Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter Makes Changes Ahead of 2020 US Election



Twitter announced additional, significant product and enforcement updates that it says will increase context and encourage more thoughtful consideration before tweets are amplified. I believe that certain US politicians are going to become irate about these changes. Overall, I think these changes will be beneficial to most people who use Twitter.

Financial Times reported that these changes come weeks before Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook head Mark Zuckerburg are due to testify before the Senate commerce committee as part of a review of Section 230, which gives them immunity from being sued over content that they publish.

Previous to these changes, Twitter already implemented policy that does not allow anyone on Twitter to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.

They have expanded that policy:

  • People on Twitter, including candidates for office, may not claim an election win before it is authoritatively called. To determine the results of an election in the US, Twitter require either an announcement from state officials, or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls. Tweets which include premature claims will be labeled and direct people to our official US election page.
  • Tweets meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results, such as through violent action, will be subject to removal. This covers all Congressional races and the Presidential Election.
  • Starting next week, when people attempt to Retweet one of the tweets with a misleading information label, they will see a prompt pointing them to credible information about the topic before they are able to amplify it. Tweets with labels are already de-amplified through Twitter’s recommendation systems, and these new prompts will give individuals more context on labeled Tweets so they can make informed decisions on whether they want to amplify it to their followers.
  • Additional warnings and restrictions will be added on tweets with a misleading information label from US political figures (including candidates and campaign accounts), US-based accounts with more than 100,000 followers, or that obtain significant engagement. People must tap through a warning to see these Tweets, and then will only be able to Quote Tweet. Likes, Retweets, and replies will be turned off, and these tweets won’t be recommended on Twitter.
  • Beginning on October 20 and continuing through the end of Election week in the US, Twitter will prompt people to Quote Tweet instead of Retweet. Twitter hopes it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people will add their own thoughts, reactions, and perspectives to the conversation.

You Can Now Limit Who Can Respond To Your Tweets



Twitter has now made it possible for you to decide who can respond to your tweets. Twitter states that these new settings help some people feel safer and could lead to more meaningful conversations. It appears that the new settings reduce harassment on the platform.

Here’s how it works. Before you Tweet, choose who can reply with three options: 1) everyone (standard Twitter, and the default setting), 2) only people you follow, 3) only people you mention. Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out for people who can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, share, and like these Tweets.

Twitter started testing these options in May. Here is some of what they learned:

  •  These settings help some some people feel safer
  •  People told Twitter they felt more comfortable Tweeting and more protected from spam and abuse.
  •  Problematic repliers aren’t finding another way – these settings prevented an average of three potentially abusive replies while only adding one potentially abusive Retweet with Comment, And, Twitter didn’t see any uptick in unwanted Direct Messages.
  •  People who face abuse find these settings helpful – those who have submitted abuse reports are 3x more likely to use these settings.
  •  It’s a new method to block out noise – 60% of people who used this during the test didn’t use Mute or Block.

Twitter also found that these options enable more meaningful conversations. People who use these settings share more of their thoughts about topics such as Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, politics, and social issues. Make your tweet followers only – and no “reply guys” can interact with your tweet and derail the conversation.

Personally, I think these features are a nice addition to Twitter. It will reduce harassment in part because people won’t have the satisfaction of directly being mean to someone else. Based on Twitter’s research while they were testing these new options, it appears that those who want to be mean don’t seem to want to use the Retweet with Comment options to do it.


Twitter Posted an Update About their Security Incident



Twitter has posted an update about what happened regarding what they are calling their “security incident”. Not everything is being revealed right now, in order to protect the security of their efforts. Twitter said it will provide more details, where possible, in the future.

The attackers successfully manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems, including getting through our two-factor protections. As of now, we know that they accessed tools only available to our internal support teams to target 130 Twitter accounts. For 45 of those accounts, the attackers were able to initiate a password reset, login to the account, and send Tweets. We are continuing our forensic review of all of the accounts to confirm all actions that may have been taken. In addition, we believe they may have attempted to sell some of the usernames.

In eight of the affected Twitter accounts, the attackers downloaded the account’s information through Twitter’s “Your Twitter Data” tool. It is a tool that is meant to provide an account owner with a summary of their Twitter account details and activity.

Twitter states that the attackers did not see the private information of the majority of Twitter users. For the 130 accounts that were targeted, Twitter revealed:

  • Attackers were not able to view account passwords, as those are not stored in plain text or available through the tools used in the attack.
  • Attackers were able to view personal information including email addresses and phone numbers, which are displayed to some users of Twitter’s internal support tools.
  • In cases where an account was taken over by the attacker, they may have been able to view additional information. Twitter’s forensic investigation of these activities is still ongoing.

Twitter is also aware that they need to “begin the long work of rebuilding trust with the people who use and depend on Twitter.” This is definitely something Twitter needs to worry about.

The accounts that got hacked belonged to current and former politicians, big name brands, and celebrities. These are the people who have a huge number of followers, might be purchasing ads, and who have a lot of influence. If that group now has concerns about Twitter’s security measures – they might leave the platform.


Twitter is Rolling Out an Audio Tweet Feature



Twitter is rolling out a feature that will enable users to tweet with their voice. The ability to create voice tweets will be available to a limited group of people on Twitter on iOS to start, but in the coming weeks everyone on iOS should be able to tweet with their voice.

Twitter is where you go to talk about what’s happening. Over the years, photos, videos, gifs, and extra characters have allowed you to add your own flair and personality to your conversations. But sometimes 280 characters aren’t enough and some conversational nuances are lost in translation. So starting today, we’re testing a new feature that will add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter – your very own voice.

After recording your voice for 140 seconds, a new voice tweet starts automatically to create a thread. Right now, it is not possible to tweet with audio through replies or Retweets with Comment.

One thing to know is that your current profile photo will be added as a static image on your voice tweet. You can change your profile photo any time you want, but the one you used while recording a specific voice tweet will not change.

My hope is that this feature will be used to make Twitter more authentic. Hearing a person’s voice makes it easier to understand what they were trying to say, whereas text could be misinterpreted.

Tweets done entirely in audio are not going to be accessible for people who are deaf. Hopefully, Twitter will make sure that a transcription accompanies each voice tweet. They could add it under the profile photo and match it to the pace of the tweeter’s voice.

I have some concerns that nefarious users might try to use audio tweets as a way to get around Twitter’s fact-checkers, who might not be prepared to review audio as quickly as they do text.

It remains to be seen whether or not politicians will shift to audio tweets. Anyone can quickly read a tweet to know what it says. But, the content of audio tweets is only accessible if you click on them and listen. Audio tweets might shorten the reach of politicians, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


Twitter Removed Inauthentic Networks of Accounts



Twitter disclosed 32,242 accounts to their archives of state-linked information operations. The account sets recently published to the archives include three distinct operations that Twitter has attributed to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Turkey.

Twitter states that every account and piece of content associate with these operations has been permanently removed from the service.

According to Twitter, the PRC disclosure relates to two interconnected sets of accounts. One set has 23,750 accounts that comprise the core of the network. They had low follower accounts and low engagement.

The other set had approximately 150,000 amplifier accounts, designed to boost the things the first group posted. The core group of accounts were caught early and failed to receive consider traction on Twitter. The majority of the 150,000 amplifier accounts had little to no follower counts and were strategically designed to artificially inflate impression metrics and engage with the core accounts.

These groups predominantly tweeted in Chinese languages and spread geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP). They also posted deceptive narratives about the political dynamics of Hong Kong.

The Russia network of 1,152 accounts were suspended for violations of Twitter’s platform manipulation policy, specifically for cross-posting and amplifying content in an inauthentic, coordinated manner for political ends. These accounts promoted the United Russia Party and attacked political dissidents.

The Turkey network of 7,340 accounts were suspended for inauthentic activity, primarily targeted at domestic accounts in Turkey. It was a collection of fake and compromised accounts that were used to amplify political narratives favorable to the AK Parti, and demonstrated support for President Erdogan.

Personally, I think Twitter is making a good start with these efforts – but it could still do more. It would be good for Twitter to look into networks of inauthentic accounts that tweet in English, and that are politically motivated. One of the things that bothers me about Twitter is the plethora of inauthentic accounts that clutter up the place.


Twitter Added Fact-Check to Trump’s Tweets for the First Time



Twitter has done something that I never thought they would actually do. They corrected the misinformation in two of President Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots. According to The Washington Post, this is the first time Twitter has labeled Trump’s tweets with a fact-check.

CNN, which does not require a subscription in order to read things posted on their website, wrote the following:

On Tuesday, Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message that the company has introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims.

The two tweets posted by President Trump that contained misinformation about mail-in ballots have been marked by Twitter with blue text underneath each tweet. The blue text starts with an exclamation point inside a circle. It says: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots”. Clicking on that link leads to a fact-checked curation of information that debunks the misinformation that was posted by the President.

Personally, I think Twitter made the right decision on adding the fact-check link to those two tweets. Doing so follows Twitter’s policy regarding “rule breaking tweets of public officials”. The policy states that when a tweet has a notice placed on it, it will feature less prominently on Twitter. The tweets will no longer appear in: Safe search, Timeline when switched to Top Tweets, Live event pages, Recommended Tweet push notifications, Notifications tab, or Explore.

If nothing else, Twitter’s decision to post a fact-check label on two of President Trump’s tweets sets a precedent. Twitter can do this again, if need be.


Twitter is Testing New Conversation Settings



Twitter announced that it is testing new conversations settings. These settings give the person who posts a tweet more control over who can reply to it. Individual users will have the ability to choose who can reply to their tweet and who can join that conversation.

Before you Tweet, you’ll be able to choose who can reply with three options: everyone (standard Twitter, the default setting), only people you follow, or only people you mention. Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out so that it’s clear for people if they can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, and like these Tweets.

The Twitter announcement of this new feature was written by Director of Product Management Suzanne Xie. She wrote: Twitter is where you go to see and talk about what’s happening. But sometimes, unwanted replies make it hard to have meaningful conversations. (Ahem, reply guys.)

I think she brings up a very good point. There are many of us on Twitter who mostly use the platform to talk to our friends. Nobody wants some random person to jump into that conversation with a mean comment in an attempt to derail the conversation or to start an argument. Those people make Twitter an unpleasant place to be. It sounds like Twitter’s new feature – after it rolls out completely – will make it impossible for reply guys to hassle people in the way that they do now.

Another interesting thing about this is that it has the potential to limit the spread of the garbage posted by trollbots. Right now, the only thing people can do is block and report trollbots, and hope Twitter removes them. The new feature would function as a filter that prevents trollbots from spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other nonsense in the way that they do now.