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Twitter plans to expand its misinformation labels — but will they apply to Trump?

May 26, 2020 No Comments

President Trump is again testing Twitter’s stomach for misinformation flowing from its most prominent users.

In a flurry of recent tweets, Trump floated conspiracy theories about the death of Lori Klausutis, an intern for former Congressman Joe Scarborough who was found dead in his Florida office in 2001 — a freak accident a medical examiner reported that resulted from a fall stemming from an undiagnosed heart condition. Scarborough, a political commentator and host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, is a prominent Trump critic and a frequent target for the president’s political ire.

The medical evaluation and lack of any evidence suggesting something nefarious in the former intern’s death has not been enough to discourage Trump from revisiting the topic frequently in recent days.

“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder?” Trump tweeted in mid-May. A week later, Trump encouraged his followers to “Keep digging, use forensic geniuses!” on the long-closed case.

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Twitter expressed that the company is “deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family.”

“We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

When asked for clarity about what product and policy changes the company was referring to, Twitter pointed us to its blog post on the labels the company introduced to flag “synthetic and manipulated media” and more recently COVID-19 misinformation. The company indicated that it plans to expand the use of misinformation labels outside of those existing categories.

Update: On Tuesday afternoon, Twitter quietly added a fact-checking link to two tweets from the president containing false claims about mail-in voting. 

Twitter will not apply a label or warning to Trump’s recent wave of Scarborough conspiracy tweets, but the suggestion here is that future labels could be used to mitigate harm in situations like this one. Whether that means labeling unfounded accusations of criminality or labeling that kind of claim when made by the president of the United States remains to be seen.

In March, Twitter gave a video shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino and retweeted by Trump its “manipulated content” label — a rare action against the president’s account. The misleadingly edited video showed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden calling to re-elect Trump.

According to the blog post Twitter pointed us to, the company previously said it will add new labels to “provide context around different types of unverified claims and rumors as needed.”

Even within existing categories — COVID-19 misinformation and manipulated media — Twitter has so far been reluctant to apply labels to high-profile accounts like that of the president, a frequent purveyor of online misinformation.

Twitter also recently introduced a system of warnings that hide a tweet, requiring the user to click through to view it. The tweets that are hidden behind warnings “[depend] on the propensity for harm and type of misleading information” they contain.

Trump’s renewed interest in promoting the baseless conspiracy theory prompted the young woman’s widower T.J. Klausutis to write a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey requesting that the president’s tweets be removed.

In the letter, Klausutis told Dorsey he views protecting his late wife’s memory as part of his marital obligation, even in her death. “My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,” Klausutis wrote.

“An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.”


Social – TechCrunch


How Twitter is contributing to support masses during the Coronavirus outbreak

May 23, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • When it’s about spreading information, social media platforms are the biggest medium.
  • As search and social giants are providing special measures, this article takes a look at what Twitter has done to support people around the globe during these testing times.
  • Twitter condemned any spread of misleading information on its platform.
  • Twitter further donated a million dollars to support journalism during the pandemic.
  • More details on all these and a list of reliable Twitter accounts you can follow for accurate information.

The Coronavirus pandemic has created some unusual times and as we know unusual times call for extraordinary measures. As search and social giants are providing special measures, this article takes a look at what Twitter has done to support people around the globe during these testing times.

The role of social media during the pandemic

Social media platforms account to entertain almost 4.6 billion people from all around the world. The leading platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are among the top contributor to creating a well-connected platform for active users. News and updates spread within second on these platforms reaching to millions, fastest than the one broadcasted through television channels. So, when it’s about spreading information, social media platforms are the biggest medium.  

At present, every single platform is making their efforts to creating the safest channel to spread information and to soothe the people down while guiding them about the havocs of the pandemic and ways through which they can save themselves. In this struggle, let’s discuss the role of Twitter, one of the most crowded social media platforms. 

How Twitter is taking care of its users

Twitter is a free platform to socialize. With the use of hashtags and a seamless interface, users are connected with each other despite the region they belong to. During the first three months of 2020, active users on Twitter maximized which reflects its authenticity and positioning among the active social media users. In fact, Twitter ad engagement is up 23%.

With the onset of the pandemic, social media platforms have to face a number of accusations. One of the most important accusations was the spread of false information. 

Banned misinformation from the platform

Twitter condemned any spread of misleading information on its platform. As the platform entertains millions of users, the spread of misinformation was creating panic among the users and misleading them regarding the seriousness of the Pandemic. At last, the microblogging platform got updated and any information that was verified as false or manipulative gets instantly deleted. Much like Facebook, the platform began to promote information by verifying it from credible sources. Whether it’s about the global healthcare spending statistic or the count of infected patients around the world, the accurate numbers began to spread. 

Twitter tweet

Source: Twitter Safety Status

Among the prominent aspects been observed to banning the content involved untrue information about the affected ones, reasons that triggered the virus claims about specific religious groups or communities getting prone to the disease, racism, and discrimination. Anything related to these aspects gets deleted and banned in an instant. 

Apart from this, Twitter authorities also informed about efforts being taken to automate the removal of abusive and manipulated posts. With the help of machine learning, the platform gets scrutinize and any content that can cause harm to an individual gets restricted to share or post. In the following words, the authorities made their claim about the updates, “As we’ve said on many occasions, our approach to protecting the public conversation is never static. That’s particularly relevant in these unprecedented times. We intend to review our thinking daily and will ensure we’re sharing updates here on any new clarifications to our rules or major changes to how we’re enforcing them,” 

Twitter Donates a million dollars to support journalism during the pandemic

Just when the news about banning misleading information on Twitter was making the headlines, Twitter released a new update about its contribution. The platform is donating a million dollars to two organizations The International Women’s Media Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists to report authentic news about the COVID-19 pandemic. It proves to be a great step in keeping the world safe from the pandemic any guiding more and more people about ways to prevent getting affected. The journalist will shed light on all the stories that can prove to be helpful in fighting the outbreak. 

As journalists are playing a major role in getting into the government and healthcare sectors and scooping out authentic and rich information about the Coronavirus, it’s imperative to appreciate and help them. Journalists all around the world are among the front line warriors to defeat the pandemic and making it easier for people like us to get the updates. Considering their efforts, Twitter stepped forward to support them and help them in gathering news more efficiently 

Best Twitter accounts to follow during the pandemic

Twitter can help you out in many ways to overcome the stress of the isolation or to pas days of being quarantined. To those who are looking for authentic accounts to grab information and updated about the pandemic, they must follow the below-listed accounts.  

The accounts of Dr. Sylvie Briandand of Dr. Kate Lovett who share the most authentic updates about the pandemic and steps to prevent it. 

Twitter accounts to follow during pandemic

If you want to seek professional advice about the common health issues you are experiencing you can get the updates from the account of David Juurlink. He explains and talks about the symptoms and ways to prevent them. 

Apart from all of these accounts, the organizations are also contributing to connecting with the people. You can also opt for the U.S. FDA Twitter handle.

Twitter accounts to follow US NDA

If you want to kill your time, you can find some great entertaining accounts as well. Like the one of Tret Andrew who is literally sharing his day’s updates with the followers connecting with them after every few hours. Or you can tune in to the house party session of Z THE DOM and stir more fun to your day.  

Wrap up  

Whether it’s about Twitter or any other platform, efforts are being made to prevent the Coronavirus outbreak and guide people to stay calm and prepared to handle any healthcare urgency. With such unparalleled efforts of every platform and organization, the world will soon be free from the havocs of this COVID-19 pandemic.  

The post How Twitter is contributing to support masses during the Coronavirus outbreak appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Twitter broadly bans any COVID-19 tweets that could help the virus spread

March 19, 2020 No Comments

You don’t have to go far to find someone online downplaying the severity of a global pandemic that’s shut down entire economies and ground everyday life to a halt. Knowing that, Twitter will take extra steps to remove tweets that put people at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus as it rapidly sweeps through communities around the globe.

On Wednesday, Twitter updated its safety policy to prohibit tweets that “could place people at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.” The new policy bans tweets denying expert guidance on the virus, encouraging “fake or ineffective treatments, preventions and diagnostic techniques” as well as tweets that mislead users by pretending to be from health authorities or experts.

In its blog post, Twitter says that it will “require people to remove Tweets” in these cases and we’ve asked the company for more clarification on what that looks like.

Update: Twitter indicated that it will take context like account history into account in making its enforcement determinations, which it says remain unchanged. As far as having users remove offending tweets, according to the company’s existing guidance “When we determine that a Tweet violated the Twitter Rules, we require the violator to remove it before they can Tweet again.” A user is notified of this via email and given a chance to delete the tweet or make an appeal. While that is happening, the tweet is hidden from view.

Given the new guidelines Twitter has outlined, the platform is going to have its work cut out for it. Under the ruleset, a tweet that claims “social distancing is not effective” would be subject to removal. Twitter will also require users to delete tweets telling followers to do ineffective or dangerous things like drinking bleach, even if the tweet is “made in jest” because that content can prove harmful when taken out of context.

Twitter has also banned tweets that make calls to action encouraging other users to behave in a way counter to what health authorities recommend, with the example tweet of “coronavirus is a fraud and not real – go out and patronize your local bar!!” Some political figures have faced criticism for similar statements in recent days, including Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who encouraged Fox Business viewers “to just go out… go to your local pub.”

The rules will also ban tweets in which people play armchair doctor and make claims like “if you have a wet cough, it’s not coronavirus — but a dry cough is.” Users will also not be allowed to make coronavirus claims that single out groups of people based on race or nationality, like discouraging followers to eat at Chinese restaurants. Other race-based claims like John McAfee’s tweet that “Coronavirus cannot attack black people” won’t fly either.

Twitter’s new set of coronavirus-related misinformation rules is as thorough as it will be difficult to enforce. Many, many tweets would appear to fall under the deepened policy designed to prevent health misinformation from spreading on the social network.

To meet the unique challenge posed by the pandemic, Twitter said it has put a “content severity triage system” in place so that the most potentially damaging tweets can be identified and removed, with less emphasis on users flagging the tweets themselves. The company previously announced that it would be relying more heavily on automation and machine learning to act on content that violates platform rules, which Twitter admits may lead to mistakes in some cases.

In an effort to rise to the gravity of the situation, Twitter’s policies lay out an aggressive and fluid approach that we don’t always see from social networks. We’ll be following along to see how the platform experiment goes in the coming days and if Twitter can help stem the flow of potentially lethal misinformation as the world wakes up to the global threat of COVID-19.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter rewrites Developer Policy to better support academic research and use of ‘good’ bots

March 11, 2020 No Comments

Twitter today updated its Developer Policy to clarify rules around data usage, including in academic research, as well as its position on bots, among other things. The policy has also been entirely rewritten in an effort to simplify the language used and make it more conversational, Twitter says. The new policy has been shortened from eight sections to four, and the accompanying Twitter Developer Agreement has been updated to align with the Policy changes, as well.

One of the more notable updates to the new policy is a change to the rules to better support non-commercial research.

Twitter data is used to study topics like spam, abuse and other areas related to conversation health, the company noted, and it wants these efforts to continue. The revised policy now allows the use of the Twitter API for academic research purposes. In addition, Twitter is simplifying its rules around the redistribution of Twitter data to aid researchers. Now, researchers will be able to share an unlimited number of Tweet IDs and/or User IDs, if they’re doing so on behalf of an academic institution and for the sole purpose of non-commercial research, such as peer review, says Twitter.

The company is also revising rules to clarify how developers are to proceed when the use cases for Twitter data change. In the new policy, developers are informed that they must notify the company of any “substantive” modification to their use case and receive approval before using Twitter content for that purpose. Not doing so will result in suspension and termination of their API and data access, Twitter warns.

The policy additionally outlines when and where “off-Twitter matching” is permitted, meaning when a Twitter account is being associated with a profile built using other data. Either the developer will need to obtain opt-in consent from the user in question, or they can only proceed if the information was provided by the person or is based on publicly available data.

The above changes are focused on ensuring Twitter data is accessible when being used for something of merit, like academic research, and that it’s protected from more questionable use cases.

Finally, the revamped policy clarifies that not all bots are bad. Some even enhance the Twitter experience, the company says, or provide useful information. As examples of good bots, Twitter pointed to the fun account @everycolorbot and informative @earthquakesSF.

Twitter identifies a bot as any account where behaviors like “creating, publishing, and interacting with Tweets or Direct Messages are automated in some way through our API.”

Going forward, developers must specify if they’re operating a bot account, what the account is, and who is behind it. This way, explains Twitter, “it’s easier for everyone on Twitter to know what’s a bot – and what’s not.”

Of course, those operating bots for more nefarious purposes — like spreading propaganda or disinformation — will likely just ignore this policy and hope not to be found out. This particular change follows the recent finding that a quarter of all tweets about climate change were coming from bots posting messages of climate change denialism. In addition, it was recently discovered that Trump supporters and QAnon conspiracists were using an app called Power10 to turn their Twitter accounts into bots.

Twitter says since it introduced a new developer review process in July 2018, it has reviewed over a million developer applications and approved 75%. It also suspended more than 144,000 apps from bad actors in the last six months and revamped its developer application to be easier to use. It’s now working on the next generation of the Twitter API and is continuing to explore new products, including through its testing program, Twitter Developer Labs.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter CEO’s weak argument why investors shouldn’t fire him

March 5, 2020 No Comments

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey might not spend six months a year in Africa, claims the real product development is under the hood and gives an excuse for deleting Vine before it could become TikTok. Today he tweeted, via Twitter’s investor relations account, a multi-pronged defense of his leadership and the company’s progress.

The proclamations come as notorious activist investor Elliott Management prepares to pressure Twitter into a slew of reforms, potentially including replacing Dorsey with a new CEO, Bloomberg reported last week. Sources confirmed to TechCrunch that Elliott has taken a 4% to 5% stake in Twitter. Elliott has previously bullied eBay, AT&T and other major corporations into making changes and triggered CEO departures.

Specifically, Elliott is seeking change because of Twitter’s weak market performance, which as of last month had fallen 6.2% since July 2015, while Facebook had grown 121%. The corporate raider reportedly takes issue with Dorsey also running fintech giant Square, and having planned to spend up to six months a year in Africa. Dorsey tweeted that “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!),” despite cryptocurrency having little to do with Twitter.

Rapid executive turnover is another sore spot. Finally, Twitter is seen as moving glacially slow on product development, with little about its core service changing in the past five years beyond a move from 140 to 280 characters per tweet. Competing social apps like Facebook and Snapchat have made landmark acquisitions and launched significant new products like Marketplace, Stories and Discover.

Dorsey spoke today at the Morgan Stanley investor conference, though apparently didn’t field questions about Elliott’s incursion. The CEO did take to his platform to lay out an argument for why Twitter is doing better than it looks, though without mentioning the activist investor directly. That type of response, without mentioning to whom it’s directed, is popularly known as a subtweet. Here’s what he outlined:

On democracy: Twitter has prioritized healthy conversation and now “the #1 initiative is the integrity of the conversation around the elections” around the world, which it’s learning from. It’s now using humans and machine learning to weed out misinformation, yet Twitter still hasn’t rolled out labels on false news despite Facebook launching them in late 2016.

On revenue: Twitter expects to complete a rebuild of its core ad server in the first half of 2020, and it’s improving the experience of mobile app install ads so it can court more performance ad dollars. This comes seven years late to Facebook’s big push around app install ads.

On shutting down products: Dorsey claims that “5 years ago we had to do a really hard reset and that takes time to build from… we had been a company that was trying to do too many things…” But was it? Other than Moments, which largely flopped, and the move to the algorithmic feed ranking, Twitter sure didn’t seem to be doing too much and was already being criticized for slow product evolution as it tried to avoid disturbing its most hardcore users.

On stagnation: “Some people talk about the slow pace of development at Twitter. The expectation is to see surface level changes, but the most impactful changes are happening below the surface,” Dorsey claims, citing using machine learning to improve feed and notification relevance.

Yet it seems telling that Twitter suddenly announced yesterday that it was testing Instagram Stories-esque feature Fleets in Brazil. No launch event. No U.S. beta. No indication of when it might roll out elsewhere. It seems like hasty and suspiciously convenient timing for a reveal that might convince investors it is actually building new things.

On talent: Twitter is apparently hiring top engineers “that maybe we couldn’t get 3 years ago.” 2017 was also Twitter’s share price low point of $ 14 compared to $ 34 today, so it’s not much of an accomplishment that hiring is easier now. Dorsey claims that “Engineering is my main focus. Everything else follows from that.” Yet it’s been years since fail whales were prevalent, and the core concern now is that there’s not enough to do on Twitter, rather than what it does offer doesn’t function well.

On Jack himself: Dorsey says he should have added more context “about my intention to spend a few months in Africa this year,” including its growing population that’s still getting online. Yet the “Huge opportunity especially for young people to join Twitter” seemed far from his mind as he focused on how crypto trading was driving adoption of Square’s Cash App.

“I need to reevaluate” the plan to work from Africa “in light of COVID-19 and everything else going on.” That makes coronavirus a nice scapegoat for the decision while the phrase “everything else” is doing some very heavy lifting in the face of Elliott’s activist investing.

Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On fighting harassment: Nothing. The fact that Twitter’s most severe ongoing problem doesn’t even get a mention should clue you in to how many troubles have stacked up in front of Dorsey.

Running Twitter is a big job. So big it’s seen a slew of leaders ranging from founders like Ev Williams to hired guns like Dick Costolo peel off after mediocre performance. If Dorsey wants to stay CEO, that should be his full-time, work-from-headquarters gig.

This isn’t just another business. Twitter is a crucial communications utility for the world. Its absence of innovation, failure to defend vulnerable users and an inability to deliver financially has massive repercussions for society. It means Twitter hasn’t had the products or kept the users to earn the profits to be able to invest in solving its problems. Making Twitter live up to its potential is no side hustle.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Twitter acquires Stories template maker Chroma Labs

February 19, 2020 No Comments

Is “Twitter Stories” on the way? Or will we just get tools to send prettier tweets? Well now Twitter has the talent for both as it’s just acquired Chroma Labs. Co-founded by Instagram Boomerang inventor John Barnett, Chroma Labs’ Chroma Stories app let you fill in stylish layout templates and frames for posting collages and more to Instagram Stories, Snapchat, and more.

Rather than keeping Chroma Stories around, Twitter will be splitting the Chroma Labs squad up to work on its product, design and engineering teams. The Chroma Stories iPhone app won’t be shut down, but it won’t get more updates and will only work until there’s some breaking change to iOS.

“When we founded Chroma Labs in 2018, we set out to build a company to inspire creativity and help people tell their visual stories. During the past year, we’ve enabled creators and businesses around the world to create millions of stories with the Chroma Stories app” the Chroma Labs team writes on its site. “We’re proud of this work, and look forward to continuing our mission at a larger scale – with one of the most important services in the world.”

We’ve reached out to Twitter for more details on the deal and any price paid. [Update: Twitter confirms this is an acquisition, not just and acquihire of the team as it first appeared, though Chroma Stories is shutting down. It refused to disclose the terms of the acquisition, but said all seven employees of Chroma Labs are coming aboard. The team will be working on the Conversations division at Twitter, and the deal is meant to boost its talent, leadership, and expertise for serving public discussions. A Twitter spokesperson also confirms that Chroma will shut down its .business and future versions of the app will not be available.]

Founded in late 2018, Chroma Labs had raised a seed round in early 2019 and counted Sweet Capital, Index Ventures, and Combine VC as investors. Barnett’s fellow co-founders include CTO Alex Li, who was an engineering manager on Facebook Photos and Instagram Stories; and Joshua Harris was a product design manager on the Oculus Rift and Facebook’s augmented reality filters.

With Chroma Stories, you could choose between retro filters, holiday themed frames, and snazzy collage templates to make your Storie look special amidst the millions posted each day. Sensor Tower estimates Chroma Stories had 37,000 downloads to date. That tepid reception despite the app’s quality might explain why the team is joining Twitter.

By snatching up some of the smartest talent in visual storytelling, Twitter could give its text-focused app some spice. It’s one of the few social apps without a Stories product already, and its creative tools are quite limited. Better ways to lay out photos in tweets could make Twitter more beautiful and less exhausting to sift through. That might make it more appealing to teens and help it boost its user count, which now lags behind Snapchat.

Twitter has become the world’s public record for words. The Chroma Labs talent might make it the real-time gallery for art and design as well.

[Update 3:05pm Pacific: Twitter confirms that this is a full acquisition of the Chroma Labs company, not just an acquisition as we originally printed.]


Social – TechCrunch


Senators attempt to force Twitter to ban Iranian leadership

February 9, 2020 No Comments

Four senators, including Ted Cruz (R-TX), have asserted that, as a consequence of sanctions placed on Iran, Twitter must cease providing its services to Ayatollah Khamenei and other leaders in the country. “The Ayatollah enjoys zero protection from the United States Bill of Rights,” he wrote in a letter to the company.

Although the move comes as relations between Iran and the U.S. grow ever more strained following a series of violent incidents connected with the country, it is also an attempt to exert executive power over tech companies that have resisted the yoke of federal regulation.

In a letter (PDF) sent to Twitter, the U.S. Attorney for Northern California and others, the senators explained the rationale for their demand. The Obama administration created rules in 2014 that specifically made an exception to export rules allowing free messaging and social media-type services to be offered to Iranians. The idea being that, though Twitter and many other such apps are mostly banned in Iran, it could not hurt to offer tools for free expression and communication to its citizens.

But there are exceptions even to exceptions, and this is what Cruz et al. claim now apply to Twitter. Specifically, they say that following Trump’s executive order in June imposing additional sanctions on Iran, the Khamenei and foreign minister Javad Zarif have lost the protection the law previously offered.

“All Americans — including you and Twitter — are prohibited from ‘the making of any contribution of provision of…goods or services’ to them,” the letter reads. “While the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of Americans… the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to U.S. sanctions laws.”

Not being an expert in import/export law myself, I can’t judge the merits of this argument, though on its face it seems sound. But it may not be a question of whether Twitter can or can’t “offer services” to persons blacklisted by the federal government.

There is the argument that Twitter choosing to offer the use of its platform to others is itself a protected act of free speech.

After all, the White House could just as easily have issued an E.O. blacklisting the leaders of the countries subject to the travel ban. Should that be a possibility? Is it the right of a U.S. company to extend its platform for free speech to anyone in the world, regardless of their legal status in the eyes of the government?

Sens. Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marco Rubio (R-NJ) think otherwise.

Twitter declined to comment.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter suspends ‘large network’ of fake accounts used to match phone numbers to users

February 4, 2020 No Comments

Twitter announced today that over the holidays it identified and shut down “a large network of fake accounts,” as well as many others “located in a wide range of countries,” collectively abusing a feature that let them match phone numbers to user accounts.

TechCrunch previously reported this same issue on December 24, which is also the day Twitter says that it “became aware” that the abuse was taking place. Security researcher Ibrahim Balic found that a bug in Twitter’s Android app let him submit millions of phone numbers through an official API, which returned any associated user account.

The feature is intended, if you have enabled it, to let friends who have your number look up your Twitter handle. But obviously submitting millions of numbers goes “beyond its intended use case.”

If you had turned this feature off, you weren’t affected by this bug. Fortunately for users in the EU this was opt-in there. But for the rest of the world it’s opt-out — so if you had a phone number associated with your account, you may have been affected.

Furthermore, the phone numbers include those provided for purposes of two-factor authentication, so those outside the EU may have been vulnerable to this exploit without realizing it.

It seems that after Twitter was alerted to the issue and shut down the original network (presumably Balic’s), its investigators identified many more accounts that were exploiting this flaw, though a representative declined to provide a number or estimate.

“We observed a particularly high volume of requests coming from individual IP addresses located within Iran, Israel, and Malaysia,” wrote the company in a security bulletin. “It is possible that some of these IP addresses may have ties to state-sponsored actors,” the post continued.

This suspicion was justified by the observation of unrestricted access to Twitter from the IPs in Iran, where the platform is blocked from general access — suggesting government involvement. Belic, when contacted by TechCrunch, said that his work was not state-sponsored in any way.

Any account suspected of abusing the feature was suspended, and the API itself has been modified to prevent any further exploitation of this type. I’ve asked the company how many accounts were suspended and will update this post if I hear back.

Twitter has had numerous incidents where it exposed or leaked user data over the last year. In addition to sharing rather too much data with its ad partners, the company admitted it used phone numbers used for two-factor authentication to serve targeted ads.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter is bringing twttr’s experiments in threaded conversations to its main app

January 9, 2020 No Comments

At last year’s CES, Twitter introduced its first public prototype app, twttr — dubbed “little T” internally at Twitter. The app allows Twitter to develop and experiment with new features in the public, to see what works and what does not. The app’s main focus, to date, has been on making threaded conversations easier to read. Now, the company is ready to graduate the best of twttr to the main Twitter app.

“We’re taking all the different branches — all the different parts of the conversation — and we’re making it so it’s all in one global view,” explained Suzanne Xie, Twitter’s head of Conversations, speaking to reporters at CES 2020. “This means you can easily understand, and get a pulse of what’s happening in the conversation,” she added.

When the changes roll out, you’ll be able to see when the original tweet’s author is replying within a conversation thread. Twitter will also highlight people you’re following and people who are verified.

This way, Xie continues, “you can understand who is talking to who in a conversation.”

In addition, Twitter will release other features that build on top of threaded conversations to the public, including how the user interface reacts when you tap on a reply.

On twttr, when you tap into a reply within a conversation, you get more information about the tweet in question. You can also reply in-line to the tweet. And the reply itself is shaded to differentiate it from the surrounding tweets, when selected.

Threaded conversations also hide some of the replies to keep the conversation more readable — but you can click a link to load more of the replies as you scroll down. Twitter says it personalizes which replies are shown and hidden based on things like who you follow, who you interact with and people you’ve interacted with in the past.

“These are pieces of making this global conversation easier to use — so you don’t have to tab to new screens and go back and forth,” Xie explained.

Despite the initial excitement around Twitter’s new app, twttr, some felt the company didn’t take full advantage of having a public experimental playground. Few other new features beyond threaded conversations were tried out on the testing platform.

To some extent, Twitter’s plans could have been impacted by changes in twttr’s leadership. Twitter in August acquired Xie’s startup Lightwell. Meanwhile, Sara Haider, who had been leading the charge on rethinking the design of conversations on Twitter, which included the release of twttr, announced that she would be moving on to a new project at the company after a short break.

With twttr’s threaded conversations feature making its way to Twitter.com, the plan now is to use twttr to experiment with other conversational features.

For example, twttr may be used to try out new features in the incentives space — meaning, how small tweaks to Twitter’s user interface can influence different types of user behavior.

“Going forward, we’re investing and making a concerted effort, as we try new features and as we change different mechanics, to [determine] what we’re incentivizing and what we’re disincentivizing,” said Xie.

For instance, changing the prompts that Twitter displays when a user goes to compose a tweet or a reply could influence how they choose to respond. This is only one example of the sorts of things Twitter aims to test with Little T, as it’s called.

Twitter says the new threaded conversations features will begin to roll out on Twitter for iOS first, followed by web then Android, sometime in Q1.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Mobile – TechCrunch


India’s ruling party accused of running deceptive Twitter campaign to gain support for a controversial law

January 6, 2020 No Comments

Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party in India, has been accused of running a highly deceptive Twitter campaign to trick citizens into supporting a controversial law.

First, some background: The Indian government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last month that eases the path of non-Muslim minorities from the neighboring Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to gain Indian citizenship.

But, combined with a proposed national register of citizens, critics have cautioned that it discriminates against minority Muslims in India and chips away at India’s secular traditions.

Over the past few weeks, tens of thousands of people in the country — if not more — have participated in peaceful protests across the nation against the law. The Indian government, which has temporarily cut down internet access and mobile communications in many parts of India to contain the protests, has so far shown no signs of withdrawing the law.

On Saturday, it may have found a new way to gain support for it, however.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday tweeted a phone number, urging citizens to place a call to that number in “support of the CAA law.”

Thousands of people in India today, many affiliated with the BJP party, began circulating that phone number on Twitter with the promise that anyone who places a call would be offered job opportunities, free mobile data, Netflix credentials, and even company with “lonely women.”

Huffington Post India called the move latest “BJP ploy” to win support for its controversial law. BoomLive, a fact checking organization based in India, reported the affiliation of many of these people to the ruling party.

We have reached out to a BJP spokesperson and Twitter spokespeople for comment.

If the allegations are true, this won’t be the first time BJP has used Twitter to aggressively promote its views. In 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that a number of political hashtags that appeared in the top 10 Twitter’s trends column in India were the result of organized campaigns.

Pratik Sinha, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, last year demonstrated how easy it was to manipulate many politicians in the country to tweet certain things after he gained accessed to a Google document of prepared statements and tinkered with the content.

Last month, snowfall in Kashmir, a highly sensitive region that hasn’t had internet connection for more than four months, began trending on Twitter in the U.S. It mysteriously disappeared after many journalists questioned how it made it to the list.

When we reached out, a Twitter spokesperson in India pointed TechCrunch to an FAQ article that explained how Trending Topics work. Nothing in the FAQ article addressed the question.


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