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Thinking of Breaking Up With Twitter? Here’s the Right Way to Do It

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After a few chaotic weeks, it’s clear Elon Musk is intent on taking Twitter in a direction that’s at odds with the prevailing cultures of the diverse users who call it home. Musk has now begun reinstating high-profile users – including Donald Trump, Alex Jones and Kanye West – who had been removed for repeated violations of community standards.

This comes off the back of a mass exodus of Twitter staff, including thousands that Musk unceremoniously fired via email. The latest wave of resignations came after an ultimatum from Musk: employees would have to face “extremely hardcore” working conditions (to fix the mess Musk created).

All of this points to a very different experience for users, who are now decamping the platform and heading to alternatives like Mastodon.

So what threats are we likely to see now? And how does one go about leaving Twitter safely? #TwitterShutDown With so many experienced staff leaving, users face the very real possibility that Twitter will experience significant and widespread outages in the coming weeks.

Enterprise software experts and Twitter insiders have already been raising alarms that with the World Cup underway, the subsequent increase in traffic – and any rise in opportunistic malicious behaviour – may be enough for Twitter to grind to a halt.

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Aside from the site going dark, there are also risks user data could be breached in a cyberattack while the usual defences are down. Twitter was exposed to a massive cyberattack in August this year. A hacker was able to extract the personal details, including phone numbers and email addresses, of 5.4 million users.

One would be forgiven for thinking that such scenarios are impossible. However, common lore in the technology community is that the internet is held together by chewing gum and duct tape.

The apps, platforms and systems we interact with every day, particularly those with audiences in the millions or billions, may give the impression of being highly sophisticated. But the truth is we’re often riding on the edge of chaos.

See also  Twitter to Remove Accounts Inactive for Over 6 Months

Building and maintaining large-scale social software is like building a boat, on the open water, while being attacked by sharks. Keeping such software systems afloat requires designing teams that can work together to bail enough water out, while others reinforce the hull, and some look out for incoming threats.

To stretch the boat metaphor, Musk has just fired the software developers who knew where the nails and hammers are kept, the team tasked with deploying the shark bait, and the lookouts on the masts.

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Can his already stretched and imperilled workforce plug the holes fast enough to keep the ship from sinking? We’re likely to find out in the coming weeks. If Twitter does manage to stay afloat, the credit more than likely goes to many of the now ex-staff for building a robust system that a skeleton crew can maintain.

Hate speech and misinformation are back Despite Twitter’s claims that hate speech is being “mitigated”, our analysis suggests it’s on the rise. And we’re not the only researchers observing an uptick in hate speech.

The graph below shows the number of tweets per hour containing hate speech terms over a two-week period. Using a peer-reviewed hate speech lexicon, we tracked the volume of 15 hateful terms and observed a clear increase after Musk’s acquisition.

Misinformation is also on the rise. Following Musk’s swift changes to blue tick verification, the site tumbled into chaos with a surge of parody accounts and misleading tweets. In response, he issued yet another stream-of-consciousness policy edict to remedy the previous ones.

With reports that the entire Asia-Pacific region has only one working content moderator left, false and misleading content will likely proliferate on Twitter – especially in non-English-speaking countries, which are especially at risk of the harmful effects of unchecked mis and disinformation.

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If this all sounds like a recipe for disaster, and you want out, what should you do? Pack your bags First, you may want to download an archive of your Twitter activity. This can be done by clicking through to Settings > Settings and Support > Settings and Privacy > Your Account > Download an archive of your data.

It can take several days for Twitter to compile and send you this archive. And it can be up to several gigabytes, depending on your level of activity.

See also  Twitter Questioned Over Whistleblower’s Claims on India Operations by Tharoor-Led Parliamentary Panel

Lock the door

While waiting for your archive, you can begin to protect your account. If your account was public, now might be a good time to switch it to protected.

In protected mode, your tweets will no longer be searchable off the platform. Only your existing followers will see them on the platform.

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If you’re planning to replace Twitter with another platform, you may wish to signal this in your bio by including a notice and your new username. But before you do this, consider whether you might have problematic followers who will try to follow you across.

Check out

Once you have downloaded your Twitter archive, you can choose to selectively delete any tweets from the platform as you wish. One of our colleagues, Philip Mai, has developed a free tool to help with this step.

It’s also important to consider any direct messages (DMs) you have on the platform. These are more cumbersome and problematic to remove, but also likely to be more sensitive.

You will have to remove each DM conversation individually, by clicking to the right of the conversation thread and selecting Delete conversation. Note that this only deletes it from your side. Every other member of a DM thread can still see your historic activity.

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Park your account

For many users, it’s advisable to “park” their account, rather than completely deactivate it. Parking means you clean out most of your data, maintain your username, and will have to log in every few months to keep it alive on the platform. This will prevent other (perhaps malicious) users from taking your deactivated username and impersonating you.

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Parking means Twitter will retain some details, including potentially sensitive data such as your phone number and other bio information you’ve stored. It also means a return to the platform isn’t out of the question, should circumstances improve.

If you do decide to deactivate, know that this doesn’t mean all your details are necessarily wiped from Twitter’s servers. In its terms of service, Twitter notes it may retain some user information after account deactivation. Also, once your account is gone, your old username is up for grabs.

Reinforce the locks

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If you haven’t already, now is the time to engage two-factor authentication on your Twitter account. You can do this by clicking Settings > Security and account access > Security > Two-factor authentication. This will help protect your account from being hacked.

Additional password protection (found in the same menu above) is also a good idea, as is changing your password to something that is different to any other password you use online.

Once that’s done, all that’s left is to sit back and pour one out for the bird site.


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Twitter Under Elon Musk Leaning on Automation to Moderate Content Against Hate Speech

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Elon Musk’s Twitter is leaning heavily on automation to moderate content, doing away with certain manual reviews and favoring restrictions on distribution rather than removing certain speech outright, its new head of trust and safety told Reuters.

Twitter is also more aggressively restricting abuse-prone hashtags and search results in areas including child exploitation, regardless of potential impacts on “benign uses” of those terms, said Twitter Vice President of Trust and Safety Product Ella Irwin.

“The biggest thing that’s changed is the team is fully empowered to move fast and be as aggressive as possible,” Irwin said on Thursday, in the first interview a Twitter executive has given since Musk’s acquisition of the social media company in late October.

Her comments come as researchers are reporting a surge in hate speech on the social media service, after Musk announced an amnesty for accounts suspended under the company’s previous leadership that had not broken the law or engaged in “egregious spam.”

The company has faced pointed questions about its ability and willingness to moderate harmful and illegal content since Musk slashed half of Twitter’s staff and issued an ultimatum to work long hours that resulted in the loss of hundreds more employees.

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And advertisers, Twitter’s main revenue source, have fled the platform over concerns about brand safety.

On Friday, Musk vowed “significant reinforcement of content moderation and protection of freedom of speech” in a meeting with France President Emmanuel Macron.

Irwin said Musk encouraged the team to worry less about how their actions would affect user growth or revenue, saying safety was the company’s top priority. “He emphasizes that every single day, multiple times a day,” she said.

See also  Elon Musk Accused of Undermining Twitter's Integrity, Safety by US Senators, Could Face FTC Probe

The approach to safety Irwin described at least in part reflects an acceleration of changes that were already being planned since last year around Twitter’s handling of hateful conduct and other policy violations, according to former employees familiar with that work.

One approach, captured in the industry mantra “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach,” entails leaving up certain tweets that violate the company’s policies but barring them from appearing in places like the home timeline and search.

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Twitter has long deployed such “visibility filtering” tools around misinformation and had already incorporated them into its official hateful conduct policy before the Musk acquisition. The approach allows for more freewheeling speech while cutting down on the potential harms associated with viral abusive content.

The number of tweets containing hateful content on Twitter rose sharply in the week before Musk tweeted on November 23 that impressions, or views, of hateful speech were declining, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate – in one example of researchers pointing to the prevalence of such content, while Musk touts a reduction in visibility.

Tweets containing words that were anti-Black that week were triple the number seen in the month before Musk took over, while tweets containing a gay slur were up 31%, the researchers said.

‘More risks, move fast’

Irwin, who joined the company in June and previously held safety roles at other companies including Amazon.com and Google, pushed back on suggestions that Twitter did not have the resources or willingness to protect the platform.

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She said layoffs did not significantly impact full-time employees or contractors working on what the company referred to as its “Health” divisions, including in “critical areas” like child safety and content moderation.

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Two sources familiar with the cuts said that more than 50 percent of the Health engineering unit was laid off. Irwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the assertion, but previously denied that the Health team was severely impacted by layoffs.

She added that the number of people working on child safety had not changed since the acquisition, and that the product manager for the team was still there. Irwin said Twitter backfilled some positions for people who left the company, though she declined to provide specific figures for the extent of the turnover.

She said Musk was focused on using automation more, arguing that the company had in the past erred on the side of using time- and labor-intensive human reviews of harmful content.

“He’s encouraged the team to take more risks, move fast, get the platform safe,” she said.

On child safety, for instance, Irwin said Twitter had shifted toward automatically taking down tweets reported by trusted figures with a track record of accurately flagging harmful posts.

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Carolina Christofoletti, a threat intelligence researcher at TRM Labs who specializes in child sexual abuse material, said she has noticed Twitter recently taking down some content as fast as 30 seconds after she reports it, without acknowledging receipt of her report or confirmation of its decision.

See also  Twitter Responds to France Communication Regulator's Query on Deadline

In the interview on Thursday, Irwin said Twitter took down about 44,000 accounts involved in child safety violations, in collaboration with cybersecurity group Ghost Data.

Twitter is also restricting hashtags and search results frequently associated with abuse, like those aimed at looking up “teen” pornography. Past concerns about the impact of such restrictions on permitted uses of the terms were gone, she said.

The use of “trusted reporters” was “something we’ve discussed in the past at Twitter, but there was some hesitancy and frankly just some delay,” said Irwin.

“I think we now have the ability to actually move forward with things like that,” she said.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Elon Musk Introduces ‘Live Tweeting’ Feature Amid Ongoing Plans for Twitter

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Twitter CEO Elon Musk, on Saturday, added a new feature ‘live tweeting’ and now it is currently active on the platform.

Author Matt Taibbi becomes the first user to use this new feature with his cryptic tweet “Thread: THE TWITTER FILES”

Taking to Twitter, Musk wrote, “Here we go!!” with popcorn emoticons.

Earlier, he tweeted, “We’re double-checking some facts, so probably start live tweeting in about 40 mins.”

We’re double-checking some facts, so probably start live tweeting in about 40 mins

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2022

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Griftopia writer followed his first tweet which reads, “Thread: THE TWITTER FILES”, “What you’re about to read is the first installment in a series, based upon thousands of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter.”

He added, “The “Twitter Files” tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms. It is a Frankensteinian tale of a human-built mechanism grown out the control of its designer.”

Twitter’s new boss is also working on “purging a lot” of spam/scam accounts.

On Thursday, Musk took to his Twitter account and shared the word limit update with everyone. He tweeted, “Twitter is purging a lot of spam/scam accounts right now, so you may see your follower count drop.”

Twitter is purging a lot of spam/scam accounts right now, so you may see your follower count drop

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 1, 2022

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Musk is also planning to up Twitter’s character limit from 280 to 1000.

A few days ago, a social media user tagged Musk and tweeted, ” Idea on explanding character limit to 1000.”

In response, Musk wrote, “It’s on the todo list.”

The character limit has been one of the prime differences between Twitter and other social media services.Musk has shown interest in the idea of increasing the character limit on a number of occasions since his takeover of the platform, as per a report by Mashable. On November 27, a Twitter user suggested to Musk to increase the platform’s word limit from 280 to 420.

“Good idea” Musk wrote in response. Prior to that, another user had suggested “get rid of character limits.”

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“Absolutely”, the multi-billionaire responded.

Now it remains to be seen when Musk finally makes the changes regarding character limit.


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See also  India to Decide on Appeals Panel With Authority to Reverse Social Media’s Content Moderation
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WhatsApp Begins Beta Testing Android Tablet Support, iOS Testers Get ‘Search by Date’ Feature

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WhatsApp is rolling out an update for its beta testers on Android that introduces support for WhatsApp for tablets. Select Android beta testers can now link their existing WhatsApp account on their phones with the tablet version of the app. Until now, a WhatsApp account on an Android phone could not be accessed on a secondary Android device. Meanwhile, some beta testers on WhatsApp for iOS are reportedly getting access to a new feature that will allow them to quickly jump to messages based on the date they were sent or received.

Spotted by WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo, users who have signed up for WhatsApp’s beta programme will begin to see an in-app banner announcing the feature. A screengrab on the website shows a banner on top of chats which reads “Have an Android tablet? WhatsApp for tablet is available for beta testers.’ The banner will be visible as part of WhatsApp beta 2.22.25.8 update for Android, which makes the popular messaging app compatible on tablets. Gadgets 360 staff members who are part of the beta programme also received the banner on their smartphones.

However, the feature tracker states that the new tablet version of the app might not be feature-complete. “Note that some features may still not be available when installing WhatsApp on your tablet, for example, the ability to share a new status update, live locations, and broadcast lists,” the report said.

Notably, WhatsApp users can access their primary account on computer and WhatsApp for Web. The feature is finally coming to Android tablets, allowing beta testers to access their messages on both their smartphone and their tablet.

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Meanwhile, WABetaInfo also reports that beta testers on iOS are getting a new update that adds the ability to search for messages by date. WhatsApp version 22.24.0.77, via the TestFlight beta programme, will make it easier for users to jump to specific dates in a chat window. To check if the feature is available, users can look for a calendar icon inside the search option for a chat. The icon lets you use the ‘Jump to Date’ feature to look for specific messages sent on the day.

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WhatsApp has been busy in the past few weeks, rolling out multiple features on both Android and iOS. The app recently rolled out a ‘Message Yourself’ feature on both platforms that lets users text themselves, in case they need to note down important information, reminders, or store files. Additionally, iOS users also received an update that adds the ability to include captions for forwarded media.


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