Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter Adds New Notice to Rule Breaking Tweets of Public Officials



Twitter has finally come up with a plan to deal with the tweets of government officials and political figures who post content that breaks Twitter’s rules. It involves a new notice attached to the tweet that will provide additional clarity. Twitter will not remove those tweets, or suspend the account (in most cases).

Twitter explained it’s reasoning this way:

Serving the public conversation includes providing the ability for anyone to talk about what matters to them; this can be especially important when engaging with government officials and political figures. By nature of their positions, these leaders have outsized influence and sometimes say things that could be considered controversial or invite debate and discussion. A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable.

The new notice will apply to tweets from the following criteria:

  • Be or represent a government official, be running for office, or be considered for a government position (i.e., next in line, awaiting confirmation, named successor to an appointed position)
  • Have more than 100,000 followers;
  • Be verified

Twitter points out there are cases, such as direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual, that are unlikely to be considered in the public interest. The implication is that Twitter might actually remove those kinds of tweets, or perhaps suspend the account.

Here is what Twitter’s Trust and Safety, Legal, Public Policy, and regional teams will consider before adding the new notice to a tweet:

  • The immediacy and severity of potential harm from the rule violation, with an emphasis on ensuring physical safety;
  • Whether preserving a Tweet will allow others to hold the government official, candidate for public office, or appointee accountable for their statements;
  • Whether there are other sources of information about this statement available for the public to stay informed;
  • If removal would inadvertently hide context or prevent people from understanding an issue of public concern; and
  • If the Tweet provides a unique context or perspective not available elsewhere that is necessary to a broader discussion.

When a tweet has a notice placed on it, it will feature less prominently on Twitter. It will not longer appear in: Safe search, Timeline when switched to Top Tweets, Live event pages, Recommend Tweet push notifications, Notifications tab, or Explore.

It is worth noting that the new notice will not be applied to any tweets that were posted before today.

Personally, I am interested in seeing how the new notice will be used. I expect that some Twitter users will feel like the notice doesn’t go far enough towards cleaning up Twitter, while others will complain that the new notice is “shadow banning” or “censorship”.


Twitter is Questioning if Nazis Belong on Twitter



Twitter has started conducing in-house research in an effort to better understand how white nationalists and white supremacists use Twitter. According to Vice, Twitter is trying to decide whether those groups should be banned from Twitter, or if they should be allowed to stay so their views can be debated by others.

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, legal and public policy, said Twitter believes “counter-speech and conversation are a force for good, and they can act as a basis for de-radicalization, and we’ve seen that happen on other platforms, anecdotally.”

“So one of the things we’re working with academics on is some research here to confirm that this is the case,” she added.

Vice reported that the idea that “counter-speech” can counteract white supremacy specifically on Twitter is one that academics are skeptical of. Vice spoke with Becca Lewis, who researches networks on far right influencers on social media for the nonprofit Data & Society, and Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters. Both said that Twitter’s platform makes that very unlikely.

Part of the reason is because changing someone’s mind requires engaging in good-faith conversations. Twitter is simply not a good environment for that. Instead, Twitter is often used for brigading. People also make bots and sock puppet accounts specifically to harass people.

I find it strange that Twitter is considering allowing white nationalists and white supremacists to remain on their platform. It is abundantly clear that most people don’t want those groups around. For example, every time Twitter announces a new feature, several users respond with “Great! Now ban the Nazis!”


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.