In a blog post Monday night, Twitter laid out all the latest details of a historic purge that started with President Trump’s suspension and turned into a ban on tens of thousands of conservative voices, or as Twitter puts it, ” measures taken to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks and share deliberately misleading information about election results. It’s strange that none of these considerations surfaced during the summer, when American cities literally burned down from countless violent protests and frequent riots, but we digress.
Either way, in Twitter’s own delightfully ironic words, “It’s important to be transparent about all of this work as the US presidential inauguration approaches on January 20, 2021.” Which is probably a good idea in the wake of the biggest censorship purge in Twitter history, which brought down Twitter shares. So here’s how Twitter justifies “the purge”:
We have made it clear that we will take strict enforcement action on behavior that may cause harm offline. Given the violent events in Washington, DC and the increased risk of harm, we began to permanently suspend thousands of accounts primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon.
And with tens of thousands of accounts suspended (most of them permanently), banned or simply gone, it will hardly be surprising that, according to Tiwtter, “more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended ”. What is the rationale? “These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful content associated with QAnon on a large scale and were primarily dedicated to spreading this conspiracy theory across the service.”
More information in the full blog post below. Meanwhile, as BofA warned today and as marketers have clearly agreed, Twitter now faces the risk of wholesale “churn”, i.e. exodus, from from the conservative community in response to this unprecedented crackdown, which could lead to the disappearance of tens of millions of UAM:
More engagement risks for Twitter than Facebook
Donald Trump had 88 million followers on Twitter, the 6th most followed account, and on Facebook he had over 33 million followers. President Trump’s follower count makes up 47% of Twitter’s Daily Active Users (DAUs) (although not all followers are clearly DAUs), with his account averaging 34 Tweets per day in 2020 (up from 21 in 2019 ). Additionally, we see the conservative community churn rate within Twitter as a modest threat from 1Q DAU, but SensorTower suggests that DAU on Parlor (a conservative alternative) is around 130k (0.37% of US DAU in Twitter) as of January 8. Our call is that after a short-term deactivation news feed, powerful political activists will stay on Twitter for more content.
Content risk and article 230 brought to light
In June, the DoJ proposed to rescind some protections in Section 230, which specifies that internet companies are generally not responsible for content posted by users. While a Democratic administration may be less focused on meaningful section 230 reform, recent events may make content legislation more likely. While we believe that social platforms can accommodate content guidelines, the risks of a Section 230 cancellation include: 1) potential civil liability arising from victims of online content, and; 2) the expense risk associated with the need to increase content review capabilities. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke out in adopting an update to Section 230, while Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, “Erosion of Section 230 foundations could cause the Section 230 to fail. way we communicate on the internet, leaving only a small number of giants and well-funded technology companies.
And now we’re just waiting to find out how bad the “churn” of conservative users has been.
In the meantime, here is Twitter full statement on the Friday night purge:
An update following the riots in Washington, DC
Following the horrific events in Washington, DC last week, here are some of the steps we’ve taken to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, stage attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the outcome of the elections. It’s important to be transparent about all of this work as the U.S. presidential inauguration approaches on January 20, 2021.
Updated our coordinated policy on harmful activities
We have made it clear that we will take strict enforcement action on behaviors that may cause harm offline. Given the violent events in Washington, DC and the increased risk of harm, we began to permanently suspend thousands of accounts primarily dedicated to QAnon content sharing on Friday afternoon.
Many of those affected by this updated enforcement measure had multiple accounts, increasing the total number of affected accounts. As of Friday, over 70,000 accounts have been suspended as a result of our efforts, with many cases of a single individual operating multiple accounts. These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful content associated with QAnon on a large scale and were primarily dedicated to spreading this conspiracy theory across the service.
Our update to the QAnon content app on Twitter, along with routine spam challenges, has resulted in changes in the number of followers for some people’s Twitter accounts. In some cases, these actions may have resulted in changes in the number of subscribers in the thousands.
As stipulated in this policy, we announced ahead of the 2020 US election, accounts that have tweeted or retweeted related content will continue to be subject to limited visibility in searches, responses, and timelines, and may not be recommended to others by Twitter. It’s important that these types of accounts – which aren’t primarily engaged in sharing this material – can see different perspectives in the open public conversation that Twitter only provides.
Our teams discuss ways to strengthen research on QAnon and coordinate harmful activity on Twitter.
Increased enforcement measures for our civic integrity policy
In recent weeks, misleading and false information regarding the 2020 US presidential election has been at the root of the incitement to violence in the country. We have taken action on these allegations in accordance with our Civic integrity policy
Now that the election results have been officially certified by Congress, we updated our civic integrity policy on Friday to aggressively increase our enforcement action on these claims. The update Politics provides details of how we object to violations of this policy, including the repeated sharing of Tweets that receive warning labels. Ultimately, repeated violations of this policy may result in permanent suspension.
Technology deployed to bring up potentially harmful Tweets for urgent human review
Our teams continue to aggressively deploy technology to deliver potentially harmful Tweets for human review in an effort to take action on violent content as quickly as possible. Using this combination of technology and human scrutiny helps our teams work at scale during this critical time. We continue to update these tools as terminology and behavior evolves on Twitter.
Limited engagement on tagged Tweets
On Tuesday, we limited engagement by no longer allowing Tweets tagged with violations of our civic integrity policy to be replied to, like, or retweeted. Twitter users can always quote a Tweet to share that content with additional context or their own perspective.
Non-compliant keywords stuck in search and trending
We want Trends to foster healthy conversations on Twitter. This means that sometimes we may prevent certain content from tracking trends. There is rules for trends, and if we identify trends that violate these rules, we will take enforcement action.
As of last week, we’ve banned certain terms from showing in trending and search suggestions based on the following Twitter rules:
We will also continue to prioritize the review and adding context to trends. Our goal is to help people see what’s going on while ensuring that potentially confusing trends are presented with context.
Fights spam and challenges potentially non-genuine accounts
It is against Twitter’s rules to engage in spam behavior, including massive, aggressive, or deceptive activity. That’s why we regularly deploy anti-spam challenges on accounts to combat this behavior and protect the public conversation. During these challenges, account holders need to verify their authenticity through various measures, such as reCAPTCHA or providing a working email address.
As always, while accounts go through these challenges, they are temporarily removed from the subscriber count. This, along with our law enforcement update around Coordinated Harmful Activity, means some people may notice drops or fluctuations in their subscriber numbers.
Prior to the inauguration, we will continue to monitor the situation, maintain open lines of communication with law enforcement, and keep the public informed of further enforcement measures.
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