Twitter is making good on its pledge to fight the persistent problems of spam, bots, harassment, and misinformation that have plagued the social platform for years. Today, in its generally positive Q1 earnings report, the company announced that changes that it has made related to TweetDeck and its API in in the past quarter have translated into real numbers that point to overall improvements in quality on the service.
In the company’s letter to investors, Twitter noted that there are now 90 percent fewer users relying on TweetDeck to create false information and automated engagement spam. It’s not clear if this is due to changes to TweetDeck itself, or simply because of a new and more proactive approach that Twitter is taking (we have asked and will update when we hear back).
In any case, Twitter has been engaged in both. In February, Twitter stopped allowing automating mass retweeting — or TweetDecking, as it’s been called by some — in which power users turned to TweetDeck to retweet posts across masses of accounts they managed, or across smaller user groups of people who managed masses of accounts — a technique that helps Tweet go viral. Some weeks later it moved to suspend a number of accounts that were guilty of the practice.
Policies and enforcement around the company’s API have also been tightened up. Twitter said that in Q1, it removed more than 142,000 applications connected to the API, which in turn were responsible for no less than 130 million “low-quality Tweets” in the quarter — a sizeable volume that spurred a number of interactions and retweets outside those spam accounts, perpetuated by individuals. As with TweetDeck, this was related to changes Twitter had made specifically to how the API was used for mass-actions.
It’s an interesting turn for the company: given that the mass-action Tweeting ability has been so hugely misused, it’s a wonder why Twitter ever allowed it in the first place. It may have been one of those badly-conceived moments where Twitter thought it would help with traffic and activity on the site at a time when it needed to demonstrate growth, and perhaps just to bring more activity to the platform when it was smaller.
In any case, this appears to be just the start of how Twitter hopes to raise the tone, and generally make its platform a safer and nicer place to be. “Our systems continue to identify and challenge millions of suspicious accounts globally per week as a result of our sustained investments in improving information quality on Twitter,” the company notes.
There are also some interesting plans in the pipeline. The company has been on a “health” kick of late, and is looking to crowdsource suggestions for how to improve trust and safety, and reduce abuse and spam, on the platform. An RFP that it issued to stakeholders — and anyone interested in helping — has so far yielded 230 responses from “global institutions”, the company said. “We expect to have meaningful updates in the second quarter, and we’re committed to continuing to share our progress along the way.”
We are listening to the earnings webcast and will update with more related to this as we hear it.