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Twitter’s Coming ‘Twitter Blue’ Subscription Offering Is Slowly Taking Shape

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While Twitter recently re-opened public applications for profile verification, most users likely won’t meet the updated criteria, and won’t be able to get that coveted blue tick by their username. But there may soon be another way to highlight your Twitter superiority, albeit via paid means.

Earlier this month, reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong discovered that Twitter is working on a new subscription service, currently called ‘Twitter Blue’, which would provide users with a range of add-on tweet features, for a monthly fee.

Twitter Blue

Now, Wong has uncovered more details of the platform’s coming subscription offering, including further insight into the Twitter Blue feature listing, as it stands, and how users will sign-up for the option.

Twitter Blue

As you can see here, Twitter Blue, which is currently listed at $US2.99 per month, would give subscribers access to several add-on features to enhance their on-platform experience.

Those features, as they currently stand, are:

  • Undo tweets – We’ve reported on this previously, but as it sounds, undo tweets would enable users to retract their sent tweets within 5-10 seconds of posting, which could help in catching those small grammatical errors and mistakes that can be a major annoyance in the tweet process. It’s not tweet editing, but it’s likely as close as you’ll ever get.
  • Collections for Bookmarks – This feature would enable users to categorize their saved tweets into assigned topic folders, providing more ways to manage your favorite content in the app. That could especially come in handy for eCommerce listings, which Twitter is currently also developing.
  • Reader Mode – This appears to still be in development, but reader mode will enable users to ‘turn tweet threads into easy to read text’, likely by merging them into a single, notepad-like screen. There are no examples of this available yet.
  • Color theme – One of the newly added elements, color theme, would enable users to select from a range of color options for their tweet display (image below). As some users have noted, you can actually already do this on desktop, but when you do update your color settings currently, those changes are only visible to you. It’s possible that this could change your color settings for profile visitors as well.
  • App icon – Twitter Blue subscribers would also get a new selection of custom app icons that they can use on their device.
Twitter Blue

So that’s the Twitter Blue offering, based on what we know right now – undo tweets, bookmark collections, new thread reading options and new color settings, which may or may not be visible to others in the app. 

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Would that be worth $US2.99 per month to you?

No doubt many people won’t be looking to pay, but that doesn’t really matter, because Twitter only needs a small percentage of its users to sign on, in order to make it worth developing.

Twitter currently has 199 million daily active users, which means that even if only 1% of them sign-up, that would still equate to around $6 million per month (+$18m per quarter) in direct revenue for the company. And some people will indeed sign up – and if Twitter can further sweeten the Twitter Blue offering over time, that will bring more people in, which could quickly make it a hugely profitable addition, and a massive earner for the company, which is aiming to significantly boost its revenue run rate over the next few years.

And while additions like different colors may not mean a lot to you, these types of customization features do mean a lot for some people.

Online multiplayer game Fortnite is a great example of this – Fortnite enables users to play the game for free, but you can sign-up and pay for add-on features, like season passes that provide new costumes for your characters and custom weapons, emotes, dances, etc. In 2019, Fortnite brought in $1.8 billion in revenue, with a significant amount of that coming from in-game cosmetics – i.e. character ‘skins’ which provide custom outfits for your avatar.

Note, again, that Fortnite is actually free to play, so it makes its money entirely through these add-on features – in fact, Fortnite’s parent company Epic recently reported that it made $50 million from one set of custom NFL character skins alone.

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People will pay for in-app cosmetic enhancements, so while some people are raising their eyebrows at the suggestion that Twitter will look to charge for such minor additions, in a relative sense, the bottom line is that some people will happily pay.

And if you’re not interested, you can keep using Twitter as you always have.

Which is also a key point – as reported by TechCrunch, this week, at the recent JP Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Communications conference, Twitter CFO Ned Segal provided some extra insight into the company’s evolving tweet subscription plans, without specifically noting the Twitter Blue project by name.

As per TechCrunch:

“[Segal] told investors that its new “premium service” would be aimed at people who use Twitter’s service – “and they pay us for it.” Segal noted this premium offering was one of the two types of subscriptions that Twitter had in the works, the other being Super Follows.”

TechCrunch further noted that Segal also reiterated that it will be looking to provide these premium features:

“…on top of [Twitter’s] continuous improvement mindset around the free version of the service that everybody will continue to have access to.”

Twitter needs its free version for scale, and maximizing its ubiquity, but by providing optional add-on tools, that could give the company a simple, effective, and engaging revenue stream, which will keep those who do pay tweeting more often – because if you’re going to pay, you’re likely also going to be looking to get your money’s worth, right?

Really, it seems like a clever addition for Twitter, catering to more use cases and interests, and potentially, as noted, giving people a way to enhance their appearance within the app by paying a few dollars for some add-on tools.

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And Twitter’s likely not done yet – as Wong noted in her original discovery, Twitter may well be looking to add alternative subscription tiers, which would give users access to even more features, like an integration with its recently acquired Scroll service that would enable users to read paywalled articles from a range of websites. 

It may also look to add more analytics tools and posting features, for more serious Twitter users, and if those tools can provide significant value, and only cost a few bucks more each month, you can bet that people will also be signing up to get them as well.

Yes, the Twitterverse will make noise about this, and predictably bemoan the glaring absence of an edit button. But honestly, it’s a smart play, and makes a heap of sense for Twitter, from various perspectives.

We’ve asked Twitter for further information about the project, and will keep you updated as news comes to hand.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers

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Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers


With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.





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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps


Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.

On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.

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Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.



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