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Twitter Announces New Election Integrity Measures as We Head Into the Final Weeks of the US Presidential Campaign

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With just 25 days to go until the US Presidential election, Twitter has announced a range of new measures designed to stop the spread of misinformation, including significant design changes that have been built into the tweet process, which should prompt users to think twice before amplifying certain messages.

The major, functional change is that, from October 20th ‘through at least the end of Election week’, whenever a user in the US taps on the retweet option, on any tweet, that will open the ‘Quote Tweet’ composer by default, as opposed to giving users the option to choose between a ‘Retweet’ or ‘ Quote Tweet’.

Twitter quote tweet update

As you can see here, the new sequence removes the pop-up option where you can choose to simply retweet a message.

Twitter retweet options

You can still retweet as normal by not entering any text in the composer, but the revised design will ideally prompt more people to add their own thoughts, and/or re-assess exactly why it is that they’re retweeting each message.

Twitter announced the change by tagging onto a trending meme format:

The process was spotted in testing by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong earlier in the week, and as noted, it could add an extra, important level of friction in the tweet amplification process, which may prove effective in getting users to consider their actions more carefully.

A good example of this is Twitter’s recently introduced ‘read before retweet’ prompt, which calls on users to open a link before they share it.

Twitter read before retweet

That extra step has already had a significant impact, with Twitter reporting that users open articles 40% more often when shown these prompts.

Removing the straight retweet option may not seem like a major shift, and it may not be as up front as these prompts. But the results here do show that such pushes can be effective in altering user behaviors.

Some users will begin seeing this new process on the web version of Twitter from today.

In addition to this, and also running from October 20th till whenever Twitter deems necessary, Twitter will also put a halt on all “liked by” and “followed by” recommendations from people that you follow appearing in your main feed.

As explained by Twitter:

“These recommendations can be a helpful way for people to see relevant conversations from outside of their network, but we are removing them because we don’t believe the “Like” button provides sufficient, thoughtful consideration prior to amplifying Tweets to people who don’t follow the author of the Tweet, or the relevant topic that the Tweet is about.”

This makes a lot of sense – the addition of tweets liked by those you follow within your feed is generally not overly beneficial either way, and it also makes tweet likes, essentially, random retweets, which may mean that the person who liked the tweet ends up sharing it among his/her followers unintentionally. 

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People ‘Like’ tweets for different reasons – sometimes to indicate agreement, sometimes to tag something to read later, etc. As such, the mechanism which re-shares your likes is not ideal either way, and at a time where Twitter is working to promote more thoughtful sharing, removing unintended amplification seems like an obvious step.

Twitter’s also narrowing down its Trends to only display those which include additional context.

Twitter trends

Early last month, Twitter announced a new effort to include more context within its Trends listings, by providing a short explainer or an example tweet on each, which makes it clearer why, exactly, a term or entity might be trending at any given time. 

For the election period, this will now be the default – which is good, because there are still many instances where, say, a celebrity’s name will be trending, and you have that moment where your hart skips a beat in fear for their life, or a random word will show up, like earlier this week, when ‘Fly’ briefly appeared on my Trends list.

As you can see in this example, all the trends listed on Twitter ‘For You’ discovery page will now include added context. Again, this will be in place for US users from October 20th till whenever Twitter deems fit.

In addition to this, Twitter has also added some new rules around election-related content, particularly in regards to claims of victory by candidates and voter intimidation at polls.

On election outcomes, Twitter says that it will not allow users, including candidates, to claim victory on its platform until the outcome is officially announced.

“To determine the results of an election in the US, we require either an announcement from state election officials, or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls. Tweets which include premature claims will be labeled and direct people to our official US election page.”

So, Twitter will still leave these claims up, it will just label them, and direct users to official updates. Facebook has taken a similar approach, though it also plans to display top of feed announcements on the progress of vote counts across both Facebook and Instagram, taking it a step further.

Facebook election measures

With US President Donald Trump repeatedly refusing to assure a peaceful transfer of power in the case of him losing the vote, there’s a real concern that he, or others, could use the mass-reach of social media to falsely claim victory. That could lead to a difficult situation, even civil unrest, if there’s a dispute over the official counts, and none of the major social platforms want to play any part in facilitating such. 

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Really, Twitter should just remove any such claims, but by referring people to official information, it should negate such impacts, while still enabling users to see what candidates are claiming.

That said, Twitter will remove threats of intimidation at polls, or efforts to dissuade people from voting:

“Tweets meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results, such as through violent action, will be subject to removal. This covers all Congressional races and the Presidential Election.”

So Twitter could remove all false claims and threats. Either way, it’s taking a tougher stand on such from now on in.

But that’s not all – in addition to this, Twitter will now also add another new prompt to stop people sharing any tweets that have been tagged as including misleading information.

Twitter misleading info prompt

Starting next week, when people attempt to Retweet one of these Tweets with a misleading information label, they will see a prompt pointing them to credible information about the topic before they are able to amplify it.”

Again, this is another level of friction designed to prompt a re-think before a user amplifies such messages, and Twitter’s also adding new warnings and restrictions on any Tweets which have been slapped with a misleading information label from:

  • US political figures
  • US-based accounts with more than 100,000 followers
  • Profiles that see significant engagement.

“People must tap through a warning to see these Tweets, and then will only be able to Quote Tweet; likes, Retweets and replies will be turned off, and these Tweets won’t be algorithmically recommended by Twitter.”

Twitter retweet limits

This is a key element, because high-profile users are the ones who are able to add significant credibility and amplification to false and misleading claims.

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This was the case late last year, when during the UK election campaign, an image of a child forced to lay on the floor in an overcrowded hospital was circulated on social media. Unfounded rumors suggested that the image was faked, and those claims were then boosted by several celebrities, rapidly escalating the issue, and turning into a far more divisive, aggressive point.

The case highlights the credence that high profile users can unwittingly lend to such campaigns, getting them in front of many more users. In the US, actor Woody Harrelson has shared COVID-19 conspiracy theories, including the suggestion that 5G may be facilitating the virus’ spread. Harrelson has more than 2.2 million followers on Instagram alone. 

Limiting questionable claims from these users makes a lot of sense with respect to slowing viral spread.

These are some significant, important measures from Twitter, which could go a long way towards addressing key election concerns, and potential misuse of its platform. Of course, Facebook is still seen as the key focus in this respect, but Twitter too has been a focus of various investigations into the rapid spread of misinformation, and it remains the social media platform of choice for President Trump.

But then again, most of these past investigations have highlighted Twitter bot armies as the key tool for boosting misinformation via tweet. Twitter has made efforts to address this – back in April, the platform removed 20,000 fake accounts linked to the governments of Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Honduras and Indonesia as part of its ongoing efforts to combat misuse, while it’s also questioned the validity of such studies in measuring the impact of bot activity on its network. 

Seemingly, Twitter has addressed at least some elements in this respect. How effective those measures have been, we’ll have to wait and see, but bots still loom as a significant amplification concern amid these other preventative measures.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Twitter Expands its Test of User-Reported Misinformation, Expanding Platform Insight

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Twitter Looks to Extend its Keyword Blocking and Mute Options to More Elements


After seeing success with its initial test of a new, manual reporting option, enabling users to flag tweets that contain potentially misleading claims, Twitter is now expanding the test to more regions, with users in Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines now set to get access.

Launched in August last year, Twitter’s latest effort to combat misinformation focuses on audience trends and perception of such as a means to determine common issues with the platform, and what people feel compelled to report, pointing to things that they don’t want to see.

The process adds an additional ‘It’s misleading’ option to your tweet reporting tools, providing another means to flag concerning claims.

Which is obviously not a foolproof way to detect and remove misleading content – but as noted, the idea is not so much focused on direct enforcement, as such, but more on broader trends based on how many people report certain tweets, and what people report.

As Twitter explained as part of the initial launch:

“Although we may not take action on this report or respond to you directly, we will use this report to develop new ways to reduce misleading info. This could include limiting its visibility, providing additional context, and creating new policies.”

So essentially, the concept is that if, say, 100, or 1,000 people report the same tweet for ‘political misinformation’, that’ll likely get Twitter’s attention, which may help Twitter identify what users don’t want to see, and want the platform to take action against, even if it’s not actually in violation of the current rules.

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So it’s more of a research tool than an enforcement option – which is a better approach, because enabling users to dictate removals by mass-reporting in this way could definitely lead to misuse.

That, in some ways, has borne true in its initial testing – as explained by Head of Site Integrity Yoel Roth:

On average, only about 10% of misinfo reports were actionable -compared to 20-30% for other policy areas. A key driver of this was “off-topic” reports that don’t contain misinfo at all.

In other words, a lot of the tweets reported through this manual option were not an actual concern, which highlight the challenges in using user reports as an enforcement measure.

But Roth notes that the data they have gathered has been valuable either way:

We’re already seeing clear benefits from reporting for the second use case (aggregate analysis) – especially when it comes to non-text-based misinfo, such as media and URLs linking to off-platform misinformation.

So it may not be a great avenue for direct action on each reported tweet, but as a research tool, the initiative has helped Twitter determine more areas of focus, which contributes to its broader effort to eliminate misinformation within the tweet eco-system.

A big element of this is bots, with various research reports indicating that Twitter bots are key amplifiers of misinformation and politically biased information.

In early 2020, at the height of the Australian bushfire crisis, researchers from Queensland University detected a massive network of Twitter bots that had been spreading misinformation about the Australian bushfire crisis and amplifying anti-climate change conspiracy theories in opposition to established facts. Other examinations have found that bot profiles, at times, contribute up to 60% of tweet activity around some trending events.

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Twitter is constantly working to better identify bot networks and eliminate any influence they may have, but this expanded reporting process may help to identify additional bot trends, as well as providing insight into the actual reach of bot pushes via expanded user reporting.

There are various ways in which such insight could be of value, even if it doesn’t result in direct action against offending tweets, as such. And it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter’s expansion of the program improves the initiative, and how it also pairs with its ongoing ‘Birdwatch’ reporting program to detect platform misuse.

Essentially, this program won’t drive a sudden influx of direct removals, eliminating offending tweets based on the variable sensibilities of each user. But it will help to identify key content trends and user concerns, which will contribute to Twitter’s broader effort to better detect these movements, and reduce their influence.





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Twitter’s Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who’ve Manifested Success Via Tweet

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Twitter's Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who've Manifested Success Via Tweet


Twitter has launched a new advertising campaign which is focused on ‘manifesting’ via tweet, highlighting how a range of successful athletes and entertainers made initial commitments to their success via Twitter long before their public achievements.

Through a new set of billboard ads across the US, Twitter will showcase 12 celebrities that ‘tweeted their dreams into existence’.

As explained by Twitter:

To honor these athletes and other celebrities for Tweeting their dreams into existence, Twitter turned their famous Tweets into 39+ billboards! Located across 8 cities (NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Tampa, Talladega), most of the billboards can be found in the hometowns or teams’ locations of the stars who manifested their dreams, such as Bubba Wallace in Talladega and Diamond DeShields in Chicago.”

Twitter Manifest campaign

Beyond the platform promotion alone, the billboards actually align with usage trends at this time of year, as people work to stick with their New Year’s resolutions, and adopt new habits that will improve their lives. Seeing big-name stars that have been able to achieve their own dreams, which they’ve publicly communicated via tweet, could be another avenue to holding firm on such commitments, while Twitter also notes that tweets about manifestation are at an all-time high, seeing 100% year-over-year growth.

Maybe that’s the key. By sharing your ambitions and goals publicly, maybe that additional accountability will better ensure that you stick to your commitments – or maybe it’s all just mental, and by adding that extra public push to yourself, you’ll feel more compelled to keep going, because it’s there for all to see.

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In addition to the promotional value of the campaign, Twitter’s also donating nearly $1 million to charities as selected by each of the featured celebrities.

“Some of the charities include Boys and Girls Club, Destination Crenshaw, The 3-D Foundation, and UNICEF Canada.”

It’s an interesting push, which again comes at the right time of year. Getting into a new routine is tough, as is changing careers, publishing your first artwork, speaking in public, etc. Maybe, by seeing how these stars began as regular people, tweeting their dreams like you or I, that could act as a good motivator that you too can achieve what you set out to do, and that by posting such publicly, you’re making a commitment, not to the random public, but to yourself, that you will do it this year.

Sure, 2022 hasn’t exactly got off to a great start, with a COVID resurgence threatening to derail things once again. But maybe, this extra push could be the thing that keeps you focused, like these celebrities, even amid external distractions.  





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Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App

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Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App


After Instagram added similar measures last year, Snapchat is now implementing new restrictions to limit adults from sending messages to users under the age of 18 in the app.

As reported by Axios, Snapchat is changing its “Quick Add” friend suggestion process so that it’s not possible for people to add users aged under 18 “unless there are a certain number of friends in common between the two users”. That won’t stop such connection completely, but it does add another barrier in the process, which could reduce harm.

The move is a logical and welcome step, which will help improve the security of youngsters in the app, but the impacts of such could be far more significant on Snap, which is predominantly used by younger people.

Indeed, Snapchat reported last year that around 20% of its total user base was aged under 18, with the majority of its audience being in the 13-24 year-old age bracket. That means that interaction between these age groups is likely a significant element of the Snap experience, and restricting such could have big impacts on overall usage, even if it does offer greater protection for minors.

Which is why this is a particularly significant commitment from Snap – though it is worth noting that Snapchat won’t necessarily stop older users from connecting with younger ones in the app, it just won’t make it as easy through initial recommendations, via the Quick Add feature.

So it’s not a huge change, as such. But again, given the interplay between these age groups in the app, it is a marker of Snap’s commitment to protection, and to finding new ways to ensure that youngsters are not exposed to potential harm within the app.

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Snapchat has faced several issues on this front, with the ephemeral focus of the app providing fertile ground for predators, as it automatically erases any evidence trail in the app. With that in mind, Snap does have a way to go in providing more protection, but it is good to see the company looking at ways to limit such interactions, and combat potentially harmful misuse.



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