CBPO

Tag: Twitter

Trump circumvents Twitter ban to decry ‘unprecedented assault on free speech’

January 14, 2021 No Comments

Following a comprehensive ban from Twitter and a number of other online services following last week’s assault on the Capitol by his followers, President Trump managed to put out a tweet in the form of a video address touching on the “calamity at the Capitol”… and, of course, his deplatforming.

In the video, Trump instructs his followers to shun violence, calling it un-American. “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence,” he said, days after calling rioters “great patriots” and telling them “we love you, you’re very special” as they despoiled the House and Senate.

He pivoted after a few minutes to the topic that, after his historic second impeachment, is almost certainly foremost on his mind: being banned from his chief instrument of governance, Twitter.

“I also want to say a few words about the unprecedented assault on free speech we have seen in recent days,” he said, although the bans and other actions are all due to documented breaches of the platforms’ rules. “The efforts to censor, cancel and blacklist our fellow citizens are wrong, and they are dangerous. What is needed now is for us to listen to one another, not to silence one another.”

After having his @realdonaldtrump handle suspended by Twitter, Trump attempted to sockpuppet a few other prominent accounts of allies, but was swiftly shut down. What everyone assumed must be plans to join Parler were scuttled along with the social network itself, which has warned it may be permanently taken offline after Amazon and other internet infrastructure companies refused to host it.

In case you’re wondering how Trump was able to slip this one past Twitter’s pretty decisive ban to begin with, we were curious too.

Twitter tells TechCrunch:

This Tweet is not in violation of the Twitter Rules. As we previously made clear, other official administration accounts, including @WhiteHouse, are permitted to Tweet as long as they do not demonstrably engage in ban evasion or share content that otherwise violates the Twitter Rules.

In other words, while Trump the person was banned, Trump the head of the Executive branch may still have some right, in the remaining week he holds the office, to utilize Twitter as a way of communicating matters of importance to the American people.

This gives a somewhat unfortunate impression of a power move, as Twitter has put itself in the position of determining what is a worthwhile transmission and what is a rabble-rousing incitement to violence. I’ve asked the company to clarify how it is determined whether what Trump does on this account is considered ban evasion.

Meanwhile, almost simultaneous with Trump’s surprise tweet, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey unloaded 13 tweets’ worth of thoughts about the situation:

I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.

That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.

Jack neither reaches any real conclusions nor illuminates any new plans, but it’s clear he is thinking real hard about this. As he notes, however, it’ll take a lot of work to establish the “one humanity working together” he envisions as a sort of stretch goal for Twitter and the internet in general.

 


Social – TechCrunch



Twitter taps AWS for its latest foray into the public cloud

December 15, 2020 No Comments

Twitter has a lot going on, and it’s not always easy to manage that kind of scale on your own. Today, Amazon announced that Twitter has signed a multi-year agreement with AWS to run its real-time timelines. It’s a major win for Amazon’s cloud arm.

While the companies have worked together in some capacity for over a decade, this marks the first time that Twitter is tapping AWS to help run its core timelines.

“This expansion onto AWS marks the first time that Twitter is leveraging the public cloud to scale their real-time service. Twitter will rely on the breadth and depth of AWS, including capabilities in compute, containers, storage, and security, to reliably deliver the real-time service with the lowest latency, while continuing to develop and deploy new features to improve how people use Twitter,” the company explained in the announcement.

Parag Agrawal, Chief Technology Officer at Twitter sees this as a way to expand and improve the company’s real-time offerings by taking advantage of AWS’s network of data centers to deliver content closer to the user. “The collaboration with AWS will improve performance for people who use Twitter by enabling us to serve Tweets from data centers closer to our customers at the same time as we leverage the Arm-based architecture of AWS Graviton2 instances. In addition to helping us scale our infrastructure, this work with AWS enables us to ship features faster as we apply AWS’s diverse and growing portfolio of services,” Agrawal said in a statement.

It’s worth noting that Twitter also has a relationship with Google Cloud. In 2018, it announced it was moving its Hadoop clusters to GCP.

This announcement could be considered a case of the rich getting richer as AWS is the leader in the cloud infrastructure market by far with around 33% market share. Microsoft is in second with around 18% and Google is in third with 9%, according to Synergy Research. In its most recent earnings report, Amazon reported that $ 11.6 billion in AWS revenue putting it on a run rate of over $ 46 billion.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Twitter app code indicates that live video broadcasting app Periscope may get shut down

December 14, 2020 No Comments

Twitter has been doubling down on video services within its app, building out Twitter Live and recently launching Fleets so that users can share more moving media alongside their pithy 180-word observations, links and still photos. But in the process, it appears that it may also be streamlining its bigger stable of services. Code in the Twitter app indicates that Periscope — the live video broadcasting app that launched a thousand fluttering hearts — may be headed into retirement.

Date and other details are still unknown, but super-sleuth developer Jane Machun Wong found a line in Twitter’s app code that indicated a link to a shutdown notice for Periscope (which currently does not go to a live link).

There are no shutdown references in any of the code in the currently obtainable version of the Persicope app, Wong told us, but she also pointed out that the two apps do share some code — indeed there are integrations between the two Twitter-owned apps — and “I guess [that] is how the text in the screenshot got slipped into Twitter,” she said.

We are reaching out to Twitter for a response to her discovery and will update as we learn more.

If this does play out with Periscope getting retired, it would be the end of a five-year run for the app.

Twitter acquired Periscope before it had even launched (we broke the news of the acquisition before that), as part of a bold move to double down on video, and specifically live video. At the time, the move was coming as Twitter was really coming into its own as a platform for media companies, “citizen journalists” and simply people who wanted to get the word out more widely on whatever they were thinking about or doing.

At the time, Twitter was also eyeing up and apparently trying to stem the viral growth of Meerkat, “the” app of 2015. That was not going to be an issue for the long run, though. Eventually Meerkat, either because of Periscope or because of the cyclical nature of hype, did fizzle out, only to relaunch as interactive video chat app Houseparty, which eventually got noticed by Fortnite maker Epic, who then bought it.

Periscope, meanwhile, took a different route as part of Twitter from the very start of its launched life.

It remained a standalone app, but its team, and specifically founder Kayvon Beykpour, became a central part of all of Twitter’s product development.

And the central feature of Periscope was the app became a native part of the Twitter app; Twitter Live “powered by Periscope,” which has been expanded with API access and other features. Twitter itself promotes Twitter Live content, not Periscope’s: you can follow @TwitterLive to get highlights of some of the people and organizations using the live feature in the app. (Other leading social apps like Instagram and Facebook have taken a similar route, offering live video features but more as embedded parts of the main platforms, rather than standalone apps where live is front and center.)

Periscope, you might say, has in the meantime been dying a slow death as a standalone brand and app. But it’s not a new story: my former (missed!) colleague Josh pointed out it was sinking at the end of 2016.

Still, it’s just about been bobbing along. AppAnnie’s rankings indicate that it’s essentially among the top 100 social networking apps in most markets — maybe not a bad figure considering how big app stores are now — although when looking at overall rankings, Periscope is generally too low to register in any major markets.

Indeed, it’s definitely not an app that has much buzz, not least because of its owner being popular, but also because video fads have taken a different, TikTok-style turn of late.

The TikTok effect is an interesting one to consider here. Earlier this year it was reported that Twitter was among those interested in potentially acquiring TikTok when the popular app, owned by China’s ByteDance, found itself in some regulatory hot water over national security interests (that is a different story, still playing out and seemingly in limbo right now). Some of the apparent reasoning for Twitter’s interest? It never really got past its regret over killing off Vine.

Vine, if you recall, was the popular short-form video app that Twitter acquired, grew really well for a while as it saw it gain some entertaining virality, but then shut down to focus more attention on — yep — Periscope.

Many in retrospect have wondered “what could have been” had Twitter held on to Vine and put the effort and investment into building it out. (Or indeed, what could have happened if it never sold to Twitter in the first place, but that is also a different story.)

If Periscope sinking away is on the cards, it’s a question that probably still bears asking — what could have been? Even with live video within Twitter’s app, it’s not the star of the show. One can’t help but wonder if live video might next appear front and center elsewhere, made by a different company, much like short-form video finally had its day in a ByteDance way.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter acquires screen-sharing social app Squad

December 12, 2020 No Comments

Today, Twitter announced that it is acquiring Squad and that the team from the screen-sharing social app will be joining Twitter’s ranks. Squad’s co-founders, CEO Esther Crawford and CTO Ethan Sutin, and the rest of the team will be coming aboard inside Twitter’s design, engineering and product departments, Twitter tells us. Crawford specifically notes that she will be leading a product in the conversations space.

What isn’t coming aboard is the actual Squad app, which allowed users to share their screens on mobile or desktop and simultaneously video chat, a feature that aimed to find the friend use case in screen-sharing beyond the enterprise use case of presenting. The app will be shutting down tomorrow, Twitter confirms, an unwelcome surprise for its user base largely made up of teen girls.

Twitter declined to share further terms of the deal.

Image via Twitter

The app’s functionality seems like a natural fit for the service, though the company did not confirm whether any tech was coming aboard as part of the deal. Twitter hasn’t been keen to keep separate apps functioning outside of the core Twitter app. Vine was infamously shut down, upsetting users who likely later rallied behind TikTok, a massive success story and perhaps one of the biggest missed opportunities for American social media companies. Meanwhile, Periscope which has largely bumbled along over the years, is in a particularly fragile place with app code emerging just today that indicates an impending shutdown for the app.

Squad was notably partnered closely with Snap and was an early adopter of many of the company’s Snap Kit developer tools. Building so much of the app using Snap’s developer tools could have made porting the tech to Twitter’s infrastructure a more complicated task, especially when considering how often Snap Kit apps are tied quite closely to the Snapchat user graph.

Squad raised $ 7.2 million in venture capital from First Round, Y Combinator, betaworks, Halogen Ventures, ex-TechCrunch editor Alexia Bonatsos’s Dream Machine and a host of other investors. Squad was in the right place at the right time in early 2020. When the pandemic first struck, CEO Esther Crawford told TechCrunch that usage of her app spiked 1,100%.

Crawford spoke at length about the challenges of scaling a modern social app while avoiding the pitfalls of toxicity that so often seem to come with reaching new heights. In an interview with TechCrunch last year, she told us her team was “trying to learn from the best in what they did but get rid of the shit.”

In a Medium post, Crawford also took the opportunity of her startup’s exit to lobby investors to start backing more diverse founders.

“I hope that our exit will tip the scale a bit more toward convincing investors to put money into diverse teams because each success is another proof point that we, the historically under-capitalized and underestimated founders, are a good bet,” Crawford wrote in a Medium post. “Invest in women and people of color because we will make you money.”


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter finally shuts down its abandoned prototype app twttr

December 5, 2020 No Comments

Twitter is shutting down its experimental app twttr, which the company had used publicly to prototype new features back in 2019. The app was first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2019, then launched to testers that March. Its primary focus had been on trying out new designs for threaded conversations, including things like how to branch replies, apply labels and color-code responses, among other things. Some of those tests eventually turned into Twitter features and the twttr app was no longer being used.

The idea to design in public was an interesting experiment by Twitter.

Most companies roll out internal beta tests, followed by smaller-scale A/B tests to a percentage of their public user base to get feedback about new ideas. But with twttr, the company actually invited its users to be a part of the much earlier-stage development process.

The concept for twttr had been spearheaded by Twitter’s then Director of Product Management, Sara Beykpour (then Sara Haider — she and Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour have since married). But Sara announced last year she would be stepping into a new role at the company and Twitter’s new product director in charge of conversations would be Suzanne Xie, who had joined by way of Twitter’s acquisition of Lightwell.

Work on twttr appeared to stop around the time Xie stepped in, as no other significant updates were released to twttr’s TestFlight user base. And Xie left Twitter this fall for Stripe.

Now, it seems that maintaining the largely unused app no longer makes sense for the company.

Twitter announced its plans to formally shut down twttr today, saying it was turning off the app in order to work on new tests related to the conversation taking place on Twitter itself. The shutdown appears to be immediate. Though the app may still function for those who have it installed, when the TestFlight build expires in 26 days, that may no longer be the case.

It’s not likely that twttr had many dedicated users at this point, especially as the app lacked Twitter’s newer features like Topics and Fleets, for example, and was no longer offering new experiments to test. The test twttr originated, threaded replies using connecting lines, has also been shut down.

Twitter is not ruling out using twttr again at some point in the future, though. A spokesperson said the company is “exploring potential next steps for twttr,” as it develops its future plans to test new products.


Social – TechCrunch


Trump will lose protected Twitter status after his presidency

November 18, 2020 No Comments

Twitter has at various times acknowledged that Donald Trump isn’t bound by the same rules that govern the rest of us. This executive privilege has allowed him to continue posting comments that could have long ago gotten any normal person banned from the platform.

More recently, the service has sought to balance misinformation/disinformation with warning labels that alternately sit below or obscure the text. Twitter was adding these at a frenetic pace in the lead-up to the November 3 election. Labeling has slowed somewhat since then, but moderators have continued flagging a number of Trump’s tweets as his feed has pivoted into a barrage of false or misleading claims around election results.

At yesterday’s Congressional hearing, Twitter head Jack Dorsey reiterated that — once he has vacated the office — Trump will no longer be subject to the same manner of protections. “If an account suddenly is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away,” the executive said.

What, precisely, that means remains to be seen of course — and, according to Republican Party leaders, at least, the timing of Trump’s transition to civilian life isn’t entirely certain. But it seems possible, at the very least, that Trump could be suspect to a suspension or ban once Twitter no longer considers his account a matter of public record in the same way.

Social media election takedowns

Twitter offered TechCrunch the following statement regarding Trump’s post-presidency account a few weeks back: “A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable. With this in mind, there are certain cases where it may be in the public’s interest to have access to certain Tweets, even if they would otherwise be in violation of our rules.”

The exceptions that get a sitting world leader banned or tweets deleted are decidedly more extreme than most, including:

  • Promotion of terrorism;

  • Clear and direct threats of violence against an individual (context matters: as noted above, direct interactions with fellow public figures and/or commentary on political and foreign policy issues would likely not result in enforcement);

  • Posting private information, such as a home address or non-public personal phone number;

  • Posting or sharing intimate photos or videos of someone that were produced or distributed without their consent;

  • Engaging in behaviors relating to child sexual exploitation; and

  • Encouraging or promoting self-harm.

As Dorsey noted during the hearing, Trump will (theoretically) lose those protections when he leaves office.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter labeled 300,000 US election tweets — around 0.2%

November 17, 2020 No Comments

Just over a week after the U.S. elections, Twitter has offered a breakdown of some of its efforts to label misleading tweets. The site says that from October 27 to November 11, it labeled some 300,000 tweets as part of its Civic Integrity Policy. That amounts to around 0.2% of the total number of election-related tweets sent during that two-week period.

Of course, not all Twitter warnings are created equal. Only 456 of those included a warning that covered the text and limited user engagement, disabling retweets, replies and likes. That specific warning did go a ways toward limited engagement, with around three-fourths of those who encountered the tweets seeing the obscured texts (by clicking through the warning). Quote tweets for those so labeled decreased by around 29%, according to Twitter’s figures.

The president of the United States received a disproportionate number of those labels, as The New York Times notes that just over a third of Trump’s tweets between November 3 and 6 were hit with such a warning. The end of the election (insofar as the election has actually ended, I suppose) appears to have slowed the site’s response time somewhat, though Trump continues to get flagged, as he continues to devote a majority of his feed to disputing the election results confirmed by nearly every major news outlet.

His latest tweet as of this writing has been labeled disputed, but not hidden, as Trump repeats claims against voting machine maker, Dominion. “We also want to be very clear that we do not see our job as done,” Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead Vijaya Gadde and Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour wrote. “Our work here continues and our teams are learning and improving how we address these challenges.”

Twitter and other social media sites were subject to intense scrutiny following the 2016 election for the roles the platforms played in the spread of misinformation. Twitter sought to address the issue by tweaking recommendations and retweets, as well as individually labeling tweets that violate its policies.

Earlier today, YouTube defended its decision to keep controversial election-related videos, noting, “Like other companies, we’re allowing these videos because discussion of election results & the process of counting votes is allowed on YT. These videos are not being surfaced or recommended in any prominent way.”


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter brings its Stories feature, Fleets, to Japan

November 12, 2020 No Comments

Twitter’s own version of Stories, which it calls “Fleets,” have arrived in Japan. The new feature allows users to post ephemeral content that automatically disappears after 24 hours. Though Fleets previously launched in Brazil, India, Italy and South Korea, Japan is notably Twitter’s second largest market, with some estimated 51.9 million users.

It’s also second in terms of revenues, led by advertising. In Q3 2020, Japan generated $ 132.4 million in revenue, coming in second behind the U.S.’s $ 512.6 million.

Twitter can be experimental when it comes to new features — it even once developed a new way to manage threads with a public prototype, coded alongside user feedback. But not all the features it dabbles with make it to launch.

However, the further expansion of Fleets to Japan signals Twitter’s interest in the product hasn’t diminished over time. It seems it’s now only a matter of time before Fleets arrive in Twitter’s largest market, the U.S.

That said, the U.S. may be the hardest market for Fleets to crack, as here, many users are concerned about how all social media apps are starting to look alike.

Whatever feature becomes a breakout success on one platform soon finds its way to all the others. In the early days, we saw this trend with the “feed” format, modeled after Facebook’s News Feed. The Stories format, popularized by Snapchat, came next. And now apps like Instagram and Snapchat are ripping off TikTok with their own short-form video features.

The result is that apps are losing focus on what makes them unique.

Twitter, for what it’s worth, has historically been slow to copy from other social networks. In fact, it’s one of the last to embrace Stories — a feature that’s now even on LinkedIn, of all places.

Plus, in Twitter’s case, the Stories feature may end up serving a different purpose than on other networks.

Instead of offering users a way to post content of lesser quality — posts that didn’t deserve a more prominent spot in the feed, that is — Fleets may encourage users who haven’t felt comfortable with the platform’s more public nature to begin posting for the first time. Or, at least, it could push users to increase their content output and engagement.

Twitter’s Fleets work much like Stories on other platforms. With a tap on the “+” (plus) button, users can post text, photos, GIFs or videos. Meanwhile, viewers use gestures to navigate the Fleets posted by others. The Stories sit at the top of the app’s home screen, also like on other platforms.

Twitter tells TechCrunch all users in Japan should have Fleets available on their accounts soon, but couldn’t share a time frame for a U.S. launch.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter will make users remove tweets hoping Trump dies of COVID-19

October 5, 2020 No Comments

President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 result has made Twitter a busy place in the past 24 hours, including some tweets that have publicly wished — some subtly and others more directly — that he die from the disease caused by coronavirus.

Twitter put out a reminder to folks that it doesn’t allow tweets that wish or hope for death or serious bodily harm or fatal disease against anyone. Tweets that violate this policy will need to be removed, Twitter said Friday. However, it also clarified that this does not automatically mean suspension. Several news outlets misreported that users would be suspended automatically. Of course, that doesn’t mean users won’t be suspended.

Motherboard reported that users would be suspended, citing a statement from Twitter. That runs slightly counter to Twitter’s public statement on its own platform.

On Thursday evening, Trump tweeted that he and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, had tested positive for COVID-19. White House physician Sean Conley issued a memo Friday confirming the positive results of SAR-Cov-2 virus, which often is more commonly known as COVID-19. Trump was seen boarding a helicopter Friday evening that was bound for Walter Reed Medical Center for several days of treatment.

The diagnosis sent shares tumbling Friday on the key exchanges, including Nasdaq. The news put downward pressure on all major American indices, but heaviest on tech shares.


Social – TechCrunch