Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter Added Fact-Check to Trump’s Tweets for the First Time



Twitter has done something that I never thought they would actually do. They corrected the misinformation in two of President Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots. According to The Washington Post, this is the first time Twitter has labeled Trump’s tweets with a fact-check.

CNN, which does not require a subscription in order to read things posted on their website, wrote the following:

On Tuesday, Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message that the company has introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims.

The two tweets posted by President Trump that contained misinformation about mail-in ballots have been marked by Twitter with blue text underneath each tweet. The blue text starts with an exclamation point inside a circle. It says: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots”. Clicking on that link leads to a fact-checked curation of information that debunks the misinformation that was posted by the President.

Personally, I think Twitter made the right decision on adding the fact-check link to those two tweets. Doing so follows Twitter’s policy regarding “rule breaking tweets of public officials”. The policy states that when a tweet has a notice placed on it, it will feature less prominently on Twitter. The tweets will no longer appear in: Safe search, Timeline when switched to Top Tweets, Live event pages, Recommended Tweet push notifications, Notifications tab, or Explore.

If nothing else, Twitter’s decision to post a fact-check label on two of President Trump’s tweets sets a precedent. Twitter can do this again, if need be.


Twitter is Testing New Conversation Settings



Twitter announced that it is testing new conversations settings. These settings give the person who posts a tweet more control over who can reply to it. Individual users will have the ability to choose who can reply to their tweet and who can join that conversation.

Before you Tweet, you’ll be able to choose who can reply with three options: everyone (standard Twitter, the default setting), only people you follow, or only people you mention. Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out so that it’s clear for people if they can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, and like these Tweets.

The Twitter announcement of this new feature was written by Director of Product Management Suzanne Xie. She wrote: Twitter is where you go to see and talk about what’s happening. But sometimes, unwanted replies make it hard to have meaningful conversations. (Ahem, reply guys.)

I think she brings up a very good point. There are many of us on Twitter who mostly use the platform to talk to our friends. Nobody wants some random person to jump into that conversation with a mean comment in an attempt to derail the conversation or to start an argument. Those people make Twitter an unpleasant place to be. It sounds like Twitter’s new feature – after it rolls out completely – will make it impossible for reply guys to hassle people in the way that they do now.

Another interesting thing about this is that it has the potential to limit the spread of the garbage posted by trollbots. Right now, the only thing people can do is block and report trollbots, and hope Twitter removes them. The new feature would function as a filter that prevents trollbots from spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other nonsense in the way that they do now.


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.