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Twitter Agrees to $150 Million Fine from the FTC Over Past Misuse of Users’ Personal Information

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Elon Musk Launches Hostile Takeover Bid for Twitter

The hits just keep on coming at Twitter HQ.

This week, Twitter has agreed to pay a $150 million settlement to the FTC over a past misuse of user data, which saw information submitted for personal identification confirmation purposes mistakenly then used in Twitter’s ad targeting efforts.

As explained by Twitter:

On May 25, 2022, Twitter reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding a privacy incident disclosed in 2019 when some email addresses and phone numbers provided for account security purposes may have been inadvertently used for advertising. This issue was addressed as of September 17, 2019, and today we want to reiterate the work we’ll continue to do to protect the privacy and security of the people who use Twitter.”

The issue, as Twitter notes, was made public in 2019, when Twitter disclosed that it had been using information submitted for account security checks within its data targeting process.

Twitter revealed the initial finding in its Q3 2019 results, in which it noted that the correction of this element would have an impact on its overall revenue performance.

As Twitter CFO Ned Segal explained at the time:

We ask people a series of questions before we put you into a timeline when you’re new to Twitter. Among the questions we ask are if we can use your device settings to figure out the best ads to show you. It turns out there that, that setting wasn’t working as expected, and we were using device settings even if people had asked us not to do so. So when we discovered that, one, we Tweeted about it, which we often do to try to be transparent with people when things aren’t working as expected. And two, we turned off the setting so that it would work as expected. That has a negative impact to revenue because it’s one less input that you’ve got when you are figuring out which ads to show people. So instead of getting a partial quarter impact, you get a full quarter impact in Q4.”

So, essentially, Twitter’s system did not respect user privacy inputs, and that flaw had been in place for six years, between 2013 and 2019.

Which is a significant privacy breach, hence the $150 million fine from the FTC.

As per the FTC’s announcement:

“Twitter asked users to give their phone numbers and email addresses to protect their accounts. The firm then profited by allowing advertisers to use this data to target specific users. Twitter’s deception violates a 2011 FTC order that explicitly prohibited the company from misrepresenting its privacy and security practices.

While the case itself is not new, and the flaw at the heart of the issue has been resolved, it’s another blow for Twitter, which is in the midst of a cost-cutting push as it works to meet its own, tough revenue and growth targets, while also navigating a hostile takeover push from Elon Musk.

Twitter had factored this fine into its forecasts, so the hit won’t be as significant as it may sound, but even so, $150 million is a lot to take off its books – though it will clear the way for a new era if/when Musk does take over the app.

Which still seems like a ‘when’, despite Musk’s protests about the platform’s fake profile count and other transparency issues.

Whatever comes next, this does help to clarify Twitter’s ledger, as the FTC fine had been hanging over it for almost three years.

The case also highlights, once again, that even a relatively minor flaw like this can have a big impact when you’re operating at the scale that social platforms do. A small error with a few hundred people is a problem, but when it impacts millions, the extent of that issue is amplified significantly.

And there may be other flaws yet to be found – though Twitter says that it’s since implemented a range of checks and processes to ensure that it’s no longer misusing any user data.

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Twitter Expands Access to Twitter Blue, Announces New Incentives for Signing Up

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Twitter Expands Access to Twitter Blue, Announces New Incentives for Signing Up

Twitter is making its next big push on Twitter Blue subscriptions, as Elon Musk and Co. look to build Twitter Blue into a more significant revenue driver for the app.

First off, Twitter has now expanded Twitter Blue access to Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain, which will enable millions more Twitter users to potentially sign-up for a verification tick.

I mean, most probably won’t, going on what we’ve seen thus far, but it will likely swell Twitter Blue sign-ups by another few thousand, adding more cash to Twitter’s coffers.

Twitter’s also looking to further incentivize Blue sign-up by offering revenue share for ads shown in reply threads.

The idea here is that if users write interesting tweets, they would get compensated for the discussion they generate – but you need to be signed up to Twitter Blue to get it.

Elon hasn’t shared any further info on potential revenue split or process at this stage.

Twitter’s also looking to bring back an improved Spaces/podcast experience, as a Twitter Blue exclusive, while Musk has also hinted at allowing some users to avoid having to pay for basic API access, when it becomes unavailable next week, if they sign-up.

Oh, and Twitter’s gold checkmarks for business? Yeah, they’re likely going to be expensive if you want them.

Can’t imagine many brands are going to fork out $12,000 a year for a profile badge, along with $50 per staff member you want to add.

But maybe, Elon and Co. have some more tricks up their sleeve here, and they’ll eventually offer more incentives for businesses to sign-up.

But right now, that’s pretty steep.

And also, ‘legacy’ checkmarks will apparently be gone within the next few months.

All of these elements combined could juice Twitter Blue take-up, though it’s still hard to see it becoming the major contributor to Twitter’s revenue as Elon envisions.

At present, based on third-party tracking, the new Twitter Blue program looks to have around 300,000 subscribers, bringing in an extra $2.4 million per month, and $7.2 million per quarter.

Which is pretty good – but again, it’s still a long way from where Twitter wants subscription revenue to be.

When initially outlining his Twitter 2.0 reformation plans, Musk said that he wants to make subscription revenue around 50% of Twitter’s overall intake. That would serve two purposes – if the majority of users sign-up, Twitter can then use Twitter Blue as a form of ‘payment verification’, meaning that those accounts that don’t have a blue tick are increasingly likely to be bots. It would also reduce Twitter’s reliance on ads, which would give Musk more freedom to make moderation decisions as he likes, without considering potential ad placement concerns.

But in order to do this, Twitter needs a lot more users to sign up.

Twitter’s revenue in Q2 2022, the last time it publicly reported its numbers, was $1.18 billion, meaning that Twitter Blue would need to be bringing in around $590 million per quarter to meet that 50% goal.

Which is about 81x what Twitter Blue is currently bringing in, while at 300k sign-ups, that’s also only 0.12% of Twitter’s active user base that’s currently paying for a blue tick.

That’s likely why Twitter is making a new push on the program, in a bid to jack those numbers up, and maybe, in combination with businesses that do end up forking over $1k per month, it could become a more significant element in Twitter’s revenue make-up.

But 50% of revenue still seems like a lofty goal.

It’s also still confusing as to why anyone would pay, because as soon as you do, you’re devaluing the whole point of the verification checkmark in the first place.

The initial blue ticks were designed to delineate noteworthy users and organizations, which Twitter didn’t always get right, but for the most part, you knew that a blue tick account was likely someone who had relevant, authoritative things to say.   

Now, it’s just anyone who can afford it, and with Twitter looking to increase the reach of tweets from Blue accounts, that also means that the app is increasingly becoming more ‘pay to play’ for regular users, with the blue ticks becoming increasingly meaningless from a functional perspective.

And the logic behind them becomes more diluted with every person who signs up. Eventually, all the blue checkmark will mean is that this person can afford to pay – and who cares? Why do they need a blue tick, from a user perspective, to show that they have enough money to spend?

It sort of feels like the NFT trend of 2021, but worse, because it’s replacing an existing system that did serve a purpose.

In any event, Twitter’s not backing away from its Blue subscription plan, and its hopes of maximizing revenue intake, in any way it can, to keep the company afloat.

Which, given the extra debt it’s been saddled with in the Elon deal, is even tougher than ever – but maybe, in combination with everything else, subscriptions will form enough of an extra income stream to meaningfully contribute to its plans.



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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer: Born or made great?

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The Big 3 have won a total of 56 Grand Slams in their career.

Ecogastronomy, puppet arts, viticulture and enology, influencer marketing, or bakery science. In 2022, you can become anything you want and there are even specialized undergraduate degrees to help you gain all the relevant skills at university. Essentially, you can now be academically trained in any subject and learn practically everything you need to excel at your job.

In the context of sports, and particularly tennis, this is no different. There are plenty of degrees you can pursue to complement your career as an athlete, physiotherapist, or coach with useful knowledge about the human body, anatomy, and health.

This basically means that professional tennis players of the 21st century can complement their extraordinary talent and training routine with a relevant education and an elite team of professional and eminent physiotherapists, coaches, PR, and strategists. Ultimately, players have countless tools that can help them win matches, stay healthy, and be well-liked by the press and the fans.

You can find these ‘A teams’ all around the tour nowadays: players of the former next gen have taken advantage of their early success to incorporate experts on every specialty into their team and others like Carlos Alcaraz or Holger Rune have come directly in the tour alongside first-class teams headed by former World No. 1 and Slam champion Juan Carlos Ferrero and respected coach Patrick Mouratoglou respectively.

Understandably, tennis legends who have been on tour for almost two decades have progressively adapted to the quest for perfection too. You must remember Novak Djokovic’s radical diet change mid-career or Rafael Nadal’s loyal sports doctor for most of his injury-prone career.

21st-century professional tennis players have learned it all as far as tennis skills are concerned. In fact, objectively any top-100 player can produce Djokovesque cross-court backhands or Nadalese down-the-line forehands any time – we have seen rallies of the highest level in practices, Challengers and junior tournaments.

So, one must think that if every player on the tour can produce top-level tennis and is surrounded by the perfect team, what is stopping them from winning 20+ Grand Slam titles like Nadal, Roger Federer, and Djokovic?


Nadal, Federer and Djokovic — the Big 3

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in discussion at the 2022 Laver Cup.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in discussion at the 2022 Laver Cup.

The Big 3 — Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic — are living proof that in life there are things you just can’t learn, despite our self-help books saying otherwise. Tennis is different from other mainstream sports in that it remains an individual and extremely mental sport.

These three players belong at a higher level than anyone else, and it is not only the 63 combined Slam titles that separate them from their opponents. It is clearly not their physical form either, quite the opposite currently. It is the ability to remain serene, focused, confident, and indifferent to the crowd, pressure, and expectations, to play one point at a time, whether it is a break or a championship point, and to extract it from the surrounding context.

Being the best of all time does, however, not imply being the better player in all matches. We don’t have to go far back to find an example of a time when Nadal and Djokovic were the clear underdogs in a match. For instance, in Wimbledon 2022 we saw Nadal win a match with an abdominal tear and an average 80-mph serve speed (on a grasscourt!) against Taylor Fritz, a top American player in his best-ever season.

In essence, the three GOATs have had the ability to know how to win even when they are the worst players on the court, and if that greatness is something we all could learn or train for, it would stop being called so and we would see it more often.

Whether it is the experience, intelligence or just intrinsic and unique talent that has led to Big 3’s unprecedented achievements we won’t ever exactly know and, I am afraid, they are giving no opportunity to the so-called Next Gen to even dream of replicating their record book and help us make sense of what it takes to become a tennis master.

In any case, we can only feel extremely fortunate to have lived on the same timeline as the greatest trivalry in sports history. All of us, but the Next Gen, can only hope Nadal and Djokovic do not follow Federer’s retirement path anytime soon. And one only needs to watch their last matches against each other to (rightfully) assume that might not happen anytime soon.

What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here

Poll : Who will end up with most Grand Slam titles?

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Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram

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Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram

It seems like Elon Musk’s chaotic management approach at Twitter is having some broader impacts, with more companies reportedly considering lay-offs in the wake of Musk culling 70% of Twitter staff (and keeping the app running), and Meta now apparently also considering charging for blue checkmarks in its apps.

Yes, the Twitter Blue approach to making people pay for verification, which hasn’t proven overly popular on Twitter itself, is now also seemingly in consideration at Meta as well.

According to a new finding by reverse engineering pro Alessandro Paluzzi, there’s a new mention in the codebase of both Facebook and Instagram of a ‘paid blue badge’.

Paluzzi also shared a screenshot of the code with TechCrunch:

That does appear to refer to a subscription service for both apps, which could well give you a blue verification badge as a result.

Mets has neither confirmed nor denied the project, but it does seem, at least on the surface, that it’s considering offering checkmarks as another paid option – which still seems strange, considering the original purpose of verification, which is to signify noteworthy people or profiles in the app.

If people can just buy that, then it’s no longer of any value, right?

Evidently, that’s not the case, and with Twitter already bringing in around $7 million per quarter from Twitter Blue subscriptions, maybe Meta’s looking for a means to supplement its own intake, and make up for lost ad dollars and/or rising costs of its metaverse development.

It seems counter-intuitive, but I guess, if people will pay, and the platforms aren’t concerned about there being confusion as to what the blue ticks actually mean.

I guess, more money is good?

Meta has, in the past, said that it won’t charge a subscription fee to access its apps. But this, of course, would be supplemental – users wouldn’t have to pay, but they could buy a blue checkmark if they wanted, and use the implied value of recognition for their own purposes.

Which seems wrong, but tough times, higher costs – maybe every app needs to start digging deeper.

Meta hasn’t provided any info or confirmation at this stage, but we’ll keep you updated on any progress.



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