Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter Launched a Prototype App Called twttr



Twitter announced the launch of twttr, a prototype app that will allow users to test out new features before those features go live. The purpose of twttr is to enable users to advise Twitter about how to make conversations easier to read, understand, and join.

Those who want to apply to the Twitter Prototype Program can fill out an application form. There are three questions to answer. What kind of device do you primarily use to access Twitter? What primary language(s) do you speak and write? What country do you live in? Twitter will send an email to people who filled out the application form.

To me, the twttr prototype app sounds like a way for Twitter to beta test new features. I’m familiar with video game companies allowing players to opt-in for the opportunity to be invited to alpha test, or beta test, upcoming expansions. This is the first time Twitter has attempted to obtain user feedback before launching a new feature.

TechCrunch points out that twttr was Twitter’s original name. TechCrunch reported that the app will focus on conversations. It will have a different format for replies, with a more rounded chat-like shape. Different types of replies will be color-coded to designate those from the original poster and users you personally follow.

Here is an opportunity for Twitter users to have their thoughts and opinions about a new feature be heard by Twitter. Those who opt-in to twttr, and are invited, will be able to shape upcoming features. Personally, I’m considering checking this out and providing feedback regarding accessibility.


Twitter Says Foreign Efforts to Influence 2018 U.S. Elections was “Limited”



Twitter has released a 2018 U.S. Midterm Retrospective Review, which can be downloaded and viewed. It was accompanied by a blog post by Carlos Monje Jr., Twitter’s Director of Public Policy.

The 2018 U.S. midterm elections were the most tweeted-about midterm election in history. More than 99 million tweets were sent from the first primaries in March through Election Day. Most of these tweets were people sharing their views about candidates and policies.

One really good thing that came out of discussion about the midterm election on Twitter was that people encouraged “friends, family, and complete strangers” to vote. Twitter worked with non-governmental organizations like RockTheVote, Democracy Works, TurboVote Challenge, HeadCount, DoSomething, and Ballotpedia to promote voter registration.

Personally, I think that is fantastic! Democracy works best when everyone who is eligible to vote actually takes the time to do it. It is nice to see that Twitter used it’s power for good in this situation.

Not everything on Twitter that was related to the midterms was positive, however. Twitter took action on nearly 6,000 tweets that they identified as attempted voter suppression, “much of which originated right here in the United States”. Unfortunately, that means that some people who live in the United States used Twitter to spread false information about voting or registering to vote. That’s just sad.

Twitter stated: “In contrast to 2016, we identified much less platform manipulation from bad-faith actors located abroad.” Twitter found limited operations that had the potential to be connected with Iran, Venezuela, and Russia. Twitter clarifies that “the majority of these accounts were proactively suspended in advance of Election Day” due to their internal tools for identifying platform manipulation.

The “take away” from this is clear. There is an ongoing threat from people in foreign countries that want to use Twitter to influence the outcome of American elections. Twitter appears to be making progress on suspending those accounts.

The bigger threat, though, is from Americans who used Twitter to engage in attempted voter suppression. Twitter said the number of “problematic examples” of that were “relatively small”. I think that Twitter users can help make that number smaller if they report tweets that have misinformation about election day, polling place locations, or where and how to register to vote.


Twitter Released a Sparkle Icon



Twitter has released a sparkle icon that you can tap to switch between the latest and top Tweets in your timeline. It is currently available on iOS, and will be coming soon to Android.

BuzzFeed News reported that users on iOS can tap a new icon (represented by the sparkle emoji) in the top-right hand corner of the Twitter app to see the most recent tweets in their timeline. This is more efficient than having to go into settings to switch between algorithmic and reverse-chronological timelines.

Twitter is intending to remove the settings option that allowed users to fully opt out of “top tweets.” The default timeline view (algorithm) is called “Home”. The reverse-chronological timeline is called “Latest Tweets”.

I think Twitter made a good decision to give users the option to see reverse-chronological tweets in their timeline. I find it annoying to have tweets be posted out of chronological order. It makes it harder for me to figure out what people are talking about.

Personally, the feature I’d most like to see Twitter add is one that would entirely remove all the accounts I’ve blocked from my view. It is obvious that Twitter’s system is aware of which accounts I’ve blocked. Why can’t it use that information to filter out those accounts when I look at a trending topic or a popular hashtag?

The sparkle icon that puts my timeline in reverse-chronological order will appease me for now, and I will start using it. But, I’m going to need more than “sparkle” to improve my Twitter experience.


Twitter Created a Dehumanization Policy and Wants your Feedback



Twitter has created a Dehumanization Policy in order to solve a problem. Sometimes, tweets that people consider to be abusive (and likely are) don’t actually break Twitter’s hateful conduct policy. The Dehumanization Policy is part of Twitter’s work to serve a healthy public conversation.

Twitter’s Dehumanization Policy states: You may not dehumanize anyone based on membership in an identifiable group, as this speech can lead to offline harm. The Definitions are:

Dehumanization: Language that treats others as less than human. Dehumanization can occur when others are denied of human qualities (animalistic dehumanization) or when others are denied human nature (mechanistic dehumanization). Examples can include comparing groups to animals and viruses (animalistic), or reducing groups to their genitalia (mechanistic).

Identifiable group: Any group of people that can be distinguished by their shared characteristics such as their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, serious disease, occupation, political beliefs, location, or social practices.

You can share your thoughts about Twitter’s Dehumanization Policy by filling out a short survey (located on the same page where the policy is described). The survey will be available until Tuesday, October 9, 2018, at 6:00am PST.

I have filled out the survey. In my opinion, this policy could potentially help clean up Twitter and make the entire platform a nicer, safer, place to visit.

My hope is that the survey will attract people who understand how to give constructive criticism and who also have good ideas to improve the policy. Or, the survey might get swarmed by nefarious people who just want to cause trouble. If that happens, I doubt Twitter will seek comments on whatever other policies they want to enact.

Twitter points out that Susan Benesch, (from the Dangerous Speech Project) has described dehumanizing language as a hallmark of dangerous speech, because it can make violence seem acceptable.

Twitter’s new Dehumanization Policy is designed to reduce (and, ideally, remove) dehumanizing language. The result might reduce violence that starts online and spreads to “the real world”

Image from Pixabay


Twitter will Release an Abuse Transparency Report



CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to answer questions about Twitter. Personally, I’m not convinced that this will result in any noticeable improvements to Twitter’s harassment problem.

Representative Diana DeGette asked Jack Dorsey some questions about how Twitter is dealing with harassment. She pointed out the Amnesty International report titled “Toxic Twitter: A Toxic Place for Women”. Her questions were:

  • Does Twitter currently have data on reports of abusive conduct, including on the basis of race, religion, gender, or orientation, targeted harassment, and threats of violence?
  • Does Twitter have data on the actions that it has taken to address these complaints?

Part of Jack Dorsey’s response was:

“We do have data, across all violations that we have seen across the platform and the context of those violations. And we do intend, and this will be an initiative this year, to create a transparency report that will make that data more public so that all can learn from it and also be held publicly accountable to it.”

He also said that Twitter doesn’t feel it’s fair that victims of abuse and harassment have to do the work to report it. Jack Dorsey mentioned something about creating technology to recognize abuse before people have to do the reporting themselves.

Personally, I’m extremely skeptical that Twitter will follow through with those intentions. I haven’t seen Twitter do anything that effectively diminishes the amount of harassment that women, people of color, and people who are LGBT have thrown at them. This makes me feel like, despite Jack Dorsey’s words, Twitter doesn’t truly think reducing harassment is a priority.

In other words, based on what we’ve seen so far, it is likely that Jack Dorsey’s words are nothing more than a way to appease members of Congress. I would love to see Twitter finally clean up its mess and make the social media platform friendlier and safer. But, I just don’t see any good reason to get my hopes up that this will happen.


Twitter is Removing Locked Accounts from Your Follower Count



Twitter announced that it is removing locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. This is being done as part of Twitter’s ongoing effort to build trust and encourage healthy conversation on Twitter.

Over the years, we’ve locked accounts when we detected sudden changes in account behavior. In these situations, we reach out to the owners of the accounts and unless they validate the account and reset their passwords, we keep them locked with no ability to log in. This week, we will be removing these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.

Twitter says that most people will see a change of four followers or fewer. Those who have larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop. In short, if you happen to notice that you have a smaller number of followers than before – this could be the reason why.

Locked accounts are ones in which Twitter has detected sudden changes in account behavior. Twitter may lock the account and contact the owner to confirm that they still have control over the account. Sudden changes in behavior may include: tweeting a large volume of unsolicited replies or mentions, tweeting misleading links, or if a large number of accounts block the account after mentioning them.

Twitter sometimes locks an account if they “see email and password combinations from other services posted online and believe that information could put the security of an account at risk.” When that happens, Twitter requires those accounts to change their passwords for protection. Until Twitter confirms that everything is ok, they lock the account – which makes them unable to tweet or see ads.

The accounts Twitter is focusing on are not bot accounts. Instead, these are accounts that were created by real people – but Twitter cannot confirm that the original person who opened the account still has control and access to it.


Twitter Made Changes to Encourage Healthy Conversations



Twitter announced a new approach to how they will handle troll-like behavior that is intended to distort and detract from public conversation on Twitter, particularly in communal areas like conversations and search. Twitter will not remove such content from its service, but will instead put those comments under a “show more replies” link. People will not see those tweets unless they choose to click that link.

In the announcement, Twitter says that “less than 1% of accounts make up the majority of accounts reported for abuse” but that a lot of what is reported doesn’t violate Twitter’s rules. That being said, Twitter is aware that this small number of accounts have a “disproportionately large – and negative – impact on people’s experience on Twitter.”

Today, we use policies, human review processes, and machine learning to help us determine how Tweets are organized and presented in communal places like conversations and search. Now, we’re tackling issues of behaviors that distort and detract from the public conversation in those areas by integrating new behavioral signals into how Tweets are presented. By using new tools to address this conduct from a behavioral perspective, we’re able to improve the health of the conversation, and everyone’s experience on Twitter, without waiting for people who use Twitter to report potential issues to us.

Some of what Twitter is going to take into account include: if an account has not confirmed their email address, if the same person signs up for multiple accounts simultaneously, accounts that repeatedly Tweet and mention accounts that don’t follow them, or behavior that might indicate a coordinated attack. Twitter is also looking at “how accounts are connected to those that violate our rules and how they interact with each other.”

Those signals will now be considered in how Twitter organizes and presents content in communal areas like conversation and search. In short, content that doesn’t technically violate Twitter’s rules, but does disrupt and distort conversation, will be put behind a “show more replies” link. People can choose whether or not they want to click that link. According to Twitter: “The result is that people contributing to the healthy conversation will be more visible in conversations and search.”