The Trouble With Twitter. Trolls, Verifications removed & Stock failing

Twitter is experiencing serious growing pains as of late, with the twitter stock dropping below $20 today, for the first time ever.

New ideas announced, such as the future limit of 10,000 chars instead of 140, aren't helping either. 10,000 chars is more than most editorials, is twitter trying to be a tumblr? It became the webs commenting system to all news & stories, now it wants to be the publication system of all news and stories. I've said it before; "Content is no longer king, the platform on which it is delivered is", and Twitter wants to be a bigger platform to solve their stock pricing problem.

Twitter has long had issues with abuse, and they made it clear several times they really don't know how to handle it. There's pornography & dominatrix services accounts, ISIS accounts, trolls, random shitposters, and people of all political persuasions on twitter, yet only the latter seem to get kicked off the service and banned forever. Twitter admits ’We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls.’, so the new abuse policy is since they can't stop it, they'll hide it: Just push it under the rug. This strategy was seen immediately in most peoples feeds. Conversations died out, and some really active people seem to have vanished (I barely see @adweek on twitter anymore and I used to see them all the time). Do you notice that Twitter acts a bit like Facebook now, where you don't see everything your friends are saying, even when they are speaking directly to you? Where posts from hours ago are appearing at the top of your feed, as if they are new? Jack Dorsey has begun experimenting with a timeline view in which tweets are sorted by relevance - as determined by an algorithm which can only be as smart as the person who programmed it - rather than chronological time published. Adding to that he launched an "while you were away" feature, that I've had to say "no thanks" to approx. a 100 times already. Jack Dorsey believes in this and "Moments" so much he's pushing it in the GUI of twitter, moving the buttons around hoping that one day we'll click it by accident.

"You will see us continue to question our reverse chronological timeline, and all the work it takes to build one by finding and following accounts ... We continue to show a questioning of our fundamentals in order to make the product easier and more accessible to more people.”

You know a feature that I really really want? I want to not lose people that I have purposely followed, due to that mystery unfollow-bug that has existed since Twitter first launched. I keep having to re-follow my friends, and it's frankly really annoying. Since Twitter made itself famous for and is widely used for being a real time news platform, removing chronological timelines is killing the killer app reason people went there for in the first place.

But then again, the trolls aren't helping. Journalists pressed for time have been ambulance chasing on twitter to the point of parody, and it's affecting the news we are seeing. Tweet anything about people being escorted off a flight, and you'll get twenty responses from journalists looking for a story. Pretend you're in an active shooter situation in San Bernardino and you'll even get on CNN news, as "Marie Christmas" proved when s/he managed to troll CNN and the AP. His/Her quote ended up as "Marie A. Parker" in an AP telegram that was published by the New York Times, and it was clearly a troll mocking the journalists, as s/he threw in a clear reference to Gamergate. AP archive

"... When she asked what he was doing, he replied, "for necessary ethics," according to Parker. The woman said he had a strange emblem on his shirt with the letters GG on it. He didn't harm her, just asked her to stay quiet, Parker said."

And just the other day, a troll account claiming to be Ammon Bundy, of current Oregon militia news story fame, punked most of the mainstream media by tweeting out outrageous quotes, such as the one where he compared them to Rosa Parks and pondered what Martin Luther King might say. A plethora of opinion editorials were written about how horrible this was, all without the writers realizing they had fallen for a troll account.

Then there's the issue of Twitter Verified. At first, Twitter verified celebrities, which made a lot of sense as fans wanted to know they were following the real Kim Kardashian, Madonna or Rihanna and not a Madonna-imposter. The Mega-celebs were usually verified even before they logged on to twitter, and with this Twitter lured more fans to sign up so that they may celebrity-stalk Justin Bieber or every guy in One Direction. Twitter made it clear that a "Verified" checkmark was to ensure we knew that the person being X account was actually that person, regardless if it actually was their PR handler doing all the tweeting. Soon lots of friends of people who work at twitter were also verified, in a seemingly arbitrary game of knowing the right person. Journalists were verified, even those who had but one byline to their name, as long as they worked for the right publication, such as Buzzfeed, Vox, Huffpo, The Guardian, Wired, Bloomberg, and so on.

People who had problems with twitter accounts impersonating them could get verified - and many did in the early days of twitter, but not everyone who was having issues with twitter impersonators were granted the blue checkmark. Most of Adweek's writers have the verified checkmark, but not everyone at Adweek got it, so once again the checkmark seems arbitrary. Twitter says that Verification is currently used to establish authenticity of identities of key individuals and brands on Twitter, but our brand adland hasn't been verified. Pumpkin Spice Latte is verified but Captain Obvious isn't. To get verified you need to be chosen by a mystery someone at Twitter, or you could drop $15000 on advertising and secure your blue checkmark that way. Twitter says: "We concentrate on highly sought users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other key interest areas." as candidates for verification, so an obscure musician or media personality might be verified while a globally famous band is not. Logical, it isn't.

As it turns out, Twitter can also remove your verification. So the blue checkmark no longer means "this is the person/ brand it claims to be", it now means "this is someone whom Twitter approves of". I simply can not interpret this removal of a verified check-mark in any other way. In the Twitter Rules they refer to "hateful conduct" as a no-no, which leaves me once again completely baffled as to why there are thousands of ISIS twitter accounts still working. Anonymous claimed to have taken down 20,000 ISIS accounts by reporting them to twitter, one wonders how so many accounts existed in the first place if "hateful conduct" is not allowed on the platform. Naturally since the "verified" checkmark was once used to separate the real person from any impersonators, there are now masses of Milo Yiannopoulos accounts popping up on twitter right now, as people change their name and avatar in a digital "I am Spartacus" moment, and #JeSuisMilo will probably trend soon.

Twitter seems to be too confused as to what it really wants to be right now, and testing new features out keeps upsetting the users of the platform. Is it a chatroom, a shopping platform with "buy now" buttons, a real time newsfeed or what? The best new introduction was gifs, but Twitter Moments isn't taking off and the filtering done by twitter's own algorithm and users add-ons such as blockbots leaves a digital landscape where it's both difficult to find the action and to be heard. For brands, who have had to promote their tweets to be seen at all (promoted tweets bypass any blocks as proven and used by world famous troll Weev), this spells out the end of the twitter honeymoon. Twitter is now a moneypit in the same way Facebook is. Why invest in it when the ROI is negligible? For users, increasingly annoyed by bizarre promotions in their timelines and attached to their tweet-conversations, twitter's growing pains may make them seek out other platforms to hang out on. This week Peach is the hot new thing that might replace twitter. Next week, who knows.

Update, even Adam Baldwin has now joined in the #JeSuisMilo twitter protest, which is interesting since Adam Baldwin was recently suspended from Twitter for tweeting: "Gamergate'ers are much more attractive and joyous than anti-GG'ers: (with an image of well known people both camps)". Adam says he won't miss twitter. When the celebs leave, and the journalists are un-verified, what will Twitter have left? (archive)

Related article 9th January 2016 Twitter Verified: the blue checkmark that can cost $60,000 a year.
As with every article concerning Twitter, we've reached out to Twitter for comment, but have gotten no response.
Adland® is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by buying us a Ko-Fi coffee.
Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 1 MB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 m4v.
kidsleepy's picture

Twitter has also inadvertently uncovered a very interesting fact about the mainstream media's thought process. It seems they are so prejudiced about particular groups and so prone to thinking regular people are this vile on an everyday basis that they will look for anything that fits their narrative including trolls who are essentially championing the baseless bias. Part of it may be the clickbait journalism that drives clicks (on ads) and part of it may be laziness not to bother fact checking, but I also think if you start with a narrative, you'll do anything to prove the narrative. Remember, you never have to apologize for ruining someone's life. You only have to change the headline or put an update in seven point type a few days later to cover your ass.
I realize my theory may be giving a lot of trolls credit where it isn't due, but even if it's inadvertent, it still proves my point.

Dabitch's picture

Twitter became the pressed-for-time journalists watering hole, which looked like it would become a problem of non-verification, even early on. For real time events like natural disasters, Twitter served an information purpose which was a double-edged sword, on the one hand you may see actual events happening now. On the other you may be trolled by people who saw them before you, or like Gottfried you get fired for cracking a joke before the severity of the event is known. Twitter can't BOTH be the local pub and the window to the world at the same time it's not Schrödinger's social media, but it tries so hard.

Jojm Morris's picture

The problem with Twitter is that it is a multi-million dollar idea stuck trying to justify its multi-billion dollar valuation. Almost all of the other problems flow from that one problem.