Category Archives: Twitter

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.”


Twitter Expanded the Character Limit



Twitter has expanded the number of characters that can fit into a single tweet from 140 to 280. This change is being rolled out “to languages where cramming was an issue.”

Twitter points out that “Japanese, Korean, and Chinese will continue to have 140 characters because cramming is not an issue in these languages. In fact, these languages have always been able to say more with their Tweets because of the density of their writing systems.”

It seems to me that not everyone who uses English on Twitter received the 280 character update right away. Those who have not been given the extra characters to tweet with will get the update eventually.

What will you do with 280 characters? While some people are filling their tweet with emoji, or stretching it out so it takes up a lot of space, others have used the opportunity to post something meaningful.

The Tony Awards tweeted part of the lyrics to “Give My Regards to Broadway”. The Chicago Cubs tweeted their win/loss record. Bob Vorwald, a “Chicago TV sports guy” tweeted the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. The Twitter account for The Office TV show tweeted out a cry for help. Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr. tweeted his most memorable line from the TV show The Wire.

Love it, or hate it, the 280 character count is here to stay. One one hand, I see it as a good thing because it allows people to be creative and to express more of their thoughts in one tweet. Perhaps we will have fewer need for “Threads”. On the other hand, I fear that this change will enable mean people to spew 280 characters of hate at whomever they choose to attack.


Twitter Twits



All social media platforms have their problems, but I thought this one from Twitter took the biscuit. One tweet from 29 June and 4,100 followers. Does no-one check before following back?

 

Perhaps 600 people did check, hence the discrepancy, but that’s a pretty good (or bad) ratio depending on your point of view. If you follow someone first, 87% of the time, they’ll follow you back.

No, I’m not bitter that I only have 796 followers after 1,532 tweets but if anyone wants to improve my self-esteem, I’m @AndrewhPalmer. I always follow back…oh, wait….