Tag Archives: Twitter

All of Your New Twitter Friends are Probably Bots



Twitter logoSocial media is becoming less useful by the day. Nowhere is this more evident than on Twitter. The so-called microblogging service may still serve as an of-the-moment cultural barometer. But what good is that barometer if the gauge it’s built on is fundamentally broken? Twitter’s ability to give us nearly realtime data on trending topics is only really worthwhile if that data is reliable.

And how reliable can that data be if an estimated 48 million Twitter accounts are actually bots? According to a new study, somewhere between 9 and 15 percent of all tweets come from fake accounts. This is just the latest indicator that Twitter itself, and perhaps social media in general, is being ruined by bot masters who serve up all kinds of fake activity to those who’ll pay for it.

Twitter’s own estimate of bots on its platform came in lower than what the study found. According to a recent filing, Twitter stated its bot count is around 8.5 percent. While Twitter’s methodology for bot calculation may be different than the methods used by the researchers who came up with the study, it’s still in Twitter’s interest to have an overall lower bot score.

This study doesn’t do much to improve Twitter’s already shaky reputation as of late. Hopefully, there’s something the social network can do to round up and eject these fake accounts. I guess the real question is, does Twitter even care?


Twitter has Started Giving Abusive Users a Time Out



Twitter has announced some updates that are designed to make Twitter a safer place. These improvements build upon the work that Twitter began in November of 2016. One of the most interesting updates involves a “time out” for abusive users. Twitter explained their motivations this way:

Making Twitter a safer place is our primary focus. We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic. That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices. We won’t tolerate it and we’re launching new efforts to stop it.

Twitter announced three changes. One was to stop the creation of new abusive accounts. Twitter is now taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and will stop them from creating new accounts.

Another change is a “safer search”, which “removes Tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results.” Twitter says that content will still be discoverable – if you want to find it. Tweets from people you blocked or muted will not automatically appear when you search for something on Twitter.

Personally, I’m a big fan of that new update. It takes away the instant gratification that some people appear to get by flooding a hashtag on a topic they disagree with with incoherent rage and images that Twitter would describe as “sensitive content”. At least, that’s what I hope the “safer search” will do.

The third change involves abusive or low-quality Tweets. Twitter has been working on identifying those kinds of Tweets and collapsing them. The result is that you will only see the most relevant replies and Tweets. Again, you can go dig up the Tweets you missed if you want to.

The most interesting update, in my opinion, involves an actual “time out” for people who break Twitter’s terms of service. Mashable reported that some users are receiving notices that Twitter temporarily limited their account features. The full features will be restored after 12 hours, and that countdown does not start until the user clicks a button. In the meantime, only that user’s followers will be able to see his or her Twitter activity.


Twitter Improved its Mute Feature



Twitter iconTwitter has a big problem with online abuse. In response, Twitter appears to have acknowledged this and has made some improvements. It announced this in a blog post titled “Progress on addressing online abuse”.

Twitter has improved its mute feature. The mute feature allows a user to mute accounts that they don’t want to see tweets from. Twitter has now expanded mute so that it functions in notifications. The improved mute feature will enable you to mute keywords, phrases, and even entire conversations that you do not want to see notifications about. The expanded mute feature will be rolled out to all users in the coming days.

In the blog post, Twitter points out that their hateful conduct policy prohibits conduct that targets people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease. Twitter has improved how to report that type of behavior.

Today we’re giving you a more direct way to report this type of conduct for yourself, or for others, whenever you see it happening. This will improve our ability to process these reports, which helps reduce the burden on the person experiencing the abuse, and helps strengthen a culture of collective support on Twitter.

In addition, Twitter has retrained all of their support teams on their policies, including special sessions on cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct, and implemented an ongoing refresher program. Twitter also improved its internal tools and systems in order to deal more effectively with this conduct when it is reported to them.


Twitter Rolls Out Read Receipts on Direct Messages



Twitter iconTwitter is rolling out something new in its Direct Messages feature. When this feature is fully rolled out, it will enable anyone on Twitter who sends another user a Direct Message a read receipt – letting the sender know when (or if) the receiver read the DM. Do we really need this on Twitter?

The Twitter information about Direct Messages explains the read receipt addition this way:

Direct Messages feature read receipts so you know when people have seen your messages. When someone sends you a Direct Message and your Send/Receive read receipts setting is enabled, everyone in the conversation will know when you’ve seen it. This setting is enabled by default but you can turn it off (or back on) through your settings at any time. If you turn off the Send/Receive read receipts setting, you will not be able to see read receipts from other people.

The same information page has instructions about how to turn off the Send/Receive read receipts setting if you don’t want to use it. Turn it off, and you won’t get a read receipt message when you send a DM to another Twitter user. It is unclear if those other people, who have decided to leave the Send/Receive read receipt messages feature on, will still be able to tell when you have read their DM.

Do we really need a read receipt feature on Twitter? Is anyone actually sending Twitter Direct Messages that are so vitally important that they must know the instant the other person reads it?

People who need to connect with co-workers that live in across the country, or around the world, from them tend to use Slack. Everyone can see what the group has been talking about on Slack and respond to it whenever they see it. If you need to set up a meeting, it’s fairly easy to get everyone on Skype at the same time and have a discussion together. Why is Twitter trying to re-invent the wheel when we already have at least two functional wheels?

The Verge points out that the new read receipts feature could suggest that Twitter is working on making its Direct Messaging service have the capabilities of a standalone chat app. That’s a reasonable assumption.

The problem is that Twitter’s chat app will have limitations the other chat apps do not. People leave Twitter because Twitter has a huge problem with harassment. You might find that using Slack, Skype, or another chat app lets you connect to more people than Twitter can.

 


Twitter is Rolling Out a Quality Filter



Twitter iconTwitter announced some new changes that are in the process of being rolled out to users. Their blog post about the changes is titled: “New Ways to Control Your Experience on Twitter”. These new features are intended to give Twitter users more control over what they see and who they interact with on Twitter.

When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters low-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience.

It goes on to say that the feature will not filter content from people you follow or accounts you’ve recently interacted with. Every user gets to choose for themselves if they want to use the quality filter feature. You can turn it on or off whenever you want (and can find it in your notification settings).

The other feature is a change that allows Twitter users to limit the notifications they see. Starting today, everyone will be able to limit notifications to only people they follow on mobile and on Twitter.com. Just like with the quality filter setting, Twitter users can decide for themselves if they want to make use of this change to notifications.

I’m assuming that when Twitter says the quality filter will filter out duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, they mean it will filter out spam accounts and those annoying automatic direct messages people push out seconds after someone follows them. It is unclear if it will, or will not, filter out Tweets that were automatically scheduled (via the use of something outside of Twitter itself).

Ideally, I want to believe that the quality filter, that looks at “account origin and behavior” will put an end to the serial harassment that occurs far too often on Twitter. I’m also hoping the quality filter will finally make looking at a trending hashtag (or any other hashtag, for that matter) nicer by finally filtering out the accounts I’ve blocked.

 


Facebook and Twitter are Making Images More Accessible



image by Redd Angelo from StockSnapIt has been said that adding an image to your post in social media is a good way to get more people to look at it. People who are blind or visually impaired might not be able to see those photos. Facebook and Twitter have made changes that are designed to make the images more accessible.

Facebook posted a blog that explains the change they are making. “With more than 39 million people who are blind, and over 246 million who have a severe visual impairment, many people feel excluded from the conversation around photos on Facebook. We want to build technology that helps the blind community experience Facebook the same way that others enjoy it.”

Facebook has introduced something called automatic alternative text. It generates a description of a photo using advancements in photo recognition technology. People who use screen readers on iOS devices will hear a list of items a photo may contain as they swipe past photos on Facebook. The change is a big one. Facebook states that before, the screen reader would describe a photo as “photo”. Now, the screen reader might say something like “image may contain three people, smiling, outdoors.”

This change was made possible due to Facebook’s object recognition technology. Facebook has launched automatic alt text on iOS screen readers set to English, and plans to add this functionality to other languages and platforms soon.

This follows a change made by Twitter that was designed to improve accessibility. As of March 29, 2016, people who use Twitter’s iOS and Android apps can add descriptions (also known as alternative text) to images in Tweets.

Users can enable that feature by using the compose image descriptions option in the Twitter app’s accessibility settings. The next time you add an image to a Tweet, each thumbnail in the composer will have an add description button. Tap it to see the image, and then add a description (of up to 140 characters). Doing so will help people who use screen readers to “see” your photo.


You Can Now Follow 5,000 Accounts on Twitter



Twitter logoTwitter has increased their current follow limit from 2,000 to 5,000 accounts. This increased follow limit is applicable to all Twitter users. Those of you who have been longing to follow several thousand more Twitter accounts can now go ahead and do so.

Personally, I don’t see the appeal of being able to follow 5,000 people. I’m following less than 300 Twitter accounts, and every so often it feels like too much and I start whittling that number down (for my own sanity). I suspect that brands who use Twitter will take advantage of the increased follow limit to connect with more potential customers.

Twitter announced this change in the form of a tweet on their @Support account. Of course, they did. Where could possibly be a more appropriate place to put this sort of announcement?

There are some limitations to be aware of. Twitter takes a look every user’s “ratio of followers to following”. Every user can now follow 5,000 accounts. Some users can follow more.

For example, if you are only followed by 100 accounts, Twitter will not let you follow 10,000 accounts. Twitter will let you know when you hit your limit by showing you an error message. Later, when more accounts are following you, Twitter will allow you to follow more accounts. The purpose of this limitation seems to be to prevent spam accounts from putting a strain on the site.


Twitter Aims Toward More Diversity



Twitter logoTwitter announced their commitment to a more diverse work force. Information was posted by VP, Diversity and Inclusion, Janet Van Huysse, on the Twitter blog.

In the blog post, she states that Twitter has already been working towards internal diversity goals at different levels in the company. They decided to publicly share those goals. Twitter has defined what these changes will yield a year from now. In short, the new goals are focused in increasing the overall representation of women and underrepresented minorities throughout the whole company.

Those goals (set for 2016) are:

* Increase women overall to 35%

* Increase women in tech roles to 16%

* Increase women in leadership roles to 25%

* Increase underrepresented minorities overall to 11%

* Increase underrepresented minorities in tech roles to 9%

* Increase underrepresented minorities in leadership roles to 6%

Those last three goals come with an asterisk: “US only”.

That’s a good start, and an admirable goal. The LA Times breaks things down a bit. In an article titled “Twitter’s diversity plan: approximately 40 women” written by Tracey Lein and Daina Beth Solomon, the reality of those percentages becomes more clear.

In the article, it says that Twitter has a global workforce of 4,100 people. Right now, 34% of those employees are women. Twitter’s new goal for 2016 is to increase women overall to 35%. That comes out to 41 more women than they currently employ.

The same article notes that underrepresented ethnic groups (mostly blacks and Latinos) currently make up 8% of Twitter’s U.S. Workforce. Twitter wants to increase that number to 9%. In other words, Twitter has made some very modest goals.


Twitter DMs Can Now Go Over 140 Characters



Twitter logoTwitter has removed the 140-character limit from Direct Messages (DM). This allows people to use Twitter’s Direct Messages feature to chat with their friends without having to curtail their thoughts to fit within the 140 character limit. This change does not affect publicly posted Tweets, which must still be 140 characters or less.

The removal of the character limit for Direct Messages started being rolled out on August 12, 2015, on Android and iOS apps, and on Twitter.com, TweetDeck and Twitter for Mac. Those of you who cannot wait to try the new, longer, Direct Messages should make sure your using the latest version of their apps. Twitter’s blog also notes that sending and receiving Direct Messages via SMS will still be limited to 140 characters.

Those of you with a lot of verbose and loquacious Twitter friends may be fearful of the length of the messages they might send you. Or, maybe you are looking forward to sending exceptionally long Direct Messages to some of the people you follow.

Personally, I suspect that it is only a matter of time before spam accounts and brand accounts take advantage of the longer Direct Messages. Now might be a good time to go into your Twitter settings and uncheck the box next to “Receive Direct Messages from anyone”.