Tag Archives: Twitter

Trump Administration Launches Tool to Report Censorship



The Trump Administration has launched a web survey for people to use if they feel they have been wrongly censored on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. The survey was created with the online form-building tool Typeform. The first page of the survey says:

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.

The Guardian reported that the survey asks users to provide their names, contact information, social media accounts, and screenshots of interactions with social media platforms. Only US citizens and permanent residents are asked to participate. The Guardian wonders what the Trump administration will do – and what it won’t do – with the names and contact information of the people who fill out the survey.

Typeform tweeted: “We didn’t get any further than this @WhiteHouse”. The tweet included a screenshot of the question “Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?” Typeform checked “no”. The Guardian reported that Typeform is based in Barcelona.

As always, it is a good idea to read a survey’s user agreement before you post any of your information into it. Ars Technica reported that the user agreement gives the Trump Administration a broad license to use the information that users post into the survey, including publishing it.

More specifically, the user agreement “grants the U.S. Government a license to use, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit, post, or otherwise distribute all or part of the Content (including edited, composite, or derivative works made therefrom)”.

“You waive any right to inspect or approve of any Content edited, composite or derivative works made from Content (including those which may contain your information) before use. You are not entitled to any prior notice before the U.S. Government uses Content or Information. You are not entitled to any compensation for Content.”

“You understand that Content may not be altered or deleted by you after submission, You further understand that your submission may be subject to the Federal Records Act and/or the Presidential Records Act and may be subject to public release according to those statutes.”

The Verge reported that near the end of the survey, it invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Another part of the survey points users toward the user agreement, and states: “you understand this form is for information gathering only.” I think there are going to be a lot of disappointed people who presume that filling out the survey will instantly make their suspended or banned accounts accessible once again. In addition, some people may not realize they opted-in to a newsletter.


Social Media Companies to Tackle Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content



Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have responded to the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online by committing to remove that content from their social media sites. As far as I can tell, this is the first time those three companies have decided to work together on removing that type of content.

In March of this year, a terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was livestreamed. The Christchurch Call was created by New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and French President, Emmanuel Macron. Ars Technica reported that Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom have signed on.

The Christchurch Call is a commitment by Governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society. Respect for freedom of expression is fundamental. However, no one has the right to create and share terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have all committed to the Christchurch Call. Each company posted nearly identical details about how they will enact policies to combat the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Each company will be: “identifying appropriate checks on livestreaming, aimed at reducing the risks of disseminating terrorist and violent extremist content online. These may include enhanced vetting measures (such as streamer ratings or scores, account activity, or validation processes) and moderation of certain livestreaming events where appropriate. Checks on livestreaming necessarily will be tailored to the context of specific livestreaming services, including the type of audience, the nature or character of the livestreaming service, and the likelihood of exploitation.”

The companies will also improve technology to detect and remove terrorist and violent extremist content. They will combat hate and bigotry by providing greater support for relevant research – with an emphasis on the impact of online hate on offline discrimination and violence – and supporting capacity and capability of NGOs working to challenge hate and promote pluralism and respect online.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. It is abundantly clear that hateful content online influences some people to take that hate offline and to act in ways that cause harm to other people. Something must be done to prevent that.


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 has Permanently Suspended Alex Jones



Twitter has permanently suspended the accounts of Alex Jones and Infowars. This decision comes after several other companies, including Facebook, Spotify, Apple, Google, and Stitcher removed some or all of the content from Alex Jones and Infowars from their websites and apps.

On August 7, 2018, Jack Dorsey tweeted a thread explaining why Twitter did not suspend Alex Jones. The first tweet included: “We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce it if he does.”

Buzzfeed News reported some information that explains what happened that got Alex Jones and his accounts permanently suspended from Twitter:

…The decision came after a series of provocations from Jones that Twitter deemed in violation of its “abusive behavior” rules.

The incident that inspired Twitter to action appears to have been a series of tweets containing a nine-minute Periscope video of Jones and his camera operators confronting CNN reporter Oliver Darcy. In the video, Jones lambastes Darcy as “the equivalent of like the Hitler Youth” and accuses him of “smiling like a possum that crawled out of the rear end of a dead cow.”

The Twitter Safety account posted a short thread on September 6, 2018, with further information. The first tweet said: “Today, we permanently suspended @realalexjones and @infwars from Twitter and Periscope. We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the account’s past violations.”

Personally, I think Twitter’s decision is a step in the right direction. I’d like to see Twitter hold those who engage in abuse and harassment accountable for what they post. I remember what Twitter was like when it was new and people were nice to each other and interested in making new friends. Maybe Twitter will actually put in the effort clean itself up.

As always whenever a social media website suspends a person who is in the public eye, people feel the need to spread misinformation about what free speech means. Freedom of speech means the government cannot arrest you for what you say. No one is entitled to have an account on a social media website, especially if they choose to break its abuse policy.