Twitter Tests a 280-Character Limit – By Brian FeldmanSeptember 26, 2017 5:55 pm

More space for the president to declare nuclear war.

Twitter announced this afternoon that it would test a significant change to its defining feature: the 140-character limit. For a small random sample of users, the site will allow tweets that reach up to 280 characters. That’s, for those of you bad at math, double the current limit, which was chosen based on SMS character limits — a technical obstacle that has vanished as smartphones have taken over.

To answer your first question, the test is among a small random sample, so the odds are pretty good that the president isn’t in it. But, boy, who’s excited for him to find out?

With that out of the way, there’s a second big question: why? According to the official blog post announcing the test, it has to do with the not-very-dense Latin alphabet. “Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people Tweeting in English, but it is not for those Tweeting in Japanese,” writes product manager Aliza Rosen and software engineer Ikuhiro Ihara. “Also, in all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting — which is awesome!” More people tweeting means more people using Twitter, and more users means more chances to monetize that activity in some way.

The third big question, and the one animating the Twitter-power-user scene right now, is: Is this bad? I can’t say for sure but I don’t think so. Right now, plenty of people just take screenshots of longer text snippets — say, from the Notes app — and upload them as images when they can’t fit what they want to say into 140 characters. Raising the character limit might make more verbose users post in text rather than images. Text, of course, is searchable (this was a similar line of thinking CEO Jack Dorsey offered last year when he flirted with letting people post much longer text attachments). Twitter has already made other tweaks this year to allow more characters in tweets, excluding media attachments and preceding @-handles from the character count, neither of which have considerably changed the experience, (save for the first couple of days when users try to push the limits of a new feature by tagging 50 users in a single post).

There’s no timetable for when the limit upgrade will be available widely. Maybe it will fail and never roll out. But considering the PR rollout corresponding with the decision, I’d bet on the former.

Twitter Has a Serious Problem—And It’s Actually a Bigger Deal Than People Realize – AJ VICENS APR. 14, 2017 6:00 AM

Bots can undermine democracy.

On March 30, during the first Senate intelligence committee hearing on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, London-based cybersecurity expert Thomas Rid described how several groups became “unwitting agents” of Russian efforts to influence the American presidential election. One was WikiLeaks, which has been accused by the US government of helping the Russian government when it published thousands of emails related to the Clinton campaign. Journalists who “aggressively covered the political leaks while neglecting or ignoring their provenance” were another group.

And so was Twitter, Rid said, because of the “fully automated bots as well as semi-automated spam and trolling accounts [that] make up a sizeable part of Twitter’s active user base.”

In a January 6 report, the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency alleged that the Russian government undertook a wide-ranging effort to influence the 2016 election in an attempt to “undermine the US-led liberal democratic order,” and that part of that effort included “paid social media users or ‘trolls.'” Twitter won’t reveal how many automated bots, semi-automated spam, and trolling accounts are part of its approximately 313 million monthly active users. But the site provides a perfect platform for deploying what are known as “active measures,” Russian methods of information warfare Rid described as designed for “easy exploitation—high impact.”

But what can Twitter do about them?

Anybody with technical know-how can deploy or hire Twitter bots, an army of automated or semi-automated Twitter accounts that push a particular message at a much faster pace than any individual user could. One South American hacker told Bloomberg in March 2016 how he used Twitter bots in an attempt to influence an election in Mexico. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed published an interview with a Utah-based software developer who created his own army of Trump-supporting bots during this last election. News organizations have also used bots to automatically push out certain news items or, in one case, highlight every time the New York Times uses an anonymous source.

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Twitter Seeks New Path After Potential Bidders Said to Back Off – by Sarah Frier , Brian Womack , and Alex Sherman October 8, 2016 — 3:02 PM EDT October 8, 2016 — 7:32 PM EDT


Twitter Inc., struggling to find new users, will need to rely more heavily on its live video streaming strategy after top potential bidders were said to have lost interest in making offers amid pressure from their investors.

Twitter once saw interest from Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Inc. and Walt Disney Co., all of which consulted with banks on whether to acquire the social-media company. Now all of those suitors are unlikely to make a bid, according to people familiar with the matter. On Friday, Twitter had planned to have a board meeting with outside advisers on a sale but canceled, one of the people said.

The company’s search for buyers began after several quarters in which sales and user growth slowed. Twitter received interest from one potential acquirer, which led the board to hire Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Allen & Co. to pursue a sale in September. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey opposed a sale, while co-founder and board member Ev Williams, supported a deal.

Twitter has considered other solutions, such as divestitures of assets not central to its business, people familiar with the matter have said.

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Twitter Is Expected to Field Bids This Week – By  Monica Langley Oct. 4, 2016 6:49 p.m. ET

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff wants Twitter’s data trove and brand; he called social-media pioneer an ‘unpolished jewel’

Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff in San Francisco last month. Mr. Benioff recently told a dozen tech CEOs that Twitter was an ‘unpolished jewel.’

Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff in San Francisco last month. Mr. Benioff recently told a dozen tech CEOs that Twitter was an ‘unpolished jewel.’ Photo: Reuters

Twitter Inc. is expected to field bids this week, and Marc Benioff has been building a case to Inc. investors and others that his company should be the buyer, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Benioff is looking to make a splashy acquisition that would secure for Salesforce a treasure trove of data as well as a prized consumer brand, according to the people.

Mr. Benioff, whose recent approach to Twitter set off the bidding process, sees the social-media pioneer as an “unpolished jewel” with untapped potential in advertising, e-commerce and other data-rich applications he regards as important to the cloud-software juggernaut’s next phase of growth, the people said.

But the brash CEO, who lost out to Microsoft Corp. in a bitter battle to buy LinkedInCorp. this spring, faces formidable obstacles. Alphabet Inc. ’s Google may bid also, the people said, while media giant Walt Disney Co. has been considering its own offer.

While Twitter could cost upward of $20 billion, or more than a third of Salesforce’s roughly $49 billion market value, it would be more bite-sized for Google, the search powerhouse whose parent sports a market value of more than $500 billion. Disney, meanwhile, has a market capitalization of almost $150 billion.

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Twitter Is Running Out of Time to Get Real About Fighting Abuse – DAVEY ALBA. 07.22.16. 7:00 AM

Another week, another eruption of abuse on Twitter. This time, it was Breitbart writer and self-anointed “supervillain of the Internet” Milo Yiannopoulos, whom the company finally banned after he stoked his followers into flooding Ghostbustersactress Leslie Jones with hateful and racist messages. Yiannopoulos went so far as to tweet out fake screenshots of things Jones supposedly but did not actually say on Twitter. In the end, Jones said she would leave Twitter altogether.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was apparently aware of the situation, tweeting at Jones as early as Monday evening. But Twitter still took another day to finally kick Yiannopolous off the platform after facing considerable public pressure. On Thursday afternoon, Jones posted a short tweet saying she was grateful for the public’s support. “People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter,” Twitter said in a statement addressing the incident. “But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”

Well, fine. That was certainly the right thing for Twitter to do, and as no shortage of incidents show, dealing with online abuse effectively can be tricky. But after years of Twitter maturing as a community and a company, including a seemingly robust anti-abuse policy, what gives? Why didn’t Twitter take more decisive—and frankly, faster—action?

Yes, Twitter walks a fine line in balancing its identity as an open network for all views while at the same time reserving the right to police content so that a mob can’t overpower and harass a single user. And in a lot of ways, it’s made progress: it explicitly banned revenge porn last year. It routinely works with groups to refine its anti-abuse tools, and it hasn’t shied away from banning other high-profile users in the past, including pop star Azealia Banks and right-wing troll Chuck C. Johnson. But some say Twitter is running out of excuses in its failure to fully address this problem. And that’s a shame, because there’s no other network that has accrued quite the same cultural currency as Twitter.

Twitter’s Abuse Problem

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Brexit Is Sending Markets Diving. Twitter Could Be Making It Worse – ISSIE LAPOWSKY 06.24.16 1:17 PM

After the stock market crash of 2008, Bollen analyzed nearly 10 million tweets from that year. He found that when the level of panic rose on Twitter, the Dow would drop three or four days later.

The fate of the global economy is in doubt today following the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union. Last night the British pound fell to a 30-year low. Prime Minister David Cameron is resigning. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, called the referendum “the most significant, near-term domestic risk to financial stability.” This morning, within the first five minutes of trading, the Dow fell more than 500 points.

But long before all the votes were tallied—and years before officials finish negotiating the terms of the UK’s departure—Twitter had reached a consenus on the Brexit: This is a disaster.

And the consequences may well be that bad. Uncertainty has never been a friend to global markets, and uncertainty is just what Brexit creates in heaps, particularly for the British economy. But like never before, social media has the ability to amplify the angst that uncertainty creates. And the markets may well be responding to that enhanced anxiety.

There is a very real phenomenon of so-called ‘mood contagion’ that happens online.

To be clear, the social media masses aren’t the only ones predicting economic doom as a result of the Brexit. In an op-ed unsubtly headlined “The Brexit crash will make all of you poorer—be warned,” billionaire George Soros argued that a plunging British pound would make the country far more vulnerable to an economic crash than it was at the time of the global recession in 2008.

The markets are certainly responding to such admonitions. But mounting research shows that a feedback loop does exist between social media and the stock markets, in which online anxieties about the market’s response may feed into the response itself.

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Twitter Bars Intelligence Agencies From Using Analytics Service – By CHRISTOPHER S. STEWART and MARK MAREMONT May 8, 2016 7:54 p.m. ET

Social media firm cuts access to Dataminr, a service used to identify unfolding terror attacks, political unrest

Dataminr says it first notified clients about the March attacks in Brussels 10 minutes ahead of news media.

Dataminr says it first notified clients about the March attacks in Brussels 10 minutes ahead of news media.  — Photo: Geert Vanden/Zuma Press

Twitter Inc. cut off U.S. intelligence agencies from access to a service that sifts through the entire output of its social-media postings, the latest example of tension between Silicon Valley and the federal government over terrorism and privacy.

The move, which hasn’t been publicly announced, was confirmed by a senior U.S. intelligence official and other people familiar with the matter. The service—which sends out alerts of unfolding terror attacks, political unrest and other potentially important events—isn’t directly provided by Twitter, but instead by Dataminr Inc., a private company that mines public Twitter feeds for clients.

Twitter owns about a 5% stake in Dataminr, the only company it authorizes both to access its entire real-time stream of public tweets and sell it to clients.

Dataminr executives recently told intelligence agencies that Twitter didn’t want the company to continue providing the service to them, according to a person familiar with the matter. The senior intelligence official said Twitter appeared to be worried about the “optics” of seeming too close to American intelligence services.

Twitter said it has a long-standing policy barring third parties, including Dataminr, from selling its data to a government agency for surveillance purposes. The company wouldn’t comment on how Dataminr—a close business partner—was able to provide its service to the government for two years, or why that arrangement came to an end.

In a statement, Twitter said its “data is largely public and the U.S. government may review public accounts on its own, like any user could.”

The move doesn’t affect Dataminr’s service to financial industry, news media or other clients outside the intelligence community. The Wall Street Journal is involved in a trial of Dataminr’s news product.

Dataminr’s software detects patterns in hundreds of millions of daily tweets, traffic data, news wires and other sources. It matches the data with market information and geographic data, among other things, to determine what information is credible or potentially actionable.


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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg meets China propaganda chief in Beijing –

The founder of the social media company met Liu Yunshan amid concerns about China’s crackdown on internet users

Mark Zuckerberg meets China's propaganda chief, Liu Yunshan, in Beijing.

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has held a rare meeting with China’s propaganda chief amid a crackdown by the Beijing authorities on the use of the internet.

Liu Yunshan told Zuckerberg that he hopes Facebook can share its experience with Chinese companies to help “internet development better benefit the people of all countries”, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Zuckerberg was in Beijing to attend an economic forum.

China has called for the creation of a global internet “governance system” and cooperation between countries to regulate internet use, stepping up efforts to promote controls that activists complain stifle free expression.

Facebook and other western social media companies including Twitter are banned in China. Zuckerberg has long been courting China’s leaders in a so far futile attempt to access the country with the world’s largest number of Internet users — 668 million as of last year.

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Twitter Isn’t Raising the Character Limit. It’s Becoming a Walled Garden. – By Will Oremus JAN. 5 2016 4:08 PM

Investors are nervous about Twitter's next move. But they should be pleased. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Investors are nervous about Twitter’s next move. But they should be pleased.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Tweeters are freaking out—again—about another report that Twitter will soon lift its famous 140-character limit on the length of tweets. They should calm down—again—for reasons I’ll explain.

That is, unless they care deeply about the open World Wide Web, in which case they will be free to freak out after all. If I’m right about what’s really going on here, this move will not fundamentally alter how Twitter looks or feels, nor how people use it. Rather, it will change where online content is hosted, who controls it, and who is in a position to monetize it.

First, some context. The influential tech blog Re/Code first reported in September that Twitter was building a new product that would allow people to share tweets longer than 140 characters. A fresh report from Re/Code, published Tuesday, puts a number on that new product, and it is a large number indeed: 10,000. As in, Twitter will raise the character limit for tweets from 140 to 10,000. The new report, again citing anonymous sources, also adds a name for the project—Twitter is internally calling it “Beyond 140”—and a date: The new character limit could take effect in the next three months.

This is all interesting information, and Re/Code’s Kurt Wagner deserves credit for excavating it, even if it’s still a little speculative. I have no trouble believing the report’s accuracy.

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