October 26, 2017 Last Updated 8:18 am

Twitter moves to ‘off-board’ RT and Sputnik advertising from the social media platform

Still, the company is failing to address the real issues that concern users and advertisers: the fact that so much of Twitter is fake, that users can’t trust who is talking on the platform, and advertisers can’t trust the user numbers Twitter is giving them

Twitter today announced that it would “off-board advertising from all accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, effective immediately,” in a move that really fails to address the real issue Twitter users face, the flood of fake accounts that dominate much of the platform.

“This decision was based on the retrospective work we’ve been doing around the 2016 U.S. election and the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government,” Twitter said in a PublicPolicy blog post. “We did not come to this decision lightly, and are taking this step now as part of our ongoing commitment to help protect the integrity of the user experience on Twitter.”

Twitter said it had earned about $1.9 million in advertising from RT since 2011, which it will now donate to “support external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections, including use of malicious automation and misinformation, with an initial focus on elections and automation.”

The move is actually counterproductive, and a sign that the social media company really doesn’t understand the problems facing it.

Advertising is not the issue. Ads are labeled and designed to drive results for the advertiser. As such, readers understand clearly what they are about. Trolls and bots, fake accounts, on the other hand, intentionally hide their source. But to reduce the number of accounts like this would mean it would further reduce the number of actual users Twitter has, and therefore might effect future advertising.

Twitter today, while reporting earnings, admitted that it had overstated actual users, but not based on fake account and troll farms, but as a result of the system they were using (in other words, the problem is worst that imagined).

“These third-party applications used Digits, a software development kit of our now-divested Fabric platform, that allowed third-party applications to send authentication messages via SMS through our systems, which did not relate to activity on the Twitter platform,” the company said in its earnings report.

Things are not getting better at Twiiter, as the company sales fell 4 percent. But unless CEO Jack Dorsey gets serious about what really ails the company, things are bound to get worse.

In the end, what probably is needed is not a better Twitter, but a replacement for Twitter, one where users can feel confident that that those they are talking to are really Twitter users, not paid trolls.


The Guardian today has a story that illustrates the issue with the popular social media platforms.

The article by Sam Levin is headlined ‘I hope someone truly shoots you’: online conspiracy theorists harass Vegas victims and begins this way”

Braden Matejka survived a bullet to the head in the Las Vegas massacre. Then, the death threats started coming.

“You are a lying piece of shit and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head,” a commenter wrote to Matejka on Facebook, one week after a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. “Your soul is disgusting and dark! You will pay for the consequences!” said another. A Facebook meme quickly spread with a photo of him after the shooting, captioned: “I’m a lying cunt!”

If Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms don’t clean up their act we will see even more movement towards regulating social media. Already, the Congress, reacting to the news that Facebook accepted advertising during the fall election from Russian sources that hid their origin and motives, is calling for social media to play by the same rules that broadcasters and print media companies have to. That seems to me to be a very small step in the right direction, and probably the bare minimum legislators should do.

But it is more likely that, as usual, it will be European agencies that act first and most decisively.

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