Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter Requires All Employees to Work From Home



Earlier this month, Twitter was “strongly encouraging work from home”. Today, Twitter updated that decision and has now informed all employees that they must work from home. This decision was made to protect the health and safety of their “Tweeps” after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

For contractors and hourly workers who are not able to perform their responsibilities from home, Twitter will continue to pay their labor costs to cover standard working hours while Twitter’s work-from-home guidance and/or travel restrictions related to their assigned office are in effect.

Twitter will help parents with the additional expenses they may experience after their child’s daycare closes due to COVID-19. Twitter will do this by providing reimbursement for the additional daycare expenses incurred.

All Twitter employees will receive reimbursement toward their home office set up expenses. Twitter is working with their vendors to ensure their contractors’ work-from-home needs are met as well. The reimbursement policy includes: home office equipment such as desks, desk chairs, and ergonomic chair cushions. Twitter is also allowing “Tweeps” to expense online fees while working from home.

Interestingly, Twitter created a #FlockTalk program that “Tweeps” can use to “come together during difficult times, share what’s going on around them, find community, and be heard by leaders”. To me, it sounds like that program can help isolated workers to continue to feel that they are part of a community.

So far, Twitter is the only company I’ve heard of that is not only requiring all their workers to work from home, but also providing them with the financial reimbursement to be able to do that effectively. It would not surprise me if Twitter eventually moved to a workforce that is entirely work-from-home.


Twitter Added “Manipulated” Tag on Altered Video of Joe Biden



You may have seen a video on Twitter featuring Joe Biden, in which he appears to say “We can only re-elect Donald Trump”. It turns out that video was altered in order to make it sound like that was what he said. Twitter responded by adding a “Manipulated Media” tag to the video. The tag will immediately alert those who watch the video that it has been manipulated.

Twitter’s Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy states the following:

You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm. In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.

When Twitter has reason to believe that media shared in a Tweet has been “significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated”, they will do one or all of the following:

  •  Apply a label to the content where it appears in the Twitter product
  •  Show a warning to people before they share or like the content
  •  Reduce visibility of the content on Twitter and/or prevent it from being recommended
  •  Provide a link to additional explanations or clarifications, such as in a Twitter Moment or landing page.

CNN reported that what Joe Biden actually said was: “ Excuse me. We can only re-elect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.” The manipulated video that was shared on Twitter cut off Joe Biden’s sentence in order to make it appear that he said, “We can only re-elect Donald Trump.” In other words, the manipulated video provided misinformation to those who viewed it.

Washington Post tech policy reporter Cat Zakrzewski tweeted: “Just in: Twitter applied its new manipulated video label for the first time to a deceptively edited video of Joe Biden. It was shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino, and retweeted by the President”.

The tweet shows a screenshot of Dan Scavino’s tweet in which the video was posted. Below the video is an exclamation point inside a circle, next to the words “Manipulated media.”

To me, Twitter is doing the right thing in regards to this video. It is not okay for people to intentionally falsify information about a politician during their campaign. Manipulated video confuses voters because it isn’t always immediately apparent that what they are watching has been altered. Those who feel the need to create lies in order to win an election aren’t going to get away with it on Twitter anymore.


Twitter Expands Rules Against Hateful Conduct to Include Disease



Twitter updated its rules against hateful conduct. In July of 2019, Twitter expanded their rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion. Now, it has further expanded the rules to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of age, disability, or disease.

TechCrunch reported that Twitter’s hateful conduct policy also includes a ban on dehumanizing speech across many categories including race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity.

Twitter provided some examples of tweets that would break their rule against hateful conduct:

  •  [Religious Group] should be punished. We are not doing enough to rid us of those filthy animals.
  • All [Age Group] are leaches and don’t deserve any support from us.
  •  People with [Disability] are subhuman and shouldn’t be seen in public.
  •  People with [Disease] are rats that contaminate everyone around them.

If you aren’t sure whether or not the thing you are about to tweet breaks Twitter’s hateful conduct use, use the Twitter-provided examples above as a template. If your tweet is similar to those examples, you probably shouldn’t post it.

Twitter will require tweets like these to be removed from Twitter when they’re reported to them. If reported, tweets that break this rule pertaining to age, disease, and/or disability, sent before March 5, 2020, will need to be deleted, but will not directly result in account suspensions. Tweets that break the rule that were posted after March 5, 2020, could result in suspensions.

Personally, I think this is good policy. I remember the experience of using Twitter as being a whole lot nicer when it was launched than it is today. It is entirely possible to talk about age, disability, disease, and/or religion without dehumanizing people. If it’s too hard for you to use Twitter without dehumanizing people – then you shouldn’t be on Twitter anymore.


Twitter will Label and Warn about Deepfakes, but won’t Remove them



Twitter announced in October of this year that they are working on a new policy to address synthetic and manipulated media (also called “deepfakes”). Today, Twitter presented a draft of what they plan to do when they see manipulated media that purposely tries to mislead or confuse people.

Based on conversations with experts and researchers, Twitter proposes that synthetic and manipulated media be defined as: “any photo, audio, or video that has been significantly altered or fabricated in a way that intends to mislead people or changes its original meaning.” Twitter notes that these are sometimes referred to as deepfakes or shallowfakes.

You may have seen some examples of this on social media. There was an altered video passed around of U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, which was made to appear as though she was slurring her words. There is also a video where someone took faces from well-known paintings and made it look as if the faces were speaking.

Twitter made a draft policy regarding deepfakes, in which Twitter may:

  • Place a notice next to Tweets that share synthetic or manipulated media
  • Warn people before they share or like Tweets with synthetic or manipulated media; or
  • Add a link – for example, to a news article or Twitter Moment – so that people can read more about why various sources believe the media is synthetic or manipulated.

In addition, Twitter may remove tweets that include synthetic or manipulated media that is misleading and could threaten someone’s physical safety or lead to other serious harm. It appears that other than this exception, Twitter is intending to allow deepfakes to spread. Twitter has a survey for people who want to to provide feedback about this draft policy.

Personally, I don’t think Twitter’s draft policy will be very effective. Those who view deepfakes that match their opinions or political views are unlikely to accept that what they see has been altered. Warning people that they are about to like or share a deepfake isn’t going to deter those who think the deepfake is more believable than reality, and who think that Twitter is “censoring” content.


Twitter will Show More Ads to Users with High Follower Counts



Twitter’s third-quarter earnings were not as good as expected, and the company has decided to blame it on technology that helps advertisers promote mobile apps on the platform. Possibly as a result of this situation, Twitter has decided to show more ads to users who have high-follower counts.

CNBC reported that Twitter’s “Mobile Application Promotion” (MAP) suite of products that helps advertisers promote mobile apps on the platform, including app installs, conversions, or engagements on apps, had technological issues. This is, apparently, why Twitter’s shares went down as much as 20% after the third-quarter earnings were announced.

The details about what was happening with MAP are sketchy (in my opinion). According to CNBC, Twitter said it inadvertently used information that users wanted to be private as a way of serving ads to them, including their device data.

For example, Twitter gives advertisers the opportunity to target based on the devices they’re using to access the platform. They can reach audiences based on a version of their operating system, a specific device, WiFi connectivity, mobile carrier and whether a device is new, which indicates they might be more on the hunt for new apps or services.

Before Twitter lets the advertisers get grabby with all that data, the MAP was supposed to ask the user for permission first. That’s not what actually happened, though. Twitter Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said: “That setting wasn’t working as expected.” Twitter was using those device settings “even if people had asked us not to.”

What is Twitter going to do to fix this problem? It says it has an improved MAP in the works, but it doesn’t know when that will be ready.

CNBC reported that in recent weeks, Twitter users who have a high-follower count have been commenting that they were seeing more ads than before. Twitter admitted that, in the past, it showed fewer (or no) ads to those accounts. But now, Twitter is going to show them more ads. Perhaps those who are annoyed with ads will start using ad blockers or browsers that have ad blockers built in.


Twitter Suspended 936 China-Linked Accounts



Twitter disclosed that it has suspended accounts for violations of its platform management policies. Those accounts include a “state-backed information operation focused on the situation on Hong Kong”, as well as spam accounts.

This disclosure consists of 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Overall, these accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground. Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protest.

Twitter stated that Twitter is blocked in PRC, and many of the accounts that were suspended were using VPNs. Some accounts access Twitter from specific unlocked iP addresses that originated in mainland China. The accounts Twitter shared today “represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts – many created following initial suspensions – were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.”

Some of the violations that resulted in a ban include:

  • Spam
  • Coordinated activity
  • Fake accounts
  • Attributed activity
  • Ban evasion

Twitter is adding archives containing complete Tweet and user information for the 936 accounts they have disclosed to their archive of information operations. The archive is the largest of its kind in the industry.

It bothers me that Twitter is so easy to use by those who wish to manipulate public opinion regarding significant politically-related matters. Doing so seems very mean-spirited and deceitful. There is something about Twitter that attracts nefarious people to use it in ways that were not intended (or allowed).


Twitter Tests Letting Users Follow Topics



Twitter is in the process of letting users follow topics in a similar way to how they already follow accounts. According to The Verge, the feature is not quite live yet. When it goes live, users will be able to follow topics like sports teams, celebrities, and television shows. A selection of tweets of topics that are of interest to you will appear alongside tweets in your home feed.

Topics will be curated by Twitter, with individual tweets being identified through machine learning rather than editorial curation, the company said. For now, only sports-related interests can be followed, said Rob Bishop, a Twitter product manager. The feature is now being tested on Android.

The Verge reported that Twitter made this announcement at an event with reporters, which probably explains why I can’t find anything official about it on Twitter’s accounts or its blog. I’m going to assume Twitter will issue a press release, or something with more details about this change, soon.

From what I can tell, there are some cool things about being able to follow topics. You can mute topics. So, for example, if you followed a topic about a specific sport, but the information isn’t about your team right now, you can mute it. The Verge reported that people can mute TV show topics – to avoid spoilers.

Overall, it sounds like Twitter is trying something different that could, potentially, reduce the toxic polarization that Twitter is currently full of. If Twitter makes it easier to find things users enjoy, perhaps this will influence people to be nicer to each other.