Tag Archives: Twitter

Twitter Suspended Accounts After Other People Abused a Policy

Twitter logoTwitter posted information on their blog titled: “Expanding our private information policy to include media”, on November 30, 2021. This policy was an update to the previous version, in which publishing other people’s private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs was already not allowed on Twitter.

How did this policy work out? Not very well at all. The Washington Post reported that Twitter said it had mistakenly suspended accounts under the new policy following a flood of “coordinated and malicious reports” targeting anti-extremism researchers and journalists.

Shortly after the rule was announced Tuesday, a group of far-right activists and white supremacists began urging their followers to file reports against accounts that are used to identify neo-Nazis, monitor extremists and document the attendees of hate rallies.

Twitter added a new category to the policy: media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.

Twitter also provided information about sharing private media. Twitter needs a first-person report or a report from an authorized representative in order to make a determination that the image or video has been shared without permission.

According to The Washington Post, Twitter said the rule regarding the takedown of videos and photos was designed to prevent “the misuse of media to harass or intimidate private individuals,” and that it would make exceptions in cases where the photos or videos could add “value to public discourse.”

Twitter should have taken a moment to consider how the updated policy could be intentionally misused before it allowed the policy to take effect. Instead, Twitter learned the hard way what happens when it fails to take into account how malicious people on the platform could abuse a policy that was intended to provide protection.

A Twitter spokesperson told The Washington Post that the company had been overwhelmed with a “significant amount” of malicious reports and that its “enforcement teams made several errors” in the aftermath. The spokesperson did not detail how many reports had been filed, but said that “a dozen erroneous suspensions” had occurred.

Twitter is Fixing the Disappearing Tweet Problem

Sometimes, Twitter auto-refreshes your feed while you are in the middle of reading a tweet. As you might expect, some people find this to be annoying. Twitter is aware of this problem and intends to do something to fix it.

In a short thread of tweets, @TwitterSupport tweeted the following:

“Let’s talk about Tweets disappearing from view mid-read when the timeline seems to auto-refresh. We know it’s a frustrating experience, so we’re working on changing it. Over the next two months, we’ll be rolling out updates to the way we show you Tweets so they don’t disappear.”

“The background: A Tweet would move up the timeline as replies were added to the ongoing convo. Since some convos can evolve quickly, this made it so you didn’t see the same Tweet repeated in the TL. Our changes will keep your TL fresh and keep Tweets from disappearing mid-read.”

“An update to the disappearing Tweet experience is rolling out for web! Now you can choose when you want new Tweets to load into your timeline — click the Tweet counter bar at the top”.

TechCrunch reported that Twitter acknowledged that in the past, tweets would often disappear from view mid-read when a user’s timeline would automatically refresh. Now, users can load new tweets when they want to.

TechCrunch also reported that Twitter’s iOS and Android apps don’t automatically refresh users’ timelines when they open up the app. Instead, users can click on the highlighted home button on the navigation bar to load new tweets.

I think this is a good idea as it sounds like it will make threaded conversations (or responses to a popular tweet) make sense. If a tweet disappears, it could make it harder to understand the context of the conversation.

Another option is to use TweetDeck. It automatically keeps everything in chronological order. It allows users to click on individual tweets if they want to take their time and read through the responses that tweet got. I’ve never had the disappearing tweet problem while using TweetDeck.

Twitter Introduced Twitter Blue – Which Requires a Subscription

Twitter has introduced Twitter Blue. Earlier this year, Twitter introduced its new subscription required feature in Australia and Canada. It is now available in the United States and New Zealand across iOS, Android, and the web. The subscription costs $2.99 a month for those in the US, and 4.49 for those in New Zealand.

Here is a list of Twitter Blue features:

Support a thriving free press: A portion of the revenue from Twitter Blue subscription fees goes directly to publishers within Twitter’s network. It appears that publishers that are viewable through Twitter Blue will show articles that are ad free. (Available on android and desktop only).

Top Articles: Subscribers can easily view the most-shared articles in their network over the last 24 hours, so they can immediately see what’s important in their community. Twitter says this gives subscribers a new and complementary way to catch up on the latest on Twitter. (Available on Android and desktop only).

Customization: Subscribers get exclusive app icons, colorful themes, (available on iOS only) and Bookmark folders. Twitter is also introducing Custom Navigation (available on iOS only), which gives subscribers the ability to customize what appears in their navigation bar for quick access to the Twitter destinations they care about most.

Undo Tweet: Subscribers can preview and perfect Tweets before they are sent. Subscribers also get access to Reader, which turns long threads into an easier-to-read experience. They can also change the text size within Reader.

I’d like to point out that being able to change the text size is something that should be available for everyone who uses Twitter. Hiding an accessibility feature behind a subscription paywall is unacceptable. It is cruel to offer what will be an extremely useful feature for people with low-vision or who are legally blind – and then prevent this group from accessing it unless they pay Twitter for it.

Twitter Blue Labs: Twitter is testing a feature called Blue Labs. Subscribers will get access to features Twitter is testing before non-subscribers can use them. Right now, subscribers will be able to upload videos of 10-minutes (as opposed to the standard 2 minutes for non-subscribers) via Longer Video Uploads (available on desktop only). Subscribers can also pin their favorite conversations to the top of their DMs with Pinned Conversations (available on iOS only).

Is it worth it to you to pay a subscription fee to get access to Twitter Blue? Android users may not think so because many of the subscription features are only for iOS or desktop. Those who primarily use Twitter on desktop will also miss out on some features. Those who use Twitter on iOS might choose to subscribe because they will be getting most of the Twitter Blue features.

Personally, don’t see any features in Twitter Blue that I would want badly enough to buy a subscription. I’m also skeptical about what “free press” sites Twitter would choose to include.

Twitter Unsure Why its Algorithm Amplifies Right-Leaning Politicians

Twitter posted information about an in-depth analysis of whether its recommendation algorithms amplify political content. The study examined Tweets from elected officials in seven countries: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The study included analysis of millions of Tweets from April 1 to August 15, 2020.

The study examined algorithmic amplification of political content in the Home Timeline (the one that is chronological) by asking the following questions:

  •  How much algorithmic amplification does political content from elected officials receive in Twitter’s algorithmically ranked Home timeline versus in the reverse chronological timeline? Does this amplification vary across political parties or within a political party?
  •  Are some types of political groups algorithmically amplified more than others? Are these trends consistent across countries?
  •  Are some news outlets amplified more by algorithms than others? Does news media algorithmic amplification favor one side of the political spectrum more than the other?

Here is what Twitter found:

  •  Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline.
  •  Group effects did not translate to individual effects. In other words, since party affiliation or ideology is not a factor [Twitter’s] systems consider when recommending content, two individuals in the same party would not necessarily see the same amplification.
  •  In six out of seven countries – all but Germany – Tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group.
  • Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organizations [All Sides and Ad Fontes Media] see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets. However, as highlighted in the paper, these third party rankings make their own, independent classifications and as such the results of the analysis may vary depending on which source is used.

In short, they found that Twitter’s algorithms amplifies right-leaning politicians and right-leaning news outlets. It appears Twitter does not know why that is happening. “Further root cause analysis is required in order to determine what, if any, changes are required to reduce adverse impacts by our Home timeline algorithm,” Twitter stated.

In my opinion, Twitter needs to find out why its algorithms are selecting Tweets from right-leaning politicians and news outlets over Tweets from left-leaning politicians and news outlets. Favoring one side – no matter which side the algorithm chooses – could unfairly influence the result of real-world elections.

Twitter has Acquired Sphere

Sphere announced that it has been acquired by Twitter. In a post on Medium, Sphere wrote, “We’ve joined to accelerate our mission of bringing people closer together through community.” TechCrunch reported that a Twitter spokesperson confirmed the Sphere acquisition news to them.

…We originally built a marketplace of paid experts from all around the world, connecting them through group chat. What we realized is that some of the most helpful and knowledgable conversations came from groups where members felt a strong sense of belonging to one another. In other words, at the heart of our challenge was helping every single person find their community.

According to Sphere, their feed automatically clears out old or irrelevant chats to prevent groups from feeling chaotic. Their chats call out essential messages (like polls, events, and announcements) and make it more likely for people to respond. Sphere has custom appreciations that encourage people to express genuine gratitude. Sphere says that by welcoming participation, they learned groups can become more productive, vibrant, purposeful and close.

In the Medium post, Sphere expressed admiration for “Twitter’s growing investment in community-building with the release of Communities, Spaces, and features that promote safety”. In my opinion, it sounds like the people at Sphere are wonderfully optimistic about what their experience with Twitter will be like. I hope it works out the way they want it to.

Those who are currently using Sphere need to be aware that Sphere will be winding down their standalone product next month. It appears the all 20 of the team of Sphere workers will be working on Twitter’s Communities, Direct Messages and Creators initiatives soon.

Sometimes, companies acquire smaller companies who do not appear to have very much in common with what the bigger company does. In this case, it sounds like Twitter and Sphere are a good match.

Twitter is Testing a New Feature Called Communities

Twitter has been introducing new features one after the other. So far, they’ve introduced Safety Mode, edge-to-edge photos, and a way to remove a follower without blocking them. The newest feature is called Twitter Communities.

That feels like a lot of new changes in a short span of time, and I think it could overwhelm some Twitter users. It also feels like Twitter is using the “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” method.

Communities are described by Twitter as “imagine an alternate timeline where everyone just gets you”. Twitter is testing Communities, each of which will focus on one, specific, topic. The purpose is to help people easily find and connect with people who want to talk about the same things you do.

When you join a Community, you can Tweet only to your Community for a focused conversation. There will be Community moderators who pick the focus, create the Community rules, and invite the people who will make it a great place for conversation. Twitter provided examples of Communities they are testing: dogs, weather, sneakers, skincare, and astrology. More Communities will be added later.

Communities are publicly visible so everyone can see what’s being discussed. Personally, I think this is an excellent idea. Being able to see what is said could influence a person who enjoys that topic to join that Community.

All Communities and their members must follow the Twitter Rules. Both members and non-members of Communities can report any potential violations of the Twitter Rules to Twitter. I can see the good and bad in this. It is good to report Communities that are trying to organize hate raids (on Twitter) or who appear to be selling illegal goods. I worry that bad people will report Communities of marginalized people who have not broken any of Twitter’s rules.

Moderators have to continuously meet eligibility requirements including not violating the Twitter Rules. That makes sense. If you want more information, there is now an @JoinCommunities official Twitter account.

Twitter Tests A New Way to Curate Your Followers

Twitter announced that it is testing a way to remove a follower without blocking them. Here’s how Twitter Support described this feature in a Tweet:

“We’re making it easier to be the curator of your own followers list. Now testing on the web: remove a follower without blocking them. To remove a follower, go to your profile and click “Followers”, then click the three dot icon and select “Remove this follower”.

Previously, the easiest way to remove a follower was to block them, and then unblock them. Doing so would remove the follower. Twitter must have noticed that people were doing that to get rid of followers that were strangers who tweeted some really bad takes.

Twitter provided a screenshot that shows what happens when you remove a follower through the new feature. A box appears that asks: “Remove this follower?” It tells the person that the follower they want to remove won’t be notified by Twitter that they have been removed. Twitter also clarifies that the removed follower could follow you again in the future.

If you have a private account, (also called protected tweets) you can go through the same process to remove an unwanted follower. If they notice, and try to follow you again – they cannot automatically do it. Protected accounts put up a barrier and give the person who owns the account time to decide whether or not to let someone follow them.

The Verge reported that the Remove Follower feature is more of a remote unfollow button, “a gentler way to create some distance between you and someone else on Twitter.” The Verge also pointed out that, previously, the only way to remove a follower was with a “soft block” (blocking and then unblocking them again).

I think the ability to curate your followers – and remove the problematic ones – is a good idea. People change over the years, and your interests may no longer match the interests of some of your followers. It is also a good way to remove the friend or family member who Tweets misinformation from sketchy websites. Send them on their way!