Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter Introduces A Crisis Misinformation Policy



Twitter announced that it is introducing a crisis misinformation policy. It appears to be Twitter’s way of elevating credible information while slowing the spread of misinformation. Twitter announced this policy on May 19, 2022. From the blog post:

Today, we’re introducing our crisis management policy – a global policy that will guide our efforts to elevate, credible, authoritative information, and will help to ensure viral misinformation isn’t amplified or recommended by us during crisis. In times of crisis, misleading information can undermine public trust and cause further harm to already vulnerable communities.

Twitter continued: Alongside our existing work to make reliable information more accessible during crisis events, this new approach will help to slow the spread by us of the most visible, misleading content, particularly that which could lead to severe harms.

Twitter was extremely specific about what it will misinformation during a crisis. The company stated that to determine whether claims are misleading, they require verification from multiple credible, public available sources. Those sources include evidence from conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, open-source investigators, journalists, and more.

As soon as Twitter has evidence that a claim may be misleading, the company will not amplify or recommend content that is covered by this policy across Twitter. This includes in the Home timeline, Search, and Explore. Twitter will also prioritize adding warning notices to highly visible Tweets and Tweets from high profile accounts, such as state-affiliated media accounts, verified, official government accounts.

Here are examples of Tweets Twitter may add a warning notice to:

  • False coverage or event reporting, or information that mischaracterizes conditions on the ground as a conflict evolves;
  • False allegations regarding use of force, incursions on territorial sovereignty, or around the use of weapons;
  • Demonstrably false or misleading allegations of war crimes or mass atrocities against specific populations;
  • False information regarding international community response, sanctions, defensive actions, or humanitarian operations.

Strong commentary, efforts to debunk or fact check, and personal anecdotes or first person accounts do not fall within the scope of the policy.

If Twitter finds a Tweet that it concludes is misinformation, the company will put a warning notice on top of that Tweet. The notice will say: This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules on sharing false or misleading info that might bring harm to crisis-affected populations. However, to preserve the content for accountability purposes, Twitter has determined this Tweet should remain available. A person who wants to read the Tweet will be required to click through the warning notice to view the Tweet.

I think it is a good idea for Twitter to put a warning on top of Tweets that violate its crisis misinformation policy. Personally, I don’t want to see graphic violence from a war zone when I’m scrolling through Twitter. As such, if I happen to find a Tweet with the warning on top, I will very likely scroll past it without interacting.

The Verge reported that Twitter’s stronger standards are meant to be limited to specific events. Twitter will initially apply the policy to content concerning the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the company expects to apply the rules to all emerging crisis going forward. 

 


Twitter Files Preliminary Proxy Statement for Acquisition by Elon Musk



There has been a lot of drama since Elon Musk decided to acquire Twitter. This has led to Twitter filing a preliminary proxy statement for acquisition by Elon Musk. It was posted in a press release on May 17, 2022, on PRNewswire.

Twitter Inc. today announced that it has filed its preliminary proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the previously announced agreement for Twitter to be acquired by affiliates of Elon Musk for $54.20 per share in cash.

Twitter is committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable.

The preliminary proxy statement contains important information including the background of, and reasons for, Twitter’s transaction with Mr. Musk.

The transaction is subject to the approval of Twitter stockholders, the receipt if applicable regulatory approvals, and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions, and is expected to close in 2022.

On May 16, 2022: CEO of Twitter Parag Agrawal tweeted a lengthy thread that started with “Let’s talk about spam. And let’s do so with the benefit of data, facts, and context…”

The thread continued with: “First, let me state the obvious: spam harms the experience for real people on Twitter, and therefore can harm our business. As such, we are strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can, every single day. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just wrong.”…

Axios reported that Elon Musk responded to Parag Agrawal’s thread with a poop emoji.

Axios also posted a screenshot of a tweet from Elon Musk in which he wrote: “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher. My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of the <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

According to Axios, analysts believe Musk is using allegations that Twitter’s user base has more bots than the company claims to either back out of the deal or negotiate down a price, especially now that Twitter’s stock price has plummeted amid a broader market downturn.

What’s really going on? Matt Levine at Bloomberg offered some potential possibilities in a post titled: “Elon Musk Does Not Care About Spam Bots”. From the article:

“…I think it is important to be clear here that Musk is lying. The spam bots are not why he is backing away from the deal, as you can tell from the fact that the spam bots are why he did the deal. He has produced no evidence at all that Twitter’s estimates are wrong, and certainly not that they are materially wrong or made in bad faith. (Musk can only get out of the deal if Twitter’s filings are wrong in a way that would cause a “material adverse effect on Twitter, which is vanishingly unlikely)”…

According to Matt Levine, “…Twitter has published the same qualified estimate – that fewer than 5% of monetizable accounts are fake – for the last eight years. Musk knew those estimates, and declined to do any nonpublic due diligence before signing the merger agreement. He knew about the spam bot problem before signing the merger, as we know, because he talked about it constantly while announcing the merger agreement

In addition, Matt Levine wrote: “What has happened in the last three weeks? Well, the prices of stocks have gone down, making the $54.20 price that Musk agreed to look a bit rich….”

In my opinion, Elon Musk is having a very expensive temper tantrum because of the reasons Matt Levine explained in his article. It’s not a good look, especially for someone as rich as Elon Musk is. To me, it sounds like Elon Musk is having “buyers remorse” about his decision to buy Twitter.


Elon Musk Said His Twitter Deal is “On Hold”



Elon Musk said his planned acquisition of Twitter Inc. was “temporarily on hold” because of concerns about fake accounts, a surprise twist that jolted investors and raised questions about his willingness to go through with the $44 billion transaction, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Musk’s “grenade” came in a tweet posted at 5:44 a.m. Eastern Time that was followed just over two hours later by another saying he was “still committed to acquisition.” Lawyers close to Mr. Musk urged him to send that follow-up tweet, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the initial announcement was unorthodox not just in its timing and format, but because Mr. Musk referenced a recent Twitter disclosure about fake and spam accounts that it has made consistently for years – and because Mr. Musk has already signed an agreement for the purchase and waived detailed due diligence on the deal.

The Washington Post reported that Elon Musk’s declaration cast fresh doubt on the seriousness of his offer just as he was scrambling to find new investors to help him fund the deal. It also played into his hand by sending Twitter’s stock price tumbling, though the tweet had the potential to draw regulatory scrutiny.

According to The Washington Post: Spam bots, accounts that peddle cryptocurrency scams and otherwise seek to exploit vulnerable users, have long been a pet peeve of the technology mogul who regularly encounters impersonators in his activity on site.

Axios reported: For Musk to liquidate a significant amount of Tesla stake and to wrangle bankers into giving him billions of dollars in financing, only to backtrack due to a single [Reuters] article, shows how manic the entire takeover process has been.

The New York Times referenced Elon Musk’s contradictory tweets, and reported: The seemingly contradictory messages left many wondering whether Mr. Musk was getting cold feet, trying to drive down the acquisition price or looking for a bit of attention. Perhaps it was some combination of the three. Twitter’s stock yo-yoed in response to his posts.

Personally, I cannot even begin to guess what, exactly, Elon Musk is trying to do. Maybe he doesn’t know, either. It seems that having more money than most people will ever see in their lifetime gives Elon Musk the leverage to play with the rules. I’ll leave it to regulators to determine if he’s crossed the line.


Twitter Doesn’t Want Copypasta Or Duplicate Content



Twitter has decided to crack down on “copypasta” and tweets that include duplicate content. I’m not surprised by this at all, considering that other social media sites, including Instagram, are making a push towards original content.

On May 10, 2022, Twitter tweeted: “We’ve been continuously working to combat spammy & duplicative content on Twitter at scale and our new Copypasta and Duplicate Content policy clarifies what constitutes a violation along with what happens when it is violated”.

As you may have expected, that tweet linked to a Twitter Help Center article titled: “Copypasta and duplicate content policy”. Here are some key points from it:

“Copypasta” (a reference to copy-and-paste functionality to duplicate content) is an Internet slang term that refers to an attempt by multiple individuals to duplicate content from an original source and share it widely across social platforms or forums.

On Twitter, copypasta or duplicative content can be a block of text, image, or a combination of content that has been copied and pasted or duplicated by any means across the platform.

Why is Twitter cracking down on copypasta? Part of the post explains: While copypasta or duplicate content is a tactic for propagating a message, and is used for a wide range of purposes, it can be repetitive, spammy, and disruptive to people’s experience on Twitter. Duplicative content can also be used to artificially amplify content, suppress information or manipulate Twitter’s Trends, Top Search results and conversations across the platform.

To me, it sounds like Twitter is trying to make the platform more authentic, and copypasta is pretty much the opposite of that goal. I know I’ve seen tweets in a “What’s Happening” topic that were word for word identical to several other tweets.

Twitter provided examples of behavior that will limit the visibility of your tweets:

  • Identical or near-identical content Tweeted by an individual account or many accounts, even if the users involved only use one account;
  • Duplicate or copy-pasted Tweets that may disrupt the experience of others, including mentioning users or using hashtags with the same Tweet content in concert with other accounts.

Twitter also provided examples where they won’t limit visibility:

  • Retweeting existing content using the Retweet feature; and
  • Copy-pasting, or Tweeting existing content, combined with your own unique content, commentary, or reaction, or explicitly quoting the copied content.

Examples of a severe violation of the copypasta policy include:

  • Using automation or scripting to post duplicative content;
  • Operating one account or multiple accounts where the majority of the content promotes duplicative content resulting in spammy, inauthentic engagement; and
  • Repeated participation in copypasta and duplicate Tweet efforts to promote content that is in violation of other Twitter Rules.

Overall, I think most Twitter users have no interest in turning their accounts into copypasta and/or duplicative spam. It should be incredibly easy to avoid violating the copypasta policy, especially for people who tweet their own content – or quote-tweet to highlight the content they enjoy that came from other people’s accounts. Personally, I find copypasta tweets to be incredibly boring.


Judge Dismisses Trump Lawsuit Seeking To Lift Twitter Ban



A judge dismissed a lawsuit by former President Donald Trump seeking to lift his ban from Twitter, CNBC reported. Twitter banned Trump on January 8, 2021, citing the risk of the incitement of further violence on the heels of the Capitol riot by a mob of supporters of the then-president two days earlier, CNBC reported.

Trump, the American Conservative Union, and five individuals had sued Twitter and its co-founder Jack Dorsey last year on behalf of themselves and a class of other Twitter users who had been booted from the app.

Judge Donato’s ruling comes nearly two weeks after Trump told CNBC he had no interest in returning to Twitter even if his ban were to be lifted by Elon Musk, the Tesla chief whose $44 billion offer to buy Twitter has been accepted by the company’s board.

CNBC also reported that before the ban, Trump was an avid Twitter user, tweeting an average of more than 30 posts per day toward the end of his presidency. At the time of the ban, Trump had nearly 90 million followers on Twitter. His suit alleged that Twitter violated the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights to free speech, arguing that the bans were due to pressure on the company by Democratic members of Congress.

The Verge reported that Judge James Donato wrote that “Plaintiffs are not starting from a position of strength” in the first paragraph of his analysis.

The Verge also reported that Judge Donato determined that Twitter was not operating as a state actor when it banned Trump – a claim Trump made by noting that some lawmakers had called on Twitter to remove him from the platform.

“Legislators are perfectly free to express opinions without being deemed the official voice of the State,” the ruling says, dismissing a “grab bag” of allegations quoting various Democratic elected officials calling for a ban. Even strident congressional commentary, it concludes, “fits within the normal boundaries of a congressional investigation, as opposed to threats of punitive state action.”

Trump and his fellow plaintiffs also had a Section 230 claim – which failed. Politico reported that Judge Donato’s 17-page decision also rejected arguments from Trump attorneys that a controversial 1996 law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act led to the then-president’s de-platforming in January of last year.

Politico reported that the Section 230 law allows internet sites to police message boards and other user postings without incurring potential liability as a publisher of the content. According to Politico, Judge Denato wrote, “The government cannot plausibly be said to have compelled Twitter’s action through Section 230, which in any event imposed no affirmative obligations on Twitter to act in any particular way.”

Trump’s lawsuits against Facebook and YouTube remain pending. Perhaps the lawyers representing Trump and his fellow plaintiffs will have learned that the Section 230 claim is not going to be compelling to a judge. I’m wondering why the Twitter lawsuit even got this far, considering that Trump has stated that he doesn’t want to go back on Twitter.

Just to clarify, if the government throws you in jail for speech that it disagrees with – that’s a violation of your Freedom of Speech. If a social media site suspends you from the platform because you broke its rules regarding hate speech, inciting violence, etc. – that’s not a violation of your Freedom of Speech. Social Media websites are not part of any state of federal branch of government.


Twitter is Testing Twitter Circle



Twitter logoTwitter is testing a new feature called Twitter Circle. It allows users to share their tweets with up to 150 people, rather than sharing their content publicly, MacRumors reported. Each user will be able to create a Twitter Circle that consists of people who will be able to see the user’s Twitter Circle tweets.

TechCrunch reported that Twitter Circle is the app’s spin on an Instagram-like “Close Friends” feature. According to TechCrunch, Twitter’s feature was teased as one of the many potential product updates in July, and last month, it cropped up live due to a bug. Now, a small number of users can post to their 150 closest friends as the feature enters a live testing phase.

At the time I am writing this, Twitter Circle has not rolled out to me. I’m hoping I will get to try it out soon.

One of the things I really like about Mastodon is that you can have a private account (which can only be seen by the people who you follow). You can pick and choose which of your Toots you want to make public for everyone – not just the people you follow – can see. I tend to use that feature to pass around useful information to those who are new to Mastodon.

Twitter posted a list of information about what Twitter Circle is and how it works. Here are some of the important parts of that list:

Twitter Communities is not the same as Twitter Circle. Communities offers people a dedicated place to connect, share, and get closer to the discussions they care about most with anyone on Twitter. Twitter Circle is for sharing the Tweets you only want to share with the people you choose to see them.

How is Twitter Circle different from having a protected account? Setting your account to protected status, means only your followers can see Tweets you share each time you compose and send a Tweet. You update this setting once, and it remains in place until you turn it off. With Twitter Circle you choose your audience each time you compose a Tweet. You’ll have the option to send one Tweet to your Circle and the next to all your followers.

Twitter Circle is available to a limited number of people globally on Twitter for iOS, Twitter for Android and twitter.com. If Twitter Circle is available to you, you’ll see the option to create a Circle when you compose a new Tweet.

People in your Twitter Circle can’t use the Retweet icon to share your Twitter Circle Tweets on Twitter, or in their own Twitter Circle. Twitter reminds you that your Twitter Circle members can still download, capture and/or re-share images or screenshots of your Twitter Circle content.

Only you can see the full list of people in your Twitter Circle. Although people won’t see a list of Circle members, when someone likes or replies to a Twitter Circle Tweet you share, members see your interaction, unless your account is protected. If someone in your Twitter Circle keeps a protected account, only their followers who are also in your Twitter Circle will see their interaction.


People Lost Followers On Twitter After Elon Musk’s Buyout



As you may have heard, Elon Musk has bought Twitter. Of course, that won’t happen instantaneously, and probably will have to be looked at by regulators. If the deal goes through, Twitter will become a privately held company.

Not long after that was announced, some people noticed that their follower count had dropped – or that it increased. TechCrunch reported that the fluctuations in follower counts were organic in nature. In short, Twitter said this was due to new account creation and deactivation and were not caused by bots or due to action on Twitter’s part.

NBC News reported that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), as well as other accounts on the political right, “saw their follower counts skyrocket”.

NBC News also reported that pop star Katy Perry, the third-most followed user on Twitter lost more than 200,000 followers after the announcement. Former President Barack Obama, the most followed user on Twitter whose number increased every day in April, lost more than 300,000 followers after the announcement. Mark Hamill tweeted that he lost 8,000 followers.

The Verge reported that data compiled by The Verge from social media statistics site Social Blade
shows that in the two days since the deal was completed, influential conservative accounts have increased at roughly ten times the average daily rate for the month leading up to the acquisition. According to The Verge, popular liberal accounts have suffered, collectively losing thousands of followers on April 25th and 26th after a month of gains.

The Verge compiled a list of 100 influential Twitter accounts, 50 each from the political left and right and each with a minimum of 100,000 followers.

Out of the 50 conservative accounts in the dataset, 48 made unusually large follower gains on April 25th and 26th, while only two accounts lost followers. On April 26th, the conservative accounts in their dataset gained 17,229 followers on average. The single largest gain went to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who gained 141,556 followers.

All 50 of the liberal accounts in their dataset lost followers across the same two days. On average, each account lost 6,062 followers on April 26th, with the single largest loss from the account of Vice President Kamala Harris, whose follower count decreased by 22,453.

What does all this mean? All we can do is speculate. It appears that a large number of conservative people think that Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into a site where anything goes and they can post whatever they want to without facing any sort of consequence. We can also speculate that some people who are liberals have concerns about what Twitter might become after the acquisition. Some announced that they would be closing their account.

Right now, there is no way to be certain what Twitter will become after regulators take a look at the acquisition. For now, the block button still works, and it is still possible to curate your Twitter feed to ensure you can keep in touch with your friends.