Twitter's Pared-Down Staff Struggles With Misinformation

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The misinformation campaign that's been running on the platform since last fall has been a challenge for Twitter. But it's also been a wake-up call for the company, which has a huge stake in making sure its platform is not used as a political weapon or vehicle for fraud or abuse.


"We see this all the time," said Kevin Weil, Twitter's VP of trust and safety. The problem isn't unique to Twitter. Facebook has struggled with misinformation campaigns similar to those that have taken hold on Twitter — but it has also seen a surge in problems with harassment on its platform as well. In May, Facebook said it had removed 3 billion fake accounts since 2015; last month, it announced plans to boost its security efforts by hiring thousands more employees across the world.


Twitter declined to comment on whether it plans any new measures against misinformation campaigns similar to those taking place on its own platform. But Weil said that the company is making progress in closing loopholes where bad actors can use bots and fake accounts without detection — an issue that came into focus.


The growing number of fake accounts on Twitter is a source of frustration for many users, and the company has the plan to address the issue.


Twitter said Thursday that it will start shutting down thousands of fake accounts each week, as part of an effort to stop people from seeing false information about who is talking about particular topics on the platform.


The social network said it plans to remove 10 million suspicious profiles over the next six months from its search results, timelines, and Discover tab. It also plans to remove up to 1 percent of its active user base each week in an attempt to weed out fake accounts.


The company says these efforts are being made in response to feedback from users and advertisers who want more transparency around how they're using Twitter."We've heard loud and clear from our community that they want us to take action," Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted Thursday.


But some analysts believe this latest move could do more harm than good by reducing trust among users who may see their own content disappear without explanation." It's going backward," said Paul Verna, an analyst with eMarketer Inc., which tracks digital advertising spending.


Twitter has a lot of problems. But, according to Peter Kafka, the company's top executive and its most prominent public face, one of its biggest problems is that it doesn't have enough people.


"We're biding our time until we get to a size where we can hire everyone," he said at Recode's Code Conference last week. "It's a long-term goal."


The problem with this strategy is that it can be very hard to predict when Twitter will reach such a size. The company has struggled for years with how to build a business model for advertising on its platform without alienating users or losing revenue from its partners. It has also been unable to attract top talent from outside Silicon Valley, which has decreased the number of engineers working on its product as well as interfere with its ability to attract new ones.

The idea of being able to have conversations with people without having to wade through the noise on Twitter is a good one. And it's not as if there aren't plenty of other places you can go for that kind of thing.


But the problem with Twitter, though, is that it's still so goddamn loud. It's difficult to get anything done, even when you're not trying to be noticed by everyone else. In fact, even when you're trying to be noticed by everyone else, it might just make things worse.


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