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 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 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 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.
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….
Twitter is introducing something that could be a good thing – or a bad thing – depending on your perspective. It is introducing a Promoted Account campaign where Twitter users can pay $99 a month to have their tweets promoted without creating ads or managing campaigns. The program is currently in a private beta (or closed beta) and Twitter is limiting spots to invited accounts.
Anyone can sign up to join the private beta. It appears to be designed for businesses, and I am assuming this includes small businesses and the work done by freelancers. Start by filling out a form to join the private beta program. Your first 30 days of automated promotion will be free. After that, you pay $99 a month and can cancel at any time. Twitter will send you an email confirming your place and the date your free trial will begin.
There are two options to choose from for target audience: Interest or Location. You can select an interest category or a metro region.
By participating in this beta program, you’ll run a Promoted Account campaign for the entire month. You’ll also run a Promoted Tweet campaign that will include up to the first ten (10) Tweets you send each day. Note that your Promoted Tweet campaign won’t include your Retweets, Quote Tweets, or replies. Not every Tweet that is added to your Promoted Tweet campaign will serve an impression, and the extent each Tweet is promoted may vary based on performance.
You cannot customize what Tweets will be promoted, so choose wisely when composing the first 10 Tweets you write each day. Those who are invited into the beta will get a biweekly report that details consistent follower and engagement growth that you earned by being in the program.
This could be a good thing for small businesses that operate in a specific, local, area. It might also be good for artists, bloggers, and podcasters who want to have their website put in front of more eyes. It could also be a bad thing if people’s Twitter feeds starts filling up with ads that they aren’t interested in. If this system backfires, someone might be paying to have their promoted tweets blocked by disgruntled Twitter users.
Spooler was created by Darius Kazemi. (@tinysubversions). He makes all kinds of interesting stuff, and you can find links to it all at Tiny Subversions. Spooler turns Twitter threads into blog posts. It is currently in early beta, and, as such, Darius Kazemi says “expect bugs”.
I decided to give Spooler a try because I was curious about it. I’m not a person who writes daily threads on Twitter, but I have written some. Later, I take the thread I wrote and manually transcribe it onto Tumblr. It’s a bit tedious.
Start by creating a thread on your Twitter account. I learned that you have to do the thread properly – by replying to the previous tweet in the thread – all the way through. If you don’t connect the tweets in your thread that way, Spooler can only identify the last tweet in the thread. But, if you do it right, Spooler can see the entire thread, and will turn it into a blog post.
After your thread is done, go to the Spooler website and give it permission to access your Twitter account. This part of Spooler functions just like whatever other applications you have connected to your Twitter account.
Give Spooler the link to the last tweet in your thread, and it automatically turns your entire thread into a blog post. Spooler allows you to tweet a link to that blog post for people to read.
It’s super easy to use! I wasn’t sure if Spooler would work for me because my Twitter account is private, but it did. I believe that the people who follow me on Twitter can read my Spooler blog post. I’m not sure if people who do not follow me can access the Spooler post I wrote if they look at it on the Spooler website. I wrote that thread specifically so I could test out Spooler. I don’t mind who reads it.
Darius Kazemi wrote a blog post about building Spooler. It is an interesting read for people who want to know his decision making process.
Twitter has announced some updates that are designed to make Twitter a safer place. These improvements build upon the work that Twitter began in November of 2016. One of the most interesting updates involves a “time out” for abusive users. Twitter explained their motivations this way:
Making Twitter a safer place is our primary focus. We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic. That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices. We won’t tolerate it and we’re launching new efforts to stop it.
Twitter announced three changes. One was to stop the creation of new abusive accounts. Twitter is now taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and will stop them from creating new accounts.
Another change is a “safer search”, which “removes Tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results.” Twitter says that content will still be discoverable – if you want to find it. Tweets from people you blocked or muted will not automatically appear when you search for something on Twitter.
Personally, I’m a big fan of that new update. It takes away the instant gratification that some people appear to get by flooding a hashtag on a topic they disagree with with incoherent rage and images that Twitter would describe as “sensitive content”. At least, that’s what I hope the “safer search” will do.
The third change involves abusive or low-quality Tweets. Twitter has been working on identifying those kinds of Tweets and collapsing them. The result is that you will only see the most relevant replies and Tweets. Again, you can go dig up the Tweets you missed if you want to.
The most interesting update, in my opinion, involves an actual “time out” for people who break Twitter’s terms of service. Mashable reported that some users are receiving notices that Twitter temporarily limited their account features. The full features will be restored after 12 hours, and that countdown does not start until the user clicks a button. In the meantime, only that user’s followers will be able to see his or her Twitter activity.
Twitter has a big problem with online abuse. In response, Twitter appears to have acknowledged this and has made some improvements. It announced this in a blog post titled “Progress on addressing online abuse”.
Twitter has improved its mute feature. The mute feature allows a user to mute accounts that they don’t want to see tweets from. Twitter has now expanded mute so that it functions in notifications. The improved mute feature will enable you to mute keywords, phrases, and even entire conversations that you do not want to see notifications about. The expanded mute feature will be rolled out to all users in the coming days.
In the blog post, Twitter points out that their hateful conduct policy prohibits conduct that targets people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease. Twitter has improved how to report that type of behavior.
Today we’re giving you a more direct way to report this type of conduct for yourself, or for others, whenever you see it happening. This will improve our ability to process these reports, which helps reduce the burden on the person experiencing the abuse, and helps strengthen a culture of collective support on Twitter.
In addition, Twitter has retrained all of their support teams on their policies, including special sessions on cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct, and implemented an ongoing refresher program. Twitter also improved its internal tools and systems in order to deal more effectively with this conduct when it is reported to them.
Twitter is rolling out something new in its Direct Messages feature. When this feature is fully rolled out, it will enable anyone on Twitter who sends another user a Direct Message a read receipt – letting the sender know when (or if) the receiver read the DM. Do we really need this on Twitter?
The Twitter information about Direct Messages explains the read receipt addition this way:
Direct Messages feature read receipts so you know when people have seen your messages. When someone sends you a Direct Message and your Send/Receive read receipts setting is enabled, everyone in the conversation will know when you’ve seen it. This setting is enabled by default but you can turn it off (or back on) through your settings at any time. If you turn off the Send/Receive read receipts setting, you will not be able to see read receipts from other people.
The same information page has instructions about how to turn off the Send/Receive read receipts setting if you don’t want to use it. Turn it off, and you won’t get a read receipt message when you send a DM to another Twitter user. It is unclear if those other people, who have decided to leave the Send/Receive read receipt messages feature on, will still be able to tell when you have read their DM.
Do we really need a read receipt feature on Twitter? Is anyone actually sending Twitter Direct Messages that are so vitally important that they must know the instant the other person reads it?
People who need to connect with co-workers that live in across the country, or around the world, from them tend to use Slack. Everyone can see what the group has been talking about on Slack and respond to it whenever they see it. If you need to set up a meeting, it’s fairly easy to get everyone on Skype at the same time and have a discussion together. Why is Twitter trying to re-invent the wheel when we already have at least two functional wheels?
The Verge points out that the new read receipts feature could suggest that Twitter is working on making its Direct Messaging service have the capabilities of a standalone chat app. That’s a reasonable assumption.
The problem is that Twitter’s chat app will have limitations the other chat apps do not. People leave Twitter because Twitter has a huge problem with harassment. You might find that using Slack, Skype, or another chat app lets you connect to more people than Twitter can.