re also continuing to introduce improvements that make it easier for people to follow events, topics and interests on Twitter, like adding support for U.S. TV shows in our new event infrastructure. This quarter’s strong results prove we can prioritize the long-term health of Twitter while growing the number of people who participate in public conversation.”

While Twitter still attracts plenty of criticism for its approach to safety, harassment and misinformation (it was slower than the other major online platforms to ban Alex Jones and Infowars, for example), it has taken steps in the past few months to suspend accounts that were “engaging in coordinated manipulation,” as well as those who tried to get around previous suspensions.

The company says that the average number of daily active users actually increased 9 percent year-over-year, and the investor relations account tweeted that “DAU growth continues to be the best measure of our success in driving the use of Twitter as a daily utility.”

As of 7:55am Eastern, Twitter shares were up nearly 15 percent in pre-market trading.

Is ‘don’t feed the trolls’ actually good advice? It’s complicated.

It's Troll Week on Mashable. Join us as we explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of internet trolling.


The conventional wisdom is that you shouldn't respond to people who send you hate mail onlineDon't feed the trolls, the adage goesThey're doing this to get attention, so don't give them what they want. 

But is this advice truly sound, or is it just something people keep saying because they've been hearing it forever?

According to Lauren Hoffman, a clinical psychologist and instructor at Columbia University, the advice is solid from a psychological standpoint. But that's only part of the story. Read more...

More about Twitter, Social Media, Trolls, Troll Week, and Culture

Tim Berners-Lee on the huge sociotechnical design challenge

In a speech discussing ethics and the Internet, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has tasked the technology industry and its coder army with paying continuous attention to the world their software is consuming as they go about connecting humanity through technology.

Coding must mean consciously grappling with ethical choices in addition to architecting systems that respect core human rights like privacy, he suggested.

“Ethics, like technology, is design,” he told delegates at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) which is taking place in Brussels this week.

“As we’re designing the system, we’re designing society. Ethical rules that we choose to put in that design [impact the society]… Nothing is self evident. Everything has to be put out there as something that we think we will be a good idea as a component of our society.”

If your tech philosophy is the equivalent of ‘move fast and break things’ it’s a failure of both imagination and innovation to not also keep rethinking policies and terms of service — “to a certain extent from scratch” — to account for fresh social impacts, he argued in the speech.

He pointed to how Wikipedia had to rapidly adapt its policies after putting online the power for anyone to edit its encyclopedia, noting: “They introduced a whole lot of bureaucracy around it but that actually makes it work, and it ended up be coming very functional.”

He described today’s digital platforms as “sociotechnical systems” — meaning “it’s not just about the technology when you click on the link it is about the motivation someone has to make such a great thing because then they are read and the excitement they get just knowing that other people are reading the things that they have written”.

“We must consciously decide on both of these, both the social side and the technical side,” he said. “[These platforms are] anthropogenic, made by people… Facebook and Twitter are anthropogenic. They’re made by people. They’ve coded by people. And the people who code them are constantly trying to figure out how to make them better.”

His keynote touched on the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal as an illustration of how sociotechnical systems are exploding simple notions of individual rights as people’s data is being cumulatively pooled and linked so that it can be repurposed and used to manipulate entire groups and even societies as a whole.

“You data is being taken and mixed with that of millions of other people, billions of other people in fact, and then used to manipulate everybody.

“Privacy is not just about not wanting your own data to be exposed — it’s not just not wanting the pictures you took of yourself to be distributed publicly. But that is important too.”

Given how the Internet’s ballooning connectivity has swept up and swept along personal data, enabling it to flow and pool far from the individuals who generated it in the first place, Berners-Lee also impressed the need for web users to have “the right to be able to share my data with whoever I want”.

And “the right to be able to get at all my data” — praising recent data download efforts from Apple, Twitter and others that let people take their information elsewhere, and lauding the companies for “recognizing that my data is mine to control”.

He also touched on his new startup: Solid, which is on a mission to push the envelope of interoperability, via decentralization, in order to transform how people control and share their own data.

“The principle of Solid is it’s a new platform in which you as a user have complete control of your data,” he explained. “It is revolutionary in the sense that it makes any app ask you where you want to put your data. So you can run your photo app or take pictures on your phone and say I want to store them on Dropbox, and I will store them on my own home computer. And it does this with a new technology which provides interoperability between any app and any store.”

Free speech and fighting censorship are other causes helped by putting people in control of their own data, he argued.

“We are not ready for people to use this at home,” he said of Solid. “We are ready for developers to join us in the quest to make new apps, and to make our service more powerful and more secure.

“The platform turns the privacy world upside down — or, I should say, it turns the privacy world right side up. You are in control of you data life… Wherever you store it you can control and get access to it.”

On the wider societal challenges, as regulators are paying increasing attention to powerful tech platforms, Berners-Lee added: “We have to get commitments from companies to make their platforms constructive and we have to get commitments from governments to look at whenever they see that a new technology allows people to be taken advantage of, allows a new form of crime to get onto it by producing new forms of the law. And to make sure that the policies that they do are thought about in respect to every new technology as they come out.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and a lot of discussion — across the boundaries of individuals, companies and governments. But very important work.”

Titanic II will set sail in 2022 and it’s going over on Twitter about as well as you’d expect

Titanic II, a replica of the original Titanic, will make its first voyage in 2022. It will have room for 2,400 passengers and 900 crew members, just like the original Titanic. Also, it will trace the precise route of the original ship.

What could go wrong?

If this idea seems flatly stupid to you, you're not alone. (We might as well recreate the Hindenburg.) But, like most stupid ideas, it caused people on Twitter to make some good jokes, particularly in response to tweets from TIME and USA Today about the announcement.

I would rather fly Spirit https://t.co/1RH38Nmjh0

— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) October 22, 2018 Read more...

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