Tag: twitter

Does social media threaten the illusion of news neutrality?

For journalists, social media can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share their opinion on a wide range of matters, from sports to politics. But at the same time, they have to remember to exercise caution, because whatever they say can be taken out of context and have major implications on the publications they work for. If a reader who follows your tweets or Facebook posts doesn't agree with you, that can motivate them to claim your entire newsroom is biased.

That's why we're now seeing publications having to change their digital strategy. Last week, The New York Times published an "updated and expanded" set of social media guidelines for its journalists. These new rules outline how every staff member (not just editors and reporters) is expected to behave online. In an article posted last week, The Times said that while social media "plays a vital role" in its journalism, since it can act as a tool to better engage with readers and help reach fresh audiences, it can also be a complicated medium. "If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media," The Times said, "that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom."


Put simply, The Times wants its journalists to "take extra care to avoid expressing partisan opinions" through social media on issues that it covers, even if the reporter or editor isn't attached to a specific story's byline. Dean Banquet, The New York Times' executive editor, said in a memo that the guidelines are "rooted in the very experience of our journalists." Several reporters who are prominent on Twitter, including Maggie Haberman and Max Fisher, were involved in the process, offering "very helpful" input and, ultimately, their endorsement.

Rukmini Callimachi, a correspondent for The New York Times covering ISIS, suggested in the same memo that her colleagues block abusive people, rather than engaging in a argument that may turn ugly. At the same time, however, the guidelines say that staffers should avoid muting or blocking people who are simply criticizing their work.

Meanwhile, chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, warned reporters and editors that any tweet about President Trump from them could be taken as a statement from The New York Times. That's why it's probably best to keep your thoughts to yourself. "The White House," he said, "doesn't make a distinction. In this charged environment, we all need to be in this together." Baker's example is important because it signals that The New York Times doesn't just want to protect itself from reader criticism, but also President Trump and his staff. Don't make you and your colleagues an easy target, Bakers seems to suggest.

It's clear the idea is to avoid giving anyone reason to claim the paper isn't fair or neutral. That's understandable, but many journalism experts believe the move was driven by recent political events. The decision comes at a time when Trump is constantly bashing the publication, with "the failing New York Times" being his favorite epithet. And he often follows that by claiming that The Times and the rest of the "mainstream media" are "fake news." That said, the paper may be doing this as a way to shield itself against growing scrutiny.

The thing is that while other news organizations, such as The Wall Stret Journal, have similar guidelines in place, those don't tend to be publicly available. The New York Times made the choice to share them with its readers, and by doing so, it's opening itself up to critiques.

So why now?

Cynthia Collins, Social Media Editor at The New York Times, told Engadget that these guidelines have been in the works for months. Though she didn't elaborate on why this was the right time to share these rules publicly, Collins said that The Times felt it would be "interesting or useful for other newsrooms, journalism schools and most importantly to us, our readers." As for what's changed from the old rules, she said only that the new ones were shaped by incorporating reporters' voices.

If our Journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom.

The New York Times

"Although stricter policies are in place for journalists who directly cover topics like sports or culture," said Collins, "journalists who work outside of those departments can reasonably discuss their leisurely pursuits on social media." She said that staffers should ask themselves a couple of key questions before posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social media app: "If readers see your post and notice that you're a Times journalist, would that affect their view of The Times's news coverage as fair and impartial?" and "Could your post hamper your colleagues' ability to effectively do their jobs?"

If the answer is "yes" to either of those, she said, then it's best for journalists to just bite your tongue. (We reached out to a couple of NYT current and former staffers, but they declined to speak on the record.)

"I am very concerned that The Times' dictum might come in response to pressure and criticism from the right," said Jeff Jarvis, Director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Naturally, The Times won't say whether the new rules are, indeed, based on pressure from right-wing. Buf if that were to be the case, the paper would be making itself vulnerable. "In this age, it is more necessary than ever for journalists to connect with the publics they serve on a human level with direct communication, with empathy and with honesty. Journalists are not superhuman beings who have no opinions, no bias, no perspective, no worldview, no background."

When asked about whether reporters should avoid sharing their personal opinion, be it on Trump or other matters, Jarvis said that this shouldn't have to be the case. "I believe that we as journalists need to be transparent about our worldviews and experience," he said. "Indeed, one of the reasons the conservative half of America does not trust news media is, I believe, because we were not honest about journalists being predominately liberal in our outlook. If they could not trust us to be open about that, then they came to believe they could not trust us about other things we report."

Jarvis said he does understand The Times' desire to be somewhat more prescriptive, particularly when it comes to reporters using social media to make consumer complaints. On Twitter, for instance, journalists are often verified. That means they can use their position to grab a company's attention faster than someone without a blue check mark on their profile. Still, Jarvis said, "I feel for them as I find that public discussion can be the best way to find consumer justice."

It will be interesting to see if more publications follow in The New York Times' footsteps. Not just in demanding that staffers be less opinionated on social media but also making any revised guidelines public. Given the current state of affair, wherein readers who agree with something may shout "fake news," it wouldn't be surprising to see more news organizations change or be more transparent about their social media rules for staff members.

Now Twitter’s quest to become a ‘safer’ place has a schedule

You no longer have to wonder when you'll see Twitter implement the new rules promised by its CEO and outlined in that leaked email. The social network has released a "Safety Calendar," which details when it will roll out a series of new rules to make the platform a safer place. As the internal email said, the company plans to crack down on hate and violence on its website: on November 3rd, it promises to start suspending accounts of "organizations that use violence to advance their cause."

Avatars and headers with hateful imagery and symbols will no longer be allowed and tweets that contain them will be placed behind a filter. Twitter says it will release examples of what it considers "hateful imagery" once the policy is finalized so there can be no doubts what kind of symbols aren't welcome anymore. In addition, Twitter will begin blocking people's ability to sign up with hateful names on November 22nd.

The platform's Safety Calendar also outlines when the rules it announced in the past will go live, including new measures to protect victims of non-consensual nudity and unwanted sexual advances. Further, Twitter will update its witness reporting procedure to take user relationships into account, so it can act faster if it's more likely that the reporter truly has witnessed rule violations. We'll find out how the microblogging platform plans to enforce its new rules soon, as well: it will reveal the factors it considers when reviewing user reports on November 14th.

Source: Twitter

‘The Daily Show’ library of Trump’s tweets opens in Chicago tomorrow

Back in June, we covered The Daily Show's presidential Twitter library in New York. After all, the frequency in which our Commander in Chief takes to Twitter is surely to become a part of his legacy. The library is now moving to Chicago, and you can see it this weekend only. It's free and open to the public from 10 AM – 10 PM CT tomorrow through Sunday. The library is located in the Burlington Room at Chicago's Union Station.

The library displays the president's Twitter feed, and exhibits include testimonials of people who were targeted by Trump on the social network, as well as what The Daily Show considers his finest work. You can also find "Sad! A Retrospective" and the many, many times Trump tweeted one sentiment and later contradicted himself in another tweet.

Source: Comedy Central

Twitter took a year to close a fake GOP account run by Russians

The Russian troll farm that bought ads pointing to fake news sites on Facebook also ran a fake Twitter account impersonating the Tennessee Republican Party. While it has now been permanently suspended, Buzzfeed says the platform refused to take the account down for months even though the real party reported it thrice for impersonation since 2016. @TEN_GOP gained a huge following that reached 136,000 followers between November 15th to August this year just before Twitter finally yanked it offline.

Within that timeframe, the account consistently tweeted out pro-Trump, anti-Obama, anti-Clinton, anti-mainstream media and anti-Islam sentiments. The account is now gone, but we looked through some of the snapshots Wayback Machine saved to give you a taste of what it used to tweet:

As you would expect from the same people who bought fake news ads on Facebook, the account also dealt in falsehoods. According to Buzzfeed, it tweeted a photo of a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA championship parade and claimed it was a crowd waiting to hear Trump speak. @TEN_GOP's real identity was first unearthed by Russian's RBC News as part of a report that details its country's efforts to influence politics in the US.

Tennessee Republican Party's communications director showed her emails dated September 17th, 2016, March 1st, 2017 and August 14th, 2017 to Buzzfeed reporting the fake account. While Twitter took way too long to take action, something might have happened in between the reports, since @TEN_GOP changed its description from "I love God, I Love my Country" to one that says it's the "Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans." We reached out to Twitter for a statement, but don't hold your breath: the company already refused to talk to Buzzfeed.

Source: Buzzfeed

Internal Twitter email explains its new plans to fight abuse

Twitter promised stricter rules for abuse and hate in the wake of a boycott, but what will those rules entail, exactly? It's a bit clearer after today. Wired has obtained email providing early details on new policies, and they're mostly good news -- although they probably won't satisfy some people. Most notably, it's planning to crack down against all groups that "have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause" rather than focusing primarily on terrorism. It'll also take action against tweets that glorify violence, not just direct threats. There's no guarantee that this will lead to bans and suspensions against hate groups (Twitter is still hashing out the details), but that's what the early language implies.

The social network also plans to treat hate imagery and symbols as "sensitive media," much as it does with nudity and graphic violence. Again, Twitter isn't certain exactly what will qualify, but it's safe to presume that at least some Nazi images will be hidden by default.

The new policies will also give Twitter more power to curb sexual harassment -- you know, the problem that prompted the boycott in the first place. It'll soon let 'bystanders' report unwanted sexual advances, not just participants. It's also promising swifter action against revenge porn and other non-consensual nudity (namely, suspending confirmed posters right away), and it's widening the definition of this nudity to include "creep shots," hidden cameras and other photos where the victim might not even know something happened.

Twitter hadn't been planning to talk about the policies so soon, but it did confirm that the email is legitimate and reflects its intentions. The question is whether or not these will be enough. Many object to hate groups getting any kind of room to breathe on Twitter. Their very ideology isn't exactly compassionate and friendly. And as easy as it is to talk about fighting sexual harassment, there are numerous women who can point to instances where they reported harassing tweets that were allowed to stay. Even if the impact is muted, though, it could still help clean up Twitter and give people a better reason to stay.

Source: Wired

Twitter is the latest to fill your feed with auto-playing video ads

Your Twitter feed is going to get even busier thanks to the microblogging service unlocking auto-playing video ads for advertisers. Starting today Video Website Cards are available to every ad-buyer. In limited beta tests (like the one embedded below; videos don't seem to work with embeds), Twitter has found them pretty successful, with a 200 percent higher clickthrough rate compared to the leading standard. So yeah, expect to see an awful lot more of these coming soon. Just wait until #brands start combining these with 280-character tweets. Suddenly, paying for Tweetbot doesn't seem like a horrible idea.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Twitter

Australia tackles revenge porn with a national reporting tool

Companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook have in the past made attempts to help victims of revenge porn, but it's still a big problem as recent incidents have made very clear. Well the Australian government has been working on a way to address the issue, Gizmodo reports, and the result is a national portal to help victims of revenge porn.

Last year, the Australian government granted its eSafety Commissioner $4.8 million for the development of the portal, which is now currently in a pilot phase. It provides users with information on how to report revenge porn to the companies that are hosting it, links for reporting it to the eSafety Commissioner and how to get help from law enforcement. There's also a section of the website dedicating to support, both where victims can find it and how family and friends of victims can provide it. Additionally, the portal offers information about laws regarding revenge porn and how to get in touch with lawyer.

California launched a similar hub in 2015, but Australia's, which is boosted by its national government backing, is more detailed and also applicable to the entire country, not just a particular state. The pilot phase will allow the eSafety team to see how many reports are likely to be filed as well as the complexity of those reports, all of which will help them tweak the portal prior to its full launch early next year.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: eSafety Commissioner, Mitch Fifield

#MeToo becomes a rallying cry for survivors of sexual assault

Yesterday, a campaign geared towards demonstrating just how common sexual assault and harassment are began to spread on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Alongside the hashtag #MeToo, women began posting their own stories of harassment in response to a prompt by Alyssa Milano.

The tweet has generated thousands of retweets and likes as well as over 40,000 responses. Among some of the celebrities that have joined the campaign are Lady Gaga, Debra Messing, Anna Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood.

The move comes after a New York Times report about Harvey Weinstein and the now many, many accusations of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and rape that surround him. The #MeToo campaign was generated in order to show just how prevalent sexual assault is, the risks posed to women in any workplace including Hollywood and how easy it is for someone like Weinstein to get away with what he did.

Following the recent reports, Rose McGowan began discussing her experiences with sexual assault in Hollywood on Twitter and the platform temporarily limited her account. It has since been reinstated, but the move from Twitter, which has come under a lot of criticism for how it handles harassment, spurred the #WomenBoycottTwitter protest last week. The company has since said that new rules for the platform are on the way.

Via: New York Times

Jack Dorsey responds to #WomenBoycottTwitter: New rules incoming

Last night #WomenBoycottTwitter spread among many high profile accounts that stood in solidarity with "victims of hate and harassment Twitter fails to support." The boycott itself wasn't without controversy and spawned responses including a push to highlight and appreciate women of color on the platform under the hashtag #WOCAffirmation. While many weren't sure it would have any impact, tonight Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded with a thread promising that after focusing today on "making some critical decisions...We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them."

Changes that he says are coming in the next few weeks include "New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence."


Twitter’s opaque thinking fails everyone

It seems like Twitter can't go long before finding itself embroiled in a new controversy about how it applies its conduct policies. And yet it's hard not to feel a sliver of sympathy in the face of the latest backlash against the ailing company. In suspending Rose McGowan's account for 12 hours, it might have done the right thing, but in completely the wrong way.

The recent aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein revelations saw a number of actors speak out about their experiences with the powerful producer. Rose McGowan has accused the producer of an attack, and is a vocal critic of the wider culture of sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood. Using Twitter as a platform, she has spoken to, and about, others in Hollywood who enable such abuse.

On October 12th, Twitter suspended McGowan's account, forcing her to post the news of her suspension on Instagram. The automated message she received explained little -- just that her account violated Twitter's conduct policy, but nothing specific that explained the 12-hour suspension. During that period, the only access she had to the platform was to delete the offending tweet.

Twitter has a policy of not explaining the rationale for its suspensions, presumably out of fear that it will create an unintended precedent. But, half a day after the suspension, the company revealed that it suspended the account because McGowan had publicly posted a private phone number. That is a direct violation of the site's privacy policy (described as "The Twitter Rules"), which includes a blanket ban on publicly sharing personal information.

It's not clear if Twitter gained McGowan's consent before going public, but it was clearly forced to say something. The company had rebuffed all attempts to clarify its position, despite Engadget and other publications asking for comment on the reasoning behind the move. This lack of transparency led to the company being attacked on all sides for its opaque processes, with many users saying that double standards are at work. After all, the president can threaten nuclear war without censure, but Rose McGowan tweets something and it's blocked with unnatural swiftness.

Blocking the tweet was the right thing to do, but everything that came after that was a mistake that began to compound upon itself. Surely there are smarter ways to tackle the issue than just handing down a 12-hour suspension as a punishment. The topic here is clearly divisive, and Twitter needed to handle it carefully rather than following a procedure. Could it not, for instance, have suppressed that one message and then privately communicated its reasoning?

Early Thursday, Twitter told Engadget that it does not "comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons." Fair enough, but that meant that it remained silent for 12 hours while its motivations were left open for speculation by, well, everyone in the world. This highlights the impossible situation that Twitter now finds itself in: How can it be fine with hate speech, racism and the American Nazi Party, but be so quick to clamp down on a single woman speaking out against sexual abuse?

In addition to this troubling double standard, there's the concern that moving to block McGowan's account was an anomaly. Writer Natalie Shure pointed out that her phone number was shared by a ring-wing extremist last year, and Twitter didn't consider it a violation of its conduct policy. We've spoken before about how inconsistently its conduct policies are treated. Clearly, something has to give.

If this were an isolated incident, Twitter could shrug it off. But it's not -- the site has become an unwelcome place for many. Today, a group of the site's female users are boycotting the site in the hope of forcing its hand in doing better. It probably won't work, because Twitter already has the tools to clean up its membership in a heartbeat. In Germany, where the laws on extremism on social media are much tougher, the site blocks all neo-Nazi accounts as a matter of course. In the US? Not so much.