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   Technology StocksTwitter, Inc.


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From: Ron10/15/2020 8:20:23 PM
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A fairly significant Twitter outage today, big parts of the East coast and the West
downdetector.com

engadget.com

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From: Glenn Petersen10/16/2020 10:08:10 AM
   of 1326
 
Trump Foes Fume Over Timing of FCC’s Efforts to Rein In Twitter

By Todd Shields and Ben Brody
Bloomberg
October 15, 2020, 2:02 PM CDT Updated on October 16, 2020, 3:00 AM CDT

-- Agency chief says it will conduct rulemaking Trump sought

-- Analysts question authority of agency to issue regulations

A U.S. Federal Communications Commission decision to review a liability shield for Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. fulfills the wishes of President Donald Trump and his conservative allies, yet has prompted questions about the agency’s authority and political motivations.

With less than three weeks before the American election, the FCC’s Republican Chairman, Ajit Pai, said the agency would seek to “clarify” the platforms’ exemptions from liability for how they handle users’ posts. That would fulfill an executive order issued in May by Trump to rein in Big Tech after Twitter started to fact-check the president’s posts.

“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech,” Pai said in a statement announcing his move. “But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”

The announcement came hours after Senate Republicans demanded the chief executive officers of Facebook and Twitter explain steps their sites took to limit the distribution of a controversial New York Post article concerning Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Twitter and Facebook said they did it because of questions about the article’s accuracy and use of hacked material.

Section 230 Question

Trump also cried foul, tweeting that “If Big Tech persists, in coordination with the mainstream media, we must immediately strip them of their Section 230 protections.”

Yet analysts are divided over whether the FCC even has the authority to rewrite crucial language known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that shields the platforms from liability. Even if Pai’s FCC succeeds in amending the rules, those changes would risk an immediate court challenge could later be reversed if Biden wins the presidency and nominates new members to the commission.

The two Democrats on the five-member board condemned Pai’s announcement. “The timing of this effort is absurd,” said Jessica Rosenworcel. “The FCC has no business being the president’s speech police.”

Geoffrey Starks called the president’s executive order “politically motivated.”

The law in which Section 230 is embedded makes no allowance for an agency interpreting its rules and lawyers disagree whether the FCC can do it with regulation or if Congress needs to alter the law.

But Pai said the agency’s general counsel told him the the FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230. “Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning,” he said Thursday in a statement announcing his plans.

The cause against Section 230 got a lift on Tuesday when Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a statement about a case the court declined to hear that the high court should consider whether the “increasingly important statute” supports the “sweeping immunity” that many courts have granted to online platforms.

Thomas said extending Section 230 “immunity beyond the natural reading of the text can have serious consequences.”

The Supreme Court has never ruled on Section 230, but if it follows Thomas’s urging, it could narrow more than 20 years of jurisprudence, which he criticized.

Censorship Accusations

Section 230 has drawn bipartisan criticism for allowing social media sites to ignore problems such as illegal drug sales and consumer fraud online. The law was revised in 2018 to address concerns about sex trafficking.

Democrats have their own issues with the statute, including whether it does enough to encourage the sites to thwart foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Although Biden has criticized Section 230, his campaign also slammed Trump’s order when it was issued in May.

“It will not be the position of any future Biden administration -- or any other administration that is aware of our basic constitutional structure -- that the First Amendment means private companies must provide a venue for, and amplification of, the president’s falsehoods, lest they become the subject of coordinated retaliation by the federal government,” spokesman Bill Russo said at the time.

Republicans, who have long said they’re not fully represented on social media, praised Pai’s move. In the House, three representatives -- Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, Bob Latta of Ohio and Greg Walden of Oregon -- put out a statement highlighting “Big Tech Censorship.”

“Time and time again we’ve seen big tech companies refuse to be transparent about their practices and too often unfairly censor right of center voices. This must stop,” said the three lawmakers, who are top Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees technology policy.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment. A Twitter spokesman referred to the company’s statement following Trump’s request for the rulemaking, in which it called the move “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law” and threat to “the future of online speech.”

Under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, private companies get to “enforce rules for acceptable content on their services,” said Elizabeth Banker, deputy general counsel for the Internet Association, a trade group that counts Facebook, Google and Twitter as members. A change to the constitutional guarantees “is clearly beyond the FCC’s reach.”

Gigi Sohn, a former FCC Democratic aide, said the FCC’s move, and its timing, was designed to influence the election. “They’re working the referee” by seeking to influence the platforms ahead of the election, she said.

The first hurdle for Pai’s proposal is getting it through the FCC itself. Republicans hold three seats on the five-member panel but one of them, Michael O’Rielly, had his nomination for another term abruptly withdrawn by the White House when he objected to Trump’s order on Section 230.

His designated replacement, telecommunications official Nathan Simington, is believed to favor reining in Section 230. Trump, in a tweet last week, said “Republicans need to get smart and confirm Nate Simington to the FCC ASAP!”

The Senate Commerce Committee announced Thursday that it would hold a Nov. 10 confirmation hearing for Simington. If approved by the committee he would need a vote of the full chamber.\

O’Rielly remains on the commission in the meantime, and can serve until year’s end or until a replacement arrives. If confirmed by the Senate, Simington could take O’Rielly’s seat and begin voting immediately.

— With assistance by Jennifer Epstein, and Jonathan Reid

bloomberg.com

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1295)10/28/2020 6:38:43 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 1326
 
Is Twitter Going Full Resistance? Here’s the Woman Driving the Change.

The war between conservatives and Twitter is heating up, in part because of Vijaya Gadde’s unheralded influence on the iconic social-media company.

By NANCY SCOLA
Politico
10/28/2020 04:31 AM EDT



Vijaya Gadde, head of legal, policy and trust for Twitter, at the company's headquarters in San Francisco in 2014. | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Nancy Scola is a reporter covering technology for POLITICO.

On a late fall day last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sat down on a couch on the company’s San Francisco roof deck and dug into a problem.

Next to him was the company’s top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde. The 2020 U.S. election was barely a year out and Twitter executives were worried the company was steering into the exact mess it had helped fuel in 2016, when political campaigns and Russian disinformation artists had pumped so much chaos into the system through precision-targeted social-media ads that the world’s democratic institutions could barely keep up.

Twitter had added new transparency rules, making ad buyers disclose who they were. It wasn’t enough. What more could it do?

Gadde pitched Dorsey on a radical idea for a fix: Maybe Twitter should just, well, stop selling political ads.

It was a bold idea—no other major American platform had simply banned political ads—and Dorsey wasn’t immediately sold. For one thing, the company had built itself around a commitment to hosting a free-flowing public conversation. Gadde—officially Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust—pressed her case, and she had allies on the idea inside the building, including the head of Twitter’s trust and safety team. Within days Dorsey signed off on the idea, announcing a global ban on political ads on October 30, 2019, in an 11-tweet thread detailing the company’s reasoning.

For those who know the inner workings of Twitter, it was another sign of the rising influence of Gadde, the connected, liberal-leaning lawyer who has helped drive the company to more heavily regulate what users can say and post. Twitter’s new rules, from the ad ban to its deletion of controversial Covid-19 tweets, have rippled through Silicon Valley and caused huge blowback in American politics, where many—especially conservatives—now see Twitter as unfriendly territory.

She has also helped put Twitter’s policy squarely at odds with Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg had declared it wrong for private companies to “censor” politicians.



Photo taken in October 2019 shows Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey speaking in New York. | Kyodo News via Getty Images
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Gadde was a lead architect of the policy approach that led Twitter to clamp down on everyone from everyday harassers to the Proud Boys to President Donald Trump, and she’s been out front in defending it, arguing that the shift makes sense as corporate strategy. Said Gadde in an interview by phone from her home in San Francisco in July, of the decision to ban political ads: “It wasn’t about anything other than, ‘This is the right thing to do for us as a company.’”

Two weeks ago, Gadde emerged at the center of the company’s latest tangle with the political right, when the New York Post published a story and images of emails purporting to show that in 2015, Ukrainian executives had essentially paid Joe Biden’s son Hunter to arrange a meeting with the then-vice president. As the story began to get traction, especially among conservatives eager to cast doubt on Biden’s ethics, Twitter quickly and with little transparency blocked users from linking to it. That evening, Dorsey apologized. The person who did the public cleanup the next day was Gadde, who in a series of tweets said Twitter was overhauling the “hacked materials policy” it had invoked in the case. Dorsey is now girding for a Wednesday appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee, a previously scheduled session now expected to turn into a public re-airing of the Post controversy. Gadde is prepping Dorsey for the hearing.

Though she keeps a fairly low profile outside Twitter, Gadde is known within the company for being close to the company’s CEO during Twitter’s highest-stakes moments. When Dorsey met with President Donald Trump in 2019, Gadde was in the Oval Office with them. She was at Dorsey’s side to meet the Dalai Lama in India. She’s accompanied him to Washington to speak with legislators and meet with journalists. Inside Twitter’s headquarters, Gadde and Dorsey work from spaces next door to each other. Said one Twitter official: “I can’t imagine a world where Jack looks at her and says, ‘No.’”

A former Twitter official put a different twist on the dynamic: “When it comes to going to war, Jack is the president who gives the order. Vijaya is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.”

Gadde oversees about 350 people, working on everything from handling disputed Covid-19 facts to pushing back on governments, including fighting a ban on the service in Turkey and litigating an ongoing six-year legal case in the U.S. over whether Twitter can reveal details of government gag orders on its requests for users’ data. She’s pushed for technical changes that allow the company to try sidestepping blunt-force bans and blocks, like attaching warning labels to offensive tweets and limiting retweets to stop the spread of bad information. (Gadde was on parental leave when, in late May, Twitter flagged a pair of Trump’s misleading tweets on mail-in ballots, but she’s ultimately responsible for the policies he was flagged under.)

As Twitter has increasingly ditched its hands-off approach to the billions of tweets that flow across it each week, it has earned itself a heady mix of both praise and criticism. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Twitter’s ad policy ban “a good call,” but many activists on the left think the platform still lets through far too much hate speech and threatening language. And plenty of both Democratic and Republican campaigns criticized the ad ban as a blow to underdogs, who often rely on inexpensive social media advertising.

Brendan Carr, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, accuses Twitter of a corporate bait and switch, luring in a wide range of political speech with its early approach and then applying a California-liberal filter once it had enough clout. “When they were looking to amass power and users, they had no qualms saying, ‘We represent the free speech wing of the free speech party,’” he said. “Then all of the sudden, once you have obtained just incredible scale based on those representations, you turn heel.”

Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative advocacy group Media Research Center, guesses Twitter is betting on a Joe Biden win: “Should Trump win and Republicans retain control of the Senate,” he said, “I think they’re going to have hell to pay for this.” Some of that hell may already be starting: In the wake of the New York Post controversy, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Californian who has styled himself a tech ally, said “it is time to scrap” the decades-old law that grants websites like Twitter valuable protection against liability for what users post.

Whatever the risks, the changes Gadde helped drive have rippled through Silicon Valley: Spotify suspended political ads two months after Twitter did; even Reddit, the freewheeling bulletin board, has cracked down on hate speech.

One notable rival, however, disdains Twitter’s recent moves as little more than PR ploys. “They haven’t got a hate speech policy, they have a Trump policy,” sniffed a Facebook executive, who says Twitter has gotten outsize credit for slapping labels on a few high-profile presidential tweets.

“Patently false,” Gadde calls that characterization. She also strongly rejects the critique that Twitter’s shot-calling is driven by partisan politics.

Is Vijaya Gadde deftly steering Twitter through murky waters—or permanently alienating a wide swath of Americans, including some in Washington who could ultimately have a say over its future? Gadde herself doesn’t shrink from the notion that she wants to help make a more comfortable and empowering world for marginalized people. She sits on the board of the humanitarian aid group Mercy Corps, and on the side, she and fellow female Twitter vets run a venture fund to help women rise in the startup world.

The more Twitter embraces turning from an agnostic platform to one with a particular idea of what makes a “healthy” conversation, the more the question becomes this: Can you really stop a global social network from turning into a cesspool without turning into the speech police?

“What I’ve been doing for the last nine years is trying to figure out the path,” Gadde said. And that path has led Twitter to a fraught place just before Election Day.

“I don’t really see an easy solution for how you moderate content at scale around the world,” Gadde said in a July interview. “There’s going to be errors, and there’s going to be corrections, and there’s going to be inconsistencies.”

The Post story was a perfect example of just how hard Twitter’s new, more restrictive approach can be, especially with fast-moving news. On October 14, Twitter quickly moved to block users from posting links to a shocking, if unsubstantiated, article on the misdeeds of Hunter Biden, son of the Democratic presidential nominee. The concern, as Twitter would eventually describe it: The materials at the center of the story had been hacked, and revealed the personal information of people featured in the story. It was just 20 days before Election Day, but social media companies were on hair-trigger alert for shenanigans; law enforcement had been warning about threats to the 2020 election, including “hack and leak” operations.

Twitter’s ban, including the locking of an account of a prominent POLITICO reporter who tweeted the story, drew attention away from Facebook which—uncharacteristically—had gotten ahead of Twitter by announcing it was reducing the distribution of the story while fact checkers looked at it. Said the FCC’s Carr, “The best thing to happen to Facebook was Twitter telling it, ‘Hold my beer."

Individual enforcement decisions are made down the chain at Twitter, but the next days it was on Gadde to come out and explain on her Twitter account, @vijaya, how Twitter was changing course amid the blowback: “After reflecting on this feedback, we have decided to make changes to the policy and how we enforce it,” she wrote, explaining that it was ratcheting back its “hacked materials” policy, though other rules, like its restrictions on posting personal information, still applied.

Some didn’t buy Gadde’s explanation that the original block was the straightforward application of existing policy. Tweeted Will Chamberlain, editor-in-chief of the conservative publication Human Events, “Hi @vijaya ! What evidence do you have that the Hunter Biden materials were hacked? That would seem like a prerequisite to invoking your ‘Hacked Materials Policy.’” And her nuance about what other Twitter policies the Post link violated got lost in the furor. When users found that they still couldn’t post the Post link, many began to wonder if Twitter was talking out of both sides of its mouth.



Vijaya Gadde, chief legal officer of Twitter Inc., listens during the Wall Street Journal Tech Live global technology conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. The event brings together investors, founders, and executives to foster innovation and drive growth within the tech industry. | Martina Albertazzi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
-------------------------------------------

Two days after the Post story first ran, and just 18 days before Election Day, Twitter completely reversed course: Whatever personal details contained in the Post story were already out there, the company said, so users were now free to tweet it.

Dorsey was among those unhappy with how Twitter handled the situation, tweeting that the company’s communicating around about the Post situation was “not great,” and that its ham-handed blocking of the story without telling users why was “unacceptable.”

By then, though, Republicans had already seized on it as part of a pattern, one where Twitter’s edge cases seemed to always run against conservatives. Why could users tweet a link to a New York Times story based on Trump’s leaked financial records, but not a New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s emails? Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called it "an obvious and transparent attempt by Twitter to influence the upcoming presidential election.” The Republican National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. The Senate promised to get to the bottom of it in hearings. And the day after Twitter and Facebook clamped down on the Post story, the chair of the FCC announced his agency would start a formal process to “clarify” how communications law applies to online platforms—widely seen as a threat to the freedom from liability with which, up to now, Twitter and its counterparts have operated.

Gadde, 45 years old and 5-foot-4, has helped steer Twitter through rapids before. She arrived in 2011 at another pivotal time. The 5-year-old company was by then an overgrown startup still held together by spit and duct tape, with its unofficial mascot the “fail whale,” the cute cartoon animal that popped up whenever its strained servers went down, again. But as a platform, Twitter was quickly becoming a force in global events—its 50 million users were spread worldwide, and its role in the recent Iranian protests and the Arab Spring revolutions had people musing whether there might be something serious about what had been a faintly goofy chat service for tech insiders.

Gadde had cut her teeth at the powerhouse Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and as Twitter made plans to go public, her job was to avoid the messes that had plagued other high-profile launches. Facebook’s 2012 initial public offering had been “a fiasco,” in the words of the Wall Street Journal, marred by everything from technical glitches to what some investors said was the withholding of key information. Google’s 2004 IPO used an untested model that let investors lowball the search engine’s stock. Twitter didn’t want the same embarrassment. By then, Gadde had been there for two years, working on mergers and acquisitions, and the company’s executives and board had come to view her as a steady hand on the tiller. Said Alex MacGillivray, Twitter’s then-general counsel, who hired Gadde, the top ranks of the company “liked what they saw” in the lawyer.

Twitter’s IPO was smooth. Its lead banker at Goldman Sachs tweeted, simply, “Phew!” Gadde, who had been made general counsel just prior, was on her way to developing a reputation as what one-time Twitter head of global public policy Colin Crowell calls “the calm at the eye of every storm.”

As the company grew up and Twitter stabilized as a business, another element became increasingly important: the ethics and influence of social media. For years, the working assumption was summed up in a 2011 blog post by co-founder Biz Stone: “The tweets must flow.” The policy was to leave tweets alone unless they broke laws or were explicitly spam, thinking the best antidote to bad tweets was letting them be swamped by good tweets.

In October 2015, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who’d previously been ousted by the board, returned. Matured by his experience founding the payment firm Square, he embraced the idea of running a mission-driven company that was also a good business. Twitter needed both advertisers and new users, but some of the online world was recoiling at the free-for-all the platform had become.

When it came to rethinking the free-for-all approach, Dorsey had a ready ally in Gadde. Six months earlier, she’d argued in the pages of the Washington Post that Twitter had to stop sacrificing the collective safety of the service on the altar of the individual’s freedom to tweet. “Balancing both aspects of this belief—welcoming diverse perspectives while protecting our users—requires vigilance, and a willingness to make hard choices,” she wrote, and then issued an apology: “That is an ideal that we have at times failed to live up to in recent years.”

While Facebook is still largely the Mark Zuckerberg show, Dorsey’s style is different. He splits his time running Square, leaving considerable space for other executives to wield day-to-day influence at Twitter. Insiders and close observers of the company say he is willing to defer to other company leaders, often to Gadde—whose near-decade at Twitter makes her an entrenched veteran at a company that’s seen significant turnover at the executive level. Said Susan Benesch, an academic who as part of the Dangerous Speech Project she leads has worked closely with Twitter: “It’s hard to even understand how she manages to do so much. She has several difficult and time-consuming jobs.”

Said Dorsey, via email, “Vijaya brings critical balance to our work. She believes deeply in our purpose, and thinks ahead of all the challenges we’ll be facing in the future. I’m so grateful she works tirelessly to make us better every day, ensuring we’re always considering our role and impact in the world.” (Said the Twitter official who said Dorsey rarely tells Gadde no: “If she wasn’t there, I think people would get away with a lot more stuff.”)

After the 2016 election, Twitter was condemned by many in Washington for seeming to let misinformation run wild. Dorsey eventually won praise in Washington for confronting the complaints head-on, testifying in Congress with Gadde seated just behind him. But Twitter still faced criticisms that the service was a near bottomless pit of vitriol, full of racist attacks, sexist trolling, anti-Semitic pile-ons and dog-piling that could often spiral out of control, while the target complained fruitlessly. Slowly, haltingly, the company began rolling out new policies—like a more robust stance against abuse—and enforcing others, like purging fake accounts from the site.

That was all still in the air when, in August 2018, controversy flared up over why Twitter hadn’t banned right-wing provocateur Alex Jones, a step Facebook, Apple and YouTube had already taken. The New Yorker’s daily cartoon that week featured a sketch of Jones and read, “Don’t worry, you’re still welcome on conspiracist-friendly platforms like Twitter and the subway.” That same day, Dorsey tweeted, “definitely not happy with where our policies are. They need to evolve. Doing that work.”

Then, something seemed to snap inside Twitter. The platform banned Jones the next month, announced a new policy on dehumanizing language the following July aimed at addressing the offline harms of such speech, and then in October moved on its political ad ban. It followed up with a policy on so-called manipulated media, like deep fakes. And in the spring of 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Twitter rolled out a new set of changes meant to thwart the spread of dangerous information about the virus.

Twitter’s path stands in stark contrast to the one its larger rival Facebook has chosen. Zuckerberg—who has said again and again that Facebook should not be the world’s “arbiter of truth”—has in recent years staked out a position far closer to free-speech-absolutism, detailed in a speech at Georgetown University last year and backed up by head of policy and communications Nick Clegg, a former British pol who has said of Facebook, “censoring or stifling political discourse would be at odds with what we are about.”

Inside Facebook, some executives point out that Twitter has a much smaller stream of content to patrol. Twitter has about 4,900 employees; Dorsey won’t say how many of them, or outside contractors, work on content moderation, in part because it’s a shifting number based on world events. Facebook has about 45,000 employees, and the company doesn’t dispute reporting that found the company has 15,000 around the globe working as contractors on content moderation.

Gadde is quick to say that content moderation is a team job, and also an extremely difficult one. “Speech is one of the most anthropologically complex things imaginable,” wrote Gadde in an email in August, “and our rules have to meet that complexity.”

In March 2019, that complexity was the centerpiece of a podcast episode hosted by Joe Rogan. Rogan is often ranked in the top five most popular podcasters in the world, and his millions of listeners include a lot of young, tech-savvy men who believe Twitter’s speech policy unfairly targets the political right. Dorsey had agreed to appear on the show to hash over the policy, and to grill him, Rogan invited independent journalist Tim Pool. Dorsey, to argue the company’s case, brought Vijaya Gadde.

Though the show was billed as Rogan interviewing Dorsey, in fact it ended up as Gadde vs. Pool, with the two getting into the weeds on why Twitter had banned Alex Jones, whether Twitter’s prohibition on “misgendering” transgender users was ideological, and if the hashtag “#learntocode” can be read as a threat if it’s targeted at journalists. The reaction to the episode also made clear that Gadde’s rising profile was making her a target: As the podcast aired live, Jones recorded a YouTube video that pilloried her as a “goddamn dangerous authoritarian witch.”

By now, that Rogan episode has been watched more than 4.7 million times on YouTube, and it wasn’t lost on listeners that Dorsey was outsourcing some of his company’s toughest questions to his lieutenant.

Said one commenter: “This was Tim Pool vs. Vijaya Gadde. Joe and Jack were just the rich guys that organized it.”

Another: “They each chose their fighter.”

In some ways, Gadde has been preparing for that kind of faceoff her whole life. Early on, says Gadde, she realized there were some ugly things about the world. Born in India and moving to Beaufort, Texas, when she was 2 years old, she recalls learning later that her out-of-work chemical-engineer father was advised by a boss to get permission from a local Ku Klux Klan leader to go door to door collecting insurance premiums. “My father literally went to the Grand Dragon’s house and had tea with him,” she has said, and learning that later, she told me, “shocked and terrified” her. Similarly formative, she says, was visiting the small village in India in which her father grew up, and seeing the treatment of women and other marginalized people: “It’s a terrible thing to feel like you don’t have choice, or a voice.”

The realization that the world could be a dark place, says Gadde, drove her to law school. She graduated from New York University in 2000, a year after Dorsey had dropped out. “I felt very strongly that I needed to be in a position where I understood my rights, or my community’s rights,” she said. “I didn’t ever want to be taken advantage of.”

“I can’t untie my immigrant experience from who I am,” said Gadde, saying it gave her a firsthand view of the underbelly of humanity. “I think that one of the things that it’s really hard for people to accept is just because you don’t see this every day doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Twitter, argues Gadde, can force a confrontation with the world as it is. “Putting a spotlight on good things is great,” she said, and she’s joked that, outside the U.S., Twitter mostly consists of tweets about K-Pop. But Twitter “also casts a light on injustices,” and, she said, that’s why she went to work there in the first place.

And unlike many of its peer platforms, Twitter’s remarkably comfortable saying what it thinks is just and what isn’t. In September, for example, the bio on the company’s corporate Twitter account read simply: “#BlackLivesMatter @BlackTransLivesMatter.”

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, the @Twitter account has tackled another controversial topic: It has been aggressively pro-mask. I ask Gadde about a tweet the company posted in July as the country battled over whether wearing a face covering to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus was common sense or sheep-like cowardice. Twitter’s corporate tweet riffed off the fact that users have long begged Twitter for the ability to tweak tweets: “You can have an edit button when everyone wears a mask.”

Isn’t that tweet just ammunition for people who complain Twitter is inexorably liberal? Gadde rejects the idea. No one, she adds, has to follow the @Twitter account. Same goes for her own Twitter feed, where she tweets praise for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and criticism of Trump’s Department of Justice. “We’re always going to take positions on things that we think are important, that our employees think are important,” she said. “But that’s very different than how we necessarily operate the platform.”

In some cases, how Twitter Inc. sees the world does shape the platform. Bill Mitchell is a Florida-based political commentator who built a national reputation on his pro-Trump tweets. Twitter used its nuclear option on him in August. Mitchell’s first offense was tweeting against mask wearing, in contravention of Twitter’s policy against conflicting with health authorities’ guidance. His next offense was, while suspended, posting a few updates from a secondary account “so as not to panic” his audience, he tells me. Twitter banned him for good.

Mitchell still sees the move as unequivocally partisan. “This was a political hit against one of President Trump’s most influential supporters before the election without recourse,” he told me. (A Twitter spokesperson says Mitchell was booted for breaking Twitter’s stated rules, twice.)

Gadde sees Twitter’s rules, values and enforcement not as partisan, but rooted in human rights—the United Nations Declaration and the work of David Kay, who as U.N. Special Rapporteur on free expression argued that companies like Twitter should recognize that the “authoritative global standard” on free expression isn’t any country’s law, or their own self-interest, but international human rights law. People won’t express themselves in a public forum if they feel bullied, attacked, or otherwise unsafe, the thinking goes. People made to fear voting might not vote. To capture all those interests, “we’ve adjusted our framework,” Gadde said.

In July, some 40 years after Gadde’s father, she says, was forced to sit down with the local Klan boss, Twitter kicked off former national KKK leader David Duke.

The day after Trump’s late night tweet on October 2 announcing that he’d tested positive for Covid-19, Twitter announced it wouldn’t tolerate tweets wishing his death. Twitter said it was just reiterating existing policy, but members of the House’s “Squad” of female, liberal Democrats wondered where that policy was when people were calling for their demise. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted, “Seriously though, this is messed up.” Gadde tweeted she understood the complaints: "The criticism pushes me and our entire team to be better.”

Indeed, for most of Twitter’s history, the worry about political figures was that they’d be victimized on the platform. But what do you do when the person issuing threats and spreading falsities was not just one of your biggest users, but the president of the United States?

Twitter and Trump have always had a complicated relationship. For years before he was president, Trump had an account that he used to do everything from promote his line of custom Serta mattresses to cast doubt on Barack Obama’s birthplace. As a candidate, Trump visited Twitter’s New York City offices, which caused blowback inside the company. (According to insiders, Gadde argued he should be allowed.) Shortly after Trump was elected, Dorsey was notably left off the guest list of tech leaders during a meeting at Trump Tower. A then-Trump adviser said “the conference table was only so big,” but also in the air was a feud over Dorsey’s decision not to let the campaign use an anti-Clinton emoji.

Trump, Dorsey and Gadde finally sat down in the Oval Office in April 2019. Gadde has said Dorsey’s interest was stressing the importance of maintaining civility online. Gadde says she left feeling “the weight of the office, the significance of its power, and how it should always be used effectively, and with clear moral judgment, to improve people’s lives.” Gadde appeared on a panel shortly after, and was asked about the meeting. “I’m excellent at straight faces,” she quipped.

For Trump’s part, it didn’t seem that the conversation took. Two days later, he was back at it: "Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe.” After, in May, Twitter labeled a pair of his tweets on mail-in voting, Trump struck back with an executive order that put the weight of the federal government behind punishing social media firms, in part by calling for federal agencies to begin rolling back protections granted to online platforms. Facebook is named just twice in the presidential directive. Twitter is called out six times.

I asked Gadde if she was losing sleep over Trump’s executive order, an unusual example of the president trying to punish a private company. With a new baby at home, she joked, “there are a lot of things that keep me up at night, but that was not one of them.” She later added by email that the company didn’t take it lightly: “We worry about unilateral executive orders on this critical issue and have made our views on this non-participatory, undemocratic process very clear.”

At least in part to get at the fact that Trump’s tweets do at times break Twitter’s rules—like engaging in abusive behavior by threatening the use of “serious force” against protesters—Twitter has crafted a “world leaders” policy that labels rule-breaking tweets but leaves them up to “protect the public’s right to hear from their leaders and to hold them to account.”

But according to a Twitter source, should Trump lose the election he’ll no longer be covered by the world-leaders exception.

Gadde, Dorsey and others at Twitter have argued that it’s better for voters to have a clear-eyed view of who Trump is, and there’s perhaps no clearer view of that than his Twitter feed. What would you make of the hypothesis, I asked Gadde in an email in August, that rather being Trump’s not-so-secret weapon, Twitter’s going to be what holds him to one term—because for the past four years voters have gotten an unfiltered view of exactly how he thinks?

“We believe in creating a space that permits world leaders to speak and be challenged for that speech,” wrote Gadde. “As for the future, that’s for the voters to decide this November.”

politico.com

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From: Glenn Petersen10/29/2020 5:45:19 PM
   of 1326
 
Twitter shares sink amid slowing user growth and ad uncertainty

PUBLISHED THU, OCT 29 20204:05 PM EDT
UPDATED 11 MIN AGO
Lauren Feiner @LAUREN_FEINER
CNBC.com

KEY POINTS

-- Twitter reported earnings for its third quarter on Thursday that beat analyst estimates on the top and bottom lines.

-- But it fell short of estimates on user growth.

-- Twitter’s earnings report comes one day after its CEO, Jack Dorsey, testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Twitter posted third-quarter earnings on Thursday that crushed analyst estimates on the top and bottom lines but fell short on user growth. The strong showing comes as the company faces heightened scrutiny and the daunting challenge of handling posts around the 2020 U.S. election, an event it says brings uncertainty to advertiser behavior.

The stock fell as much as 16% after hours after gaining 8% during regular trading Thursday.

Here are the key numbers:

Earnings per share: 19 cents, adjusted vs. 6 cents expected, according to a Refinitiv survey of analysts
Revenue: $936 million vs. $777 million expected, according to Refinitiv
Monetizable daily active users (mDAUs): 187 million vs. 195 million expected, according to FactSet

Twitter grew its total mDAUs by just 1 million from last quarter to 187 million, falling shy of analysts’ expectations of 195 million mDAUs for the third quarter. That 187 million mDAUs in the quarter is still a 29% increase year over year.

Twitter ad revenue grew 15% year over year to $808 million, according to the report, with total ad engagement growing 27% over the same period. The return of live events and previously postponed product launches helped drive the increased advertising spending, CFO Ned Segal said in a statement in the company’s earnings release.

The company warned that the upcoming U.S. presidential election makes advertiser behavior “hard to predict.”

“In Q2, many brands slowed or paused spend in reaction to US civil unrest, only to increase spend relatively quickly thereafter in an effort to catch up,” Twitter wrote in the release. “The period surrounding the US election is somewhat uncertain, but we have no reason to believe that September’s revenue trends can’t continue, or even improve, outside of the election-related window.”

Segal compared the upcoming uncertainty to earlier protests for racial justice. He said that even though many advertisers paused spending at the time, they largely ended up coming back and spending through their budgets later on because their spending targets remained the same.

Twitter discussed in its letter to shareholders its efforts to combat misinformation and provide context to users, especially with the uncertainty that could surround election results in the U.S. as mail-in ballots are expected to potentially prolong the outcome.

The company plans to label tweets that falsely claim a win for a candidate and will remove posts encouraging violence or election interference. Before users retweet a message labeled as misleading, they will be prompted to look at credible information on the subject. Those labeled tweets will be de-amplified by Twitter’s algorithm.

Twitter said it has already seen some success from its efforts to promote healthier conversations. During the third quarter, it began prompting users to read an article if they attempt to retweet it without clicking on the link. Twitter said people who retweet articles now open them 33% more often before they share since this process was added.

Twitter’s earnings report comes one day after its CEO, Jack Dorsey, testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee. Dorsey and CEOs from Facebook and Google showed up to defend their legal liability shield, Section 230, from lawmakers keen to weaken it. The law protects platforms from being held responsible for their users’ posts and also allows them to moderate content they find to be objectionable.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

cnbc.com

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From: Glenn Petersen11/6/2020 10:52:21 AM
   of 1326
 
Trump will lose a certain Twitter privilege if Biden wins the 2020 election

New York Post
November 5, 2020

If President Trump loses the election, he will also have to say goodbye to a Twitter privilege that lets world leaders keep up tweets with certain offensive or misleading content, according to a report.

Trump, as president, has benefited from the Twitter policy that flags content that violates the platform’s rules — but does not outright force their deletion, as is the case with ordinary users, Bloomberg reported.

But if Biden wins the election, come January, Trump will fall into the former world leader category, losing the special treatment, the report said.


Since election night, eight of Trump’s tweets have been flagged by the social media giant.

In one such tweet, the president accused his political opponents of trying to “STEAL the Election.” Twitter said that tweet violated their civic integrity policy.

The point of the world leaders policy, according to Bloomberg, is to diminish the spread of the rule-breaking content. Tweets flagged by Twitter can be viewed, but not liked or retweeted without a comment.

A Twitter spokesman explained to Bloomberg in a statement why flagged tweets from world leaders remain accessible on the platform.

“A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable,” the spokesman said.

“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.”

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From: Glenn Petersen11/14/2020 7:51:48 PM
   of 1326
 
Parler, Backed by Mercer Family, Makes Play for Conservatives Mad at Facebook, Twitter

The libertarian-minded platform aims to challenge tech giants through a focus on free speech; surge in users since the election

By Jeff Horwitz and Keach Hagey
Wall Street Journal
Updated Nov. 14, 2020 5:48 pm ET



CEO of Parler John Matze says the platform has grappled with its rapid growth. PHOTO: BRIDGET BENNETT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
__________________

As Facebook Inc. FB 0.68% and Twitter Inc. TWTR 1.57% have taken a harder line against unsubstantiated claims of a stolen presidential election, prominent conservatives on both platforms have responded with anger and a frequent retort: Follow me on Parler.

Launched in 2018, the libertarian-leaning social network was the most downloaded app on both Android and Apple devices for most of last week, according to data from Google and analytics firm App Annie. Its leaders envision it as a free-speech-focused alternative to the giants of Silicon Valley.

The platform also has some deep-pocketed investors. Hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah are among the company’s financial backers, according to people familiar with the matter. The Mercers have previously financed a number of conservative causes.

After The Wall Street Journal reported on the Mercers’ ties with Parler, Chief Executive John Matze confirmed that Rebekah Mercer was the lead investor in the company at its outset and said that her backing was dependent on the platform allowing users to control what they see. Mr. Mercer couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Mercer also said in a post on the platform that she and Mr. Matze “started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended.” She said the effort is an answer to what she called the “ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.”



Rebekah Mercer, right, and Nick Ayers, a Trump adviser, arriving at Trump Tower in New York in 2016.PHOTO: AP
-------------
The company’s user base more than doubled to 10 million in under a week, making it difficult for its roughly 30-person staff to keep up with the flood of new sign-ups.

“You’d fix one thing, and another would blow out,” Mr. Matze said. “We’re now solid at this point.”

Other allies of President Trump have joined Ms. Mercer in framing Parler’s rapid growth as a rebuke to major tech platforms’ efforts to more aggressively label content or restrict the reach of posts that the platforms deemed misleading or dangerous. Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo announced she was quitting Twitter TWTR 1.57% for Parler, where she has amassed more than 1 million followers. Conservative talk show host Dan Bongino—who is both one of Facebook’s most popular content creators and an investor in Parler—heralded its growth as “a collective middle finger to the tech tyrants.”

Both of them have continued to post on Facebook and Twitter, though, raising the question of whether Parler will eventually complement or replace larger platforms with much bigger audiences.

In part, that answer will be determined by the success of Parler’s business model, which eschews some of the foundational tools of social media.

Twitter and Facebook gather extensive data about the content users interact with—and then customize what users see based on what’s likely to appeal to them. When the platforms detect content that’s popular among a swath of users, they promote that content in more users’ feeds—creating the sort of viral sensations social media is known for.
Parler doesn’t do that. The platform doesn’t use content-recommendation algorithms, collects almost no data about its users and, for privacy reasons, hasn’t provided the tools to let users easily cross-post from other platforms. Parler simply shows users all the posts from everyone they follow, in reverse chronological order.

While Parler’s terms of service allow the app to tailor content for its users in the future, executives said they were committed to their libertarian principles.

“We’re choosing to be a neutral platform,” said Jeffrey Wernick, the company’s chief operating officer.

Parler’s hands-off philosophy could test users.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Parler leaves virtually all moderation decisions up to individuals, allowing them to choose whether to apply filters that hide content such as hate speech, graphic violence and pornography. The minimal enforcement that exists—primarily the removal of spam, threats of violence, or illegal activity—is handled by “community jurors,” all currently volunteers.

That policy leads to freewheeling political discussion. It also allows some communities to flourish that don’t fit as easily on other platforms, such as a group of users who publish their nude photos on the platform, Mr. Matze said.

Parler has also been embraced by individuals who have been banned by other platforms. Far-right talk-show host Alex Jones, the extremist group The Proud Boys and the “Stop the Steal” election protest organizers all have established sizable followings on Parler after being banned from Facebook.

In recent weeks the app has teemed with claims about election fraud without offering evidence, white-supremacist content and posts from backers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, the Anti-Defamation League said in a blog post Thursday.

Mr. Matze said allowing those groups on the platform is consistent with the company’s commitment to free speech, even if not all of it is to his taste.

“Those Q-Anon people, they creep me out,” said Mr. Matze, the 26-year-old CEO who founded the Henderson, Nev.-based company after graduating from the University of Denver.

“I can see why there’s interest in this,” said Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook product manager and Twitter adviser, noting that mainstream platforms feel they must make concessions on free speech in order to reach the broadest possible audience.

Yet recent history suggests that “at some point the world revolts against this sort of thing,” he said, noting the struggles of alt-right platforms such as Gab. It faced both public condemnation and a blockade by web-hosting and payment providers in 2018 after revelations that a man who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue had posted on Gab about plans to act on his anti-Semitic beliefs. Gab said afterward that it would bolster efforts to prevent threats of physical harm.

Shannon McGregor, a social media researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Information, Technology and Public Life, said partisan social media has traditionally struggled, in part because sparring across ideological lines keeps users engaged.

In addition, she said, Parler’s commitment to chronological feeds for users could present challenges for high-profile content creators.

“It’s not going to give the greatest voice to the leading figures in the way that an algorithmic feed does,” she said.

Parler executives acknowledge that their principles could slow their growth.

Turning a profit isn’t an urgent concern, Mr. Wernick said, adding that the surge in Parler downloads has been accompanied by interest from new potential investors and advertisers.

“We think that, long term, doing the right thing will pay off,” he said.

Write to Jeff Horwitz at Jeff.Horwitz@wsj.com and Keach Hagey at keach.hagey@wsj.com

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From: Glenn Petersen11/17/2020 9:09:45 AM
   of 1326
 
Twitter is rolling out competitors to Instagram, Snapchat and Clubhouse

PUBLISHED TUE, NOV 17 20208:00 AM EST
Salvador Rodriguez @SAL19
CNBC.com

KEY POINTS

-- Twitter on Tuesday launched Fleets, its competitor to Snapchat and Instagram’s stories features, to all users.

-- The company also announced Spaces, a feature that will allow users to join virtual rooms where they can engage in real-time, audio conversations with others. The feature is similar to that of Clubhouse, a popular startup.

Twitter on Tuesday launched Fleets, its competitor to the stories features available in Snapchat and Instagram. It also announced that it will soon start testing a new audio feature similar to that of popular startup Clubhouse.

Fleets lets Twitter users post full-screen photos, videos, reactions to tweets or plain text that disappears after 24 hours.

Twitter began testing Fleets in March in select markets like Brazil, but it starts rolling out globally to iOS and Android Twitter users on Tuesday. The feature will show up at the top of users’ apps, above their feed. The company said it expects this feature to encourage more users to post content.

“People feel more comfortable joining conversations on Twitter with this ephemeral format because what they’re saying lives just for a moment instead of feeling like it’s around forever,” said Joshua Harris, Twitter design director.

The company on Tuesday also announced Spaces, a feature that will allow users to join virtual rooms where they can engage in real-time, audio conversations with others.

Spaces brings to mind Clubhouse, a startup that quickly gained popularity earlier this year among venture capitalists. Clubhouse allows its users to join rooms where they can engage in real-time, audio conversations with others.

Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour said Spaces will allow Twitter users to have more thoughtful debate and exchanges.

“It’s not a ‘Here’s an interesting startup doing something interesting. Let’s try and replicate it,’” Beykpour said. “It’s very fundamental for us. If we want Twitter to be a place where we can have thoughtful conversations, we need to support a wide spectrum of those conversations.”

Spaces will roll out to select test users before the end of 2020. At the start of that testing, Spaces will only be available to users who are women or of marginalized backgrounds, the company said. Those are users who face a disproportionate amount of harassment on Twitter, said Maya Gold Patterson, Twitter staff product designer.

“The team is interested and the company is interested in hearing first from this group of people on their feedback,” Patterson said.

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From: Glenn Petersen11/22/2020 7:08:31 PM
   of 1326
 
Twitter’s New ‘Fleets’ Are for People Who Are Afraid to Tweet

‘Tweeting, retweeting, engaging in conversation can honestly be incredibly terrifying,’ the company’s head of research said

Will Oremus
OneZero via Medium
November 17, 2020



Twitter Fleets, a new “Stories”-like feature. Image: Twitter
-----------------------------------

Twitter on Tuesday launched “Fleets,” its version of the Snapchat Stories (or Instagram Stories, or Facebook Stories, or LinkedIn Stories, or… well, you get the idea). Like those others, they can come in the form of text, images, or video; they appear above the feeds of the people who follow you and they disappear after 24 hours. On Twitter, they can also include a tweet, either yours or someone else’s, along with your reaction to it. Unlike tweets, they can’t be retweeted, liked, or replied to, except via direct message.

From one perspective, this is just Twitter keeping up with the Joneses, launching a familiar feature in a characteristically belated fashion. In a call with journalists on Monday, however, Twitter executives made the case that Fleets are part of a larger push to reshape the service as something friendlier, safer, and more comfortable for novice users. Along with Fleets, the company teased an upcoming feature called Spaces, which will allow users to set up live audio chat rooms and control who can join.

If you ask Twitter’s power users what the company’s biggest problems are, especially in the United States, you’re likely to hear about issues such as content moderation, abuse and harassment, bots, partisan echo chambers, and its codependent, love-hate relationship with Donald Trump. Those are all real issues that the company continues to struggle with. From a business standpoint, however, Twitter’s biggest problem is simply that most people still don’t tweet.

While the platform has grown in recent years, closing in on 200 million daily active users worldwide, it was long ago lapped by younger rivals such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, and the pandemic has not resulted in the boom that other online platforms have experienced. What’s holding Twitter back, the company believes, is not a lack of public interest in its platform, which has become integral to politics and culture. It’s that a lot of people, even after they join, are scared to tweet.

“Tweeting, retweeting, engaging in conversation can honestly be incredibly terrifying,” especially for new users, said Nikkia Reveillac, the company’s head of research. “They don’t know if anyone will reply; they don’t know if anyone will even care.” That matters to Twitter because its data show that, while some people may settle in as lurkers, actively tweeting and replying is what drives people to make Twitter a habit, rather than just an occasional visit.

Early tests of Fleets in several countries suggest that new users find them to be “an easier way to get started,” and that those with the feature enabled go on to engage more, said Joshua Harris, a director of design at Twitter. “We’ve been able to see how this new experience allows people to share what they’re thinking with less pressure.” Harris seemed to view the feature as primarily conducive to casual, tossed-off personal thoughts or reactions that don’t merit a permanent, public tweet. Granted, that describes a lot of tweets that people already send — but also, it seems, a lot that they opt not to.

Recent Fleets from people you follow will appear above your timeline, a piece of real estate that Twitter is now referring to internally as the “Fleet line.” But they won’t have that spot to themselves. In the coming months, they’ll share it with Spaces, an audio chat product that Twitter said it will roll out “as an experiment” to a small group of users.



Twitter Spaces will allow users to start voice chats with groups of people. Image:
Twitter
--------------------------------

Those with Spaces enabled will be able to convene a live group voice chat on Twitter and invite either their followers or a few specific people to join. Anyone can listen, but the person who creates the Space controls who can participate. The concept calls to mind Clubhouse and Discord, which have grown fast amid the pandemic, but which have also been beset by moderation problems that may be endemic to voice platforms. But Twitter’s mostly public nature suggests that, for better or worse, it might feel more like an onstage panel than a living room chat.
Another thing that will set Spaces apart is the initial audience. Twitter product designer Maya Gold Patterson said the feature will be enabled first for women and people from marginalized communities — that is, some of the people most likely to face harassment, abuse, and bigotry on Twitter. “The company is interested in hearing first from this group of people on their feedback on audio Spaces,” Patterson said.

Recent Fleets from people you follow will appear above your timeline, a piece of real estate that Twitter is now referring to internally as the “Fleet line”

Taken together, these product updates suggest that Twitter views its longstanding problems with user safety and user growth as two sides of a coin. If Twitter can find ways to make marginalized users feel safer, it should in theory feel safer to everyone else, too — and more welcoming for people who have been hesitant to get involved at all.

Then again, Twitter has been trying to solve those same two problems for years, in various ways. The company, to its credit, seems to finally be ramping up its pace of product development. But it’s not clear yet whether bolting on additional features can change the underlying nature of Twitter’s service —or convince newcomers that it’s worth their time.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1299)12/13/2020 11:40:57 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 1326
 
h/t Ron

Why would anyone wish to participate in an echo chamber?

Conservatives flocked to Parler after the election. But its explosive growth is over

By Kaya Yurieff, C NN Business
Updated 6:23 AM ET, Thu December 10, 2020

(CNN)In the wake of the US election, conservatives flocked to alternative social networks including Parler over complaints that Facebook and Twitter censored their voices.

At one point, Parler hit the number one spot overall on Apple's US App Store, ahead of big names like TikTok and YouTube. In about a week, the app saw more than 4.5 million new people sign up for accounts, according to a letter from Parler CEO John Matze.

Now that bump appears to be fading.

New downloads for Parler have plummeted and are approaching the same levels as before the election, according to data from Apptopia, which tracks mobile apps. While Parler's daily active users, a key metric of how engaged people are in the service, remains higher than before the election, the number is decreasing, Apptopia says.

"The data trends resemble a fad, and a short-lived one at that," said Adam Blacker, VP of insights at Apptopia. "Parler had a very good spike. People were interested, it's in the news, it receives downloads. ... But it appears, in our data, that there is no staying power."

According to the data, on Oct. 25, Parler was downloaded about 16,000 times. Downloads peaked in mid-November, when it was downloaded nearly 340,000 times in a single day. On Monday, it was downloaded nearly 20,000 times. Daily active users on Parler shot up from about 500,000 on Oct. 25 to a peak of about 2.9 million in late November and have since fallen to 2.3 million.

Parler, founded in 2018, bills itself as "unbiased social media" and a place where people can "speak freely" without fear of being "deplatformed," according to its website and App Store description. It looks like a mashup of Twitter and Instagram, with a main feed, follower metrics and ways to share posts and links. It's also rife with misinformation, including a stream of baseless allegations of voter fraud.

In recent years, cries of conservative bias or accusations of censorship have made way for several alternative platforms, including Gab, 4chan and 8chan. However, none of them have yet succeeded in creating a robust right-leaning platform that sticks with a significant audience.

Upstarts don't have the vast resources of behemoths like Facebook ( FB), they often can't handle an influx of traffic without problems and they lack the functionality that mainstream networks have built up over the years. Plus, it can be hard for people to fully leave the platforms they've used for years.

CNN Business previously spoke with Trump supporters who have used alternative social media platforms, including Parler, and almost none of them had totally ditched services like Facebook and Twitter. Some said they don't want to cede the space to the "other side," some want to be able to see what the other side is saying and to argue with them.

Experts in content moderation also said that while the concept of a platform with little content moderation might sound appealing on paper, the reality is more complicated. For example, Parler's lack of moderation policies has allowed for a proliferation of pornography on the platform, according to a report from the Washington Post.

"In theory, a user is like 'I don't want Twitter to silence my speech,'" said Daniel Kelley, associate director of the Center for Technology and Society at the Anti-Defamation League. "But in practice, if you're really not doing any content moderation, even at the level of the most egregious, the experience for users declines significantly."

Prominent conservative voices who have joined the platform, including Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, Fox News host Sean Hannity, radio personality Mark Levin and Congressman Devin Nunes, continue to post frequently. But that won't be enough to keep the platform going, according to Kelley.

"Ninja made the jump from Twitch to Mixer, and Mixer shut down earlier this year," Kelley said, referring to the prominent "Fortnite" streamer who said he would exclusively use Microsoft's Mixer video game streaming platform. "You can definitely boost [a service] with people who are prominent, but there has to be an organic community in order for platforms to grow."

After Mixer shutdown due to lack of momentum, Ninja went back to Twitch.

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From: Glenn Petersen1/25/2021 9:22:34 PM
   of 1326
 
Twitter launches 'Birdwatch,' a forum to combat misinformation

Twitter said it hopes to build a community of "Birdwatchers" that can eventually help moderate and label tweets in its main product.

Jan. 25, 2021, 11:56 AM CST
By Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny

Twitter unveiled a feature Monday meant to bolster its efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation by tapping users in a fashion similar to Wikipedia to flag potentially misleading tweets.

The new system allows users to discuss and provide context to tweets they believe are misleading or false. The project, titled Birdwatch, is a standalone section of Twitter that will at first only be available to a small set of users, largely on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority will not be provided to high-profile people or traditional fact-checkers, but users will have to use an account tied to a real phone number and email address.

“Birdwatch allows people to identify information in Tweets they believe is misleading or false, and write notes that provide informative context," Twitter Vice President of Product Keith Coleman wrote in a press release. "We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable."

While Birdwatch will initially be cordoned off to a separate section of Twitter, the company said “eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

Demos of the product viewed by NBC News showed a separate area in which tweets are discussed and rated in a format that combines elements of both Reddit’s and Wikipedia’s moderation tools.

Birdwatch users are able to flag tweets from a dropdown menu directly within Twitter’s main interface, but discussion about a tweet’s veracity will remain exclusively in the Birdwatch section. Twitter says it does anticipate some users linking directly to Birdwatch discussions underneath high-profile and controversial tweets, just as some users would link out to fact-checking sites.

Participants in Birdwatch are able to rate others’ notes, as a mechanism to prevent bad-faith users from gaming the system and falsely labeling true tweets as false. Those ratings are then assembled into a Birdwatch profile separate of a Twitter profile, not unlike Reddit’s user-rating system.

Twitter said it hopes to build a community of "Birdwatchers" that can eventually help moderate and label tweets in its main product, but will not be immediately labeling tweets with Birdwatch suggestions.

Twitter has faced increased pressure over the last year to address rampant misinformation on the platform. Aside from removal, it has relied on labeling, or adding context below tweets that spread misinformation. In March, facing a deluge of misinformation about the pandemic, it began removing “misleading and potentially harmful content” about Covid-19. By May, it had introduced labels to respond to tweets containing conspiracy theories about the origins of the disease and fake cures.

In February, Twitter rolled out a new “manipulated media” label, affixing it first to a tweet from then-President Donald Trump. In the months ahead, it would label many more for misinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic and the election. In just the final two weeks before the election, Twitter said it labeled some 300,000 tweets for “disputed and potentially misleading” content.

Twitter told NBC News it was encouraged by early trials of the program, which have been ongoing in the last year. NBC News first reported on a leaked demo of the program, which was then titled “Community Notes,” in last February.

Twitter heavily focused on the threat of “manipulation” by what it calls “swarms” of bad actors, who may seek to use the platform as another weapon in online information wars.

“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors. We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot,” Coleman wrote.

Researchers will also be able to download bulk data about Birdwatch entries, which he hopes will “enable experts, researchers, and the public to analyze or audit Birdwatch” and deter manipulation.

“We know this might be messy and have problems at times, but we believe this is a model worth trying,” Coleman wrote.

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