After White House stop, Twitter CEO calls congresswoman about death threats

A controversial tweet by President Trump was the subject of a phone call between Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Rep. Ilhan Omar, according to the Washington Post.

Enlarge / A controversial tweet by President Trump was the subject of a phone call between Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Rep. Ilhan Omar, according to the Washington Post.

Just after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey paid a visit to the White House on April 23, he called Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar about a somewhat related topic—death threats that had been made against her on Twitter following a post by President Trump himself.

According to a Washington Post report, Dorsey defended the decision not to pull Trump’s tweet—a video that combined a single phrase from Omar’s speech at a Council on Islamic Relations banquet with footage of the attacks on the Twin Towers. Trump captioned it all: “NEVER FORGET.”  The post remains up.

Omar has been the target of a stream of hateful content on Twitter. As she said in a statement posted on Twitter, “Since the President’s tweet… I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life—many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video.”

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This handy Twitter video downloader bot is now seeing 7,500 requests a day

Not all the bots on Twitter are spammers or democracy hackers. You may recall seeing requests to the Thread Reader app bot to “unroll” a long thread into readable copy, for example, and in more recent days you may have spotted Twitter users tagging a newer bot, @this_vid, on tweets with a video file attached. The handy bot (aka DownloadThisVideo) offers a way to download both videos and GIFs from Twitter’s site for easier offline viewing.

The idea for @this_vid comes from Shalvah Adebayo, a backend developer born and raised in Nigeria, and currently living in Lagos. Shalvah says he got into development back in 2013, during his final year of secondary school (high school).

“There was a kid in a lower class that people talked about in awe — ‘he knows programming!,’” explains Shalvah. “I had no idea what it was then,” he continues. “I watched a command-line quiz application he’d made, and I was impressed. I’d won a laptop in a competition a few months back, so the next day, I walked into the only computer shop I knew and asked them for ‘Programming videos.’ They gave me something on C++. I watched those at home that day and went back the next day to buy the actual software (the IDE). That was how I started writing C++,” he says.

Since then, Shalvah moved from C++ to Android development, then web development. He went to university and then quit, and began working in the tech industry. Today, Shalvah works full-time as a remote software engineer for an engineering consultancy and product design company in South Africa called Deimos Cloud.

He builds apps in his spare time as side projects, and has previously open-sourced other bots like @RemindMe_OfThis, which lets you set reminders by tweets, and TwitterThrowback, which is like Twitter’s version of Facebook’s “On This Day” feature.

However, the Twitter video downloader bot has become one of his more popular creations, and is now seeing around 7,500 user requests per day, and as many as 9,500 at peak times.

Shalvah explains he got the idea because it was a personal pain point. Internet access where he lives can be spotty, and the Twitter app’s video experience was not ideal. He said he preferred to download the videos to watch them offline, but couldn’t find any easy way to do so.

“I knew of a couple of sites and apps that did that, but I don’t like installing apps, and I didn’t like the friction involved in using a site,” the developer says. “Plus, I wanted an asynchronous process, where you could just say ‘hey, I want to download this’ and continue browsing Twitter and come back later to pick up your download.”

Plus, Shalvah says he saw a lot of other Twitter users asking how they can get the video posted in nearly every popular thread where someone had tweeted a video.

The bot, @this_vid, has been up and running since May 2018. After sending it out first to his own followers, Shalvah then began to point people to it whenever he saw them asking on a thread how to get a particular video that was shared. This led to its increasing popularity around Twitter.

“I think it really solved a problem for a lot of people, and that was what made it so popular. So there were quite a lot of people, both friends and strangers, that tweeted about it to their followers, and it just kind of grew organically,” he says.

There are some videos that @this_vid can’t download, because the poster — often a sports organization (e.g. The NFL ) — has restricted it from downloads. But in most cases, all you need to do is mention @this_vid in a reply to the original tweet, and you’ll receive a link with the video download in a few minutes.

The bot works by querying the Twitter API for the tweet data, and then retrieves the media URL along with a few other fallbacks.

Because Twitter is rate-limited, allowing the bot only 300 tweets every three hours, Shalvah made the download link for each user easy to remember at: download-this.video/Twitter_username. That way you can get to your downloads even when the bot can’t reply.

The bot itself is free to use, open source and supported through Patreon donations.

There’s some concern that people could download videos they don’t have the rights to through a bot like this, or publish them elsewhere and take credit. Shalvah says he doesn’t believe the bot is in violation of Twitter’s copyright policy, developer terms or rules.

So far, most people seem to be using the bot for personal use. But Twitter hasn’t always been kind to third-party developers, so it remains to be seen how long @this_vid will last.

Shalvah says he intends to keep @this_vid free and will continue to develop it.

No, your tweets aren’t awful. Twitter’s Likes are currently borked.

If you have been experiencing issues with the Like or Retweet count on Twitter and are desperately seeking validation, here it is: yes, it’s Twitter, not you (probably). The company confirmed today that it is working on a fix for a problem with notifications that’s been messing with Like counts.

Many users around the world have reported seeing the number of Likes on their tweets fluctuate continuously, making them wonder if accounts were being suspended in mass or if Twitter was deleting them.

Twitter did not say when the issue began, but based on a careful study of Twitter search results, and not on my own desperate longing for validation from internet strangers, the issue has been going on for almost a day.

No, your tweets aren’t awful. Twitter’s Likes are currently borked.

If you have been experiencing issues with the Like or Retweet count on Twitter and are desperately seeking validation, here it is: yes, it’s Twitter, not you (probably). The company confirmed today that it is working on a fix for a problem with notifications that’s been messing with Like counts.

Many users around the world have reported seeing the number of Likes on their tweets fluctuate continuously, making them wonder if accounts were being suspended in mass or if Twitter was deleting them.

Twitter did not say when the issue began, but based on a careful study of Twitter search results, and not on my own desperate longing for validation from internet strangers, the issue has been going on for almost a day.

Twitter bug makes it look like random retweets are appearing in your timeline

A number of Twitter users have been complaining that tweets that were retweeted by people they don’t follow are now showing in their timeline. The issue, thankfully, is not related to a new Twitter algorithm or recommendation system, as some had feared. Instead, the company confirmed that a bug affecting Android users was mislabeling the “social proof” tag on Retweets.

This is the part of the Retweet that tells you who, among the people you already do follow, had retweeted the post in question.

The company says that the social proof label is wrong, so the Android users were seeing tweets that looked like they had been retweeted by someone they don’t know.

Above: some example complaints

Twitter says the Retweets that showed up were actually tweeted by someone the people did knew, but their social proof label was wrong, which made them seem out of place. Its engineers are aware of the problem and are working to fix this now. The bug has been live for a few days, Twitter also confirmed.

The company’s @TwitterSupport account had not yet replied to those asking about this problem, which may have led to some user confusion.

After all, Twitter has been known to put what some consider extraneous information in the timeline — like posts that show you when many people you follow have now all followed another Twitter user, or posts that tell you that several people have shared the same link, for example. But even in those cases, that was in-network activity — not something like putting random retweets in your main feed.

Until the bug is fixed, Twitter users who don’t like the content of the seemingly random retweets can tap on the down arrow on the right side of the tweet to tell Twitter it wants to see less content like this.

A photo of an egg has toppled reality star Kylie Jenner as Instagram’s most-liked post

Instagram has found something it likes more than a Kardashian-Jenner family baby, and it’s an egg.

This weekend, a photo of a plain egg became the most-liked photo on Instagram, the social app owned by Facebook with over one billion users that’s reflective of internet culture.

The photo, which you can see below in its full glory, currently has more than 23 million likes at the time of writing. That has seen it surpass a February 18 photo from Kylie Jenner — the sister of Kim Kardashian and a reality TV star in her own right — which announced the birth of her baby with rapper Travis Scott and has 18.2 million likes.

Unlike Jenner, who has 21 million Instagram followers, the egg account — “world_record_egg” — is a newcomer that seems to have been created in early January. Nothing is known of its ownership, although it now has 2.4 million followers which could — and I can’t believe I’m writing this… — make it an influencer account.

While much can be said about Jenner’s rise to fame, she’s a pretty successful entrepreneur. Her two-year-old ‘Kylie Cosmetics’ brand is estimated to gross over $600 million in annual revenue. While it is funny that a photo of an egg can take the record on Instagram there might be more to it. Jenner’s company trades on her brand, the egg could be a rejection or protest of today’s reality TV culture… which is best embodied by the Kardashians and, in particular, Kylie Jenner. That certainly seems the case looking at the splurge in new and egg-related comments on Jenner’s birth post from last year.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking and this is just another internet phenomenon that can’t be explained. It could simply be a joke that blew up, but don’t discount the potential that this is a stunt from a company launching a new product or wanting to make a splash.

Showing that she might have a sense of humor, 21-year-old Jenner acknowledged the new record in a video of her smashing an egg.

View this post on Instagram

Take that little egg

A post shared by Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

This is the second social media record set this year after Twitter got a new most-retweeted tweet — however, the roles were very much different.

Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire who is paying Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a trip to the moon, saw a tweet that offered nearly $1 million in prize money for retweets surpass a true internet phenomenon, U.S. teen Carter Wilkerson. Back in April 2017, Wilkerson took to Twitter to plead for free chicken nuggets; his original tweet now has around 3.6 million retweets.

A first look at Twitter’s new beta app and its bid to remain ‘valuable and relevant’

Twitter has made a name for itself, at its most basic level, as a platform that gives everyone who uses it a voice. But as it has grown, that unique selling point has set Twitter up for as many challenges — harassment, confusing way to manage conversations — as it has opportunities — the best place to see in real time how the public reacts to something, be it a TV show, a political uprising, or a hurricane.

Now, to fix some of the challenges, the company is going to eat its own dogfood (birdfood?) when it comes to having a voice.

In the coming weeks, it’s going to launch a new beta program, where a select group of users will get access to features, by way of a standalone app, to use and talk about new features with others. Twitter, in turn, will use data that it picks up from that usage and chatter to decide how and if to turn those tests into full-blown product features for the rest of its user base.

We sat down with Sara Haider, Twitter’s director of product management, to take a closer look at the new app and what features Twitter will be testing in it (and what it won’t), now and in the future.

The company today already runs an Experiments Program for testing, as well as other tests, for example to curb abusive behavior, to figure out how to help the service run more smoothly. This new beta program will operate differently.

While there will only be around a couple thousand participants, those accepted will not be under NDA (unlike the Experiments Program). That means they can publicly discuss and tweet about the new features, allowing the wider Twitter community to comment and ask questions.

And unlike traditional betas, where users test nearly completed features before a public launch, the feedback from the beta could radically change the direction of what’s being built. Or, in some cases, what’s not.

“Unlike a traditional beta that is the last step before launch, we’re bringing people in super early,” Haider said.

The first version of the beta will focus on a new design for the way conversation threads work on Twitter. This includes a different color scheme, and visual cues to highlight important replies.

“It’s kind of a new take on our thinking about product development,” explains Haider. “One of the reasons why this is so critical for this particular feature is because we know we’re making changes that are pretty significant.”

She says changes of this scale shouldn’t just be dropped on users one day.

“We need you to be part of this process, so that we know we’re building the right experience,” Haider says.

Once accepted into the beta program, users will download a separate beta app – something that Twitter isn’t sure will always be the case. It’s unclear if that process will create too much friction, the company says, so it will see how testers respond.

Here are some of the more interesting features we talked and saw getting tested in the beta we were shown:

Color-coded replies

During the first beta, participants will try out new conversation features which offer color-coded replies to differentiate between responses from the original poster of the tweet, those from people you follow, and those from people you don’t follow.

In a development build of the beta app, Haider showed us what this looked like, with the caveat that the color scheme being used has been intentionally made to be overly saturated – it will be dialed down when the features launch to testers.

When you click into a conversation thread, the beta app will also offer visual cues to help you better find the parts of the thread that are of interest to you.

One way it’s doing so is by highlighting the replies in a thread that were written by people you follow on Twitter. Another change is that the person who posted the original tweet will also have their own replies in the thread highlighted.

In the build Haider showed us, replies from people she followed were shown in green, those from non-followers were blue, and her own replies were blue.

Algorithmically sorted responses

One of the big themes in Twitter’s user experience for power and more casual users is that they come up with workarounds for certain features that Twitter does not offer.

Take reading through long threads that may have some interesting detail that you would like to come back to later, or that branches off at some point that you’d like to follow after reading through everything else. Haider says she marks replies she’s seen with a heart to keep her place. Other people use Twitter’s “Tweets & Replies” section to find out when the original poster had replied within the thread, since it’s hard to find those replies when just scrolling down.

The same kind of algorithmic sorting that Twitter has applied to your main timeline might start to make its way to your replies. Already, replies on Twitter may be shown in a ranked order, so the important ones — like those from your Twitter friends — are moved to the top, and what two people see in a group of replies may differ. Now, those replies and the branches of conversation that come off them may start to become easier to follow, also based on algorithms.

A later test may involve a version of Twitter’s Highlights, summaries of what it deems important, coming to longer threads, Haider said.

The time-based view is not going to completely leave, however. “The buzz, that feeling and that vibe [of live activity] that is something that we never want to lose,” CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey said last week on stage at CES. “Not everyone will be in the moment at the exact same time, but when you are, it’s an electrifying feeling…. Anything we can do to make a feeling of something much larger than yourself [we should].”

Removing hearts + other engagement icons

Another experiment Twitter is looking at is what it should do with its engagement buttons to streamline the look of replies for users. The build that we saw did not have any hearts to favorite/like Tweets, nor any icons for retweets or replies, when the Tweets came in the form of replies to another Tweet.

The icons and features didn’t completely disappear, but they would only appear when you tapped on a specific post. The basic idea seems to be: engagement for those who want it, a more simplified view for those who do not.

The heart icon has been a subject of speculation for some time now. Last year, the company told us that it was considering removing it, as part of an overall effort to improve the quality of conversation. This could be an example of how Twitter might implement just that.

Twitter may also test other things like icebreakers (pinned tweets designed to start conversations), and a status update field (i.e. your availability, location, or what you are doing, as on IM).

The status test, in fact, points to a bigger shift we may see in how Twitter as a whole is used, especially by those who come to the platform around a specific event.

One of the biggest laments has been that on-boarding on the app — the experience for those who are coming to Twitter for the first time — continues to be confusing. Twitter admits as much itself, and so — as with its recent deal with the NBA to provide a unique Twitter experience around a specific game — it will be making more tweaks and tests to figure out how to move Twitter on from being fundamentally focused around the people you follow.

“We have some work to do to make it easier to discover,” Dorsey said, adding that right now the platform is “more about people than interests.”

While all products need to evolve over time, Twitter in particular seems a bit obsessed with continually changing the basic mechanics of how its app operates.

It seems that there are at least a couple of reasons for that. One is that, although the service continues to see some growth in its daily active users, its monthly active users globally have been either flat, in decline, or growing by a mere two percent in the last four quarters (and in decline in the last three of the four quarters in the key market of the US).

That underscores how the company still has some work to do to keep people engaged.

The other is that change and responsiveness seem to be the essence of how Twitter wants to position itself these days. Last week, Dorsey noted that Twitter itself didn’t invent most of the ways that the platform gets used today. (The “RT” (retweet), which is now a button in the app; the hashtag; tweetstormsexpanded tweets, and even the now-ubiquitous @mention are all examples of features that weren’t created originally by Twitter, but added in based around how the app was used.)

“We want to continue our power of observation and learning… what people want Twitter to be and how to use it,” Dorsey said. “It allows us to be valuable and relevant.”

While these continual changes can sometimes make things more confusing, the beta program could potentially head off any design mistakes, uncover issues Twitter itself may have missed, and help Twitter harness that sort of viral development in a more focused way.

My product launch wishlist for Instagram, Twitter, Uber and more

‘Twas the night before Xmas, and all through the house, not a feature was stirring from the designer’s mouse . . . Not Twitter! Not Uber, Not Apple or Pinterest! On Facebook! On Snapchat! On Lyft or on Insta! . . . From the sidelines I ask you to flex your code’s might. Happy Xmas to all if you make these apps right.

Instagram

See More Like This – A button on feed posts that when tapped inserts a burst of similar posts before the timeline continues. Want to see more fashion, sunsets, selfies, food porn, pets, or Boomerangs? Instagram’s machine vision technology and metadata would gather them from people you follow and give you a dose. You shouldn’t have to work through search, hashtags, or the Explore page, nor permanently change your feed by following new accounts. Pinterest briefly had this feature (and should bring it back) but it’d work better on Insta.

Web DMs Instagram’s messaging feature has become the defacto place for sharing memes and trash talk about people’s photos, but it’s stuck on mobile. For all the college kids and entry-level office workers out there, this would make being stuck on laptops all day much more fun. Plus, youth culture truthsayer Taylor Lorenz wants Instagram web DMs too.

Upload Quality Indicator – Try to post a Story video or Boomerang from a crummy internet connection and they turn out a blurry mess. Instagram should warn us if our signal strength is low compared to what we usually have (since some places it’s always mediocre) and either recommend we wait for Wi-Fi, or post a low-res copy that’s replaced by the high-res version when possible.

Oh, and if new VP of product Vishal Shah is listening, I’d also like Bitmoji-style avatars and a better way to discover accounts that shows a selection of their recent posts plus their bio, instead of just one post and no context in Explore which is better for discovering content.

Twitter

DM Search – Ummm, this is pretty straightforward. It’s absurd that you can’t even search DMs by person, let alone keyword. Twitter knows messaging is a big thing on mobile right? And DMs are one of the most powerful ways to get in contact with mid-level public figures and journalists. PS: My DMs are open if you’ve got a news tip — @JoshConstine.

Unfollow Suggestions – Social networks are obsessed with getting us to follow more people, but do a terrible job of helping us clean up our feeds. With Twitter bringing back the option to see a chronological feed, we need unfollow suggestions more than ever. It should analyze who I follow but never click, fave, reply to, retweet, or even slow down to read and ask if I want to nix them. I asked for this 5 years ago and the problem has only gotten worse. Since people feel like their feeds are already overflowing, they’re stingy with following new people. That’s partly why you see accounts get only a handful of new followers when their tweets go viral and are seen by millions. I recently had a tweet with 1.7 million impressions and 18,000 Likes that drove just 11 follows. Yes I know that’s a self-own.

Analytics Benchmarks – If Twitter wants to improve conversation quality, it should teach us what works. Twitter offers analytics about each of your tweets, but not in context of your other posts. Did this drive more or fewer link clicks or follows than my typical tweet? That kind of info could guide users to create more compelling content.

Facebook

(Obviously we could get into Facebook’s myriad problems here. A less sensationalized feed that doesn’t reward exaggerated claims would top my list. Hopefully its plan to downrank “borderline content” that almost violates its policies will help when it rolls out.)

Batched Notifications – Facebook sends way too many notifications. Some are downright useless and should be eliminated. “14 friends responded to events happening tomorrow”? “Someone’s fundraiser is half way to its goal?” Get that shit out of here. But there are other notifications I want to see but that aren’t urgent nor crucial to know about individually. Facebook should let us decide to batch notifications so we’d only get one of a certain type every 12 or 24 hours, or only when a certain number of similar ones are triggered. I’d love a digest of posts to my Groups or Events from the past day rather than every time someone opens their mouth.

I so don’t care

Notifications In The “Time Well Spent” Feature – Facebook tells you how many minutes you spent on it each day over the past week and on average, but my total time on Facebook matters less to me than how often it interrupts my life with push notifications. The “Your Time On Facebook” feature should show how many notifications of each type I’ve received, which ones I actually opened, and let me turn off or batch the ones I want fewer of.

Oh, and for Will Cathcart, Facebook’s VP of apps, can I also get proper syncing so I don’t rewatch the same Stories on Instagram and Facebook, the ability to invite people to Events on mobile based on past invite lists of those I’ve hosted or attended, and the See More Like This feature I recommended for Instagram?

Uber/Lyft/Ridesharing

“Quiet Ride” Button – Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for small talk. Had a rough day, need to get work done, or want to just zone out? Ridesharing apps should offer a request for a quiet ride that if the driver accepts, you pay them an extra dollar (or get it free as a loyalty perk), and you get ferried to your destination without unnecessary conversation. I get that it’s a bit dehumanizing for the driver, but I’d bet some would happily take a little extra cash for their compliance.

“I Need More Time” Button – Sometimes you overestimate the ETA and suddenly your car is arriving before you’re ready to leave. Instead of cancelling and rebooking a few minutes later, frantically rushing so you don’t miss your window and get smacked with a no-show fee, or making the driver wait while they and the company aren’t getting paid, Uber, Lyft, and the rest should offer the “I Need More Time” button that simply rebooks you a car that’s a little further away.

Spotify/Music Streaming Apps

Scan My Collection – I wish I could just take photos of the album covers, spines, or even discs of my CD or record collection and have them instantly added to a playlist or folder. It’s kind of sad that after lifetimes of collecting physical music, most of it now sits on a shelf and we forget to play what we used to love. Music apps want more data on what we like, and it’s just sitting there gathering dust. There’s obviously some fun viral potential here too. Let me share what’s my most embarrassing CD. For me, it’s my dual copies of Limp Bizkit’s “Significant Other” because I played the first one so much it got scratched.

Friends Weekly Spotify ditched its in-app messaging, third-party app platform, and other ways to discover music so its playlists would decide what becomes a hit in order to exert leverage over the record labels to negotiate better deals. But music discovery is inherently social and the desktop little ticker of what friends are playing on doesn’t cut it. Spotify should let me choose to recommend my new favorite song or agree to let it share what I’ve recently played most, and put those into a Discover Weekly-style social playlist of what friends are listening to.

Snapchat

Growth – I’m sorry, I had to.

Bulk Export Memories – But seriously, Snapchat is shrinking. That’s worrisome because some users’ photos and videos are trapped on its Memories cloud hosting feature that’s supposed to help free up space on your phone. But there’s no bulk export option, meaning it could take hours of saving shots one at a time to your camera roll if you needed to get off of Snapchat, if for example it was shutting down, or got acquired, or you’re just bored of it.

Add-On Cameras – Snapchat’s Spectacles are actually pretty neat for recording first-person or underwater shots in a circular format. But otherwise they don’t do much more, and in some ways do much less, than your phone’s camera and are a long way from being a Magic Leap competitor. That’s why if Snapchat really wants to become a “Camera Company”, it should build sleek add-on cameras that augment our phone’s hardware. Snap previously explored selling a 360-camera but never launched one. A little Giroptic iO-style 360 lens that attaches to your phone’s charging port could let you capture a new kind of content that really makes people feel like they’re there with you. An Aukey Aura-style zoom lens attachment that easily fits in your pocket unlike a DSLR could also be a hit

iOS

Switch Wi-Fi/Bluetooth From Control Center – I thought the whole point of Control Center was one touch access, but I can only turn on or off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It’s silly having to dig into the Settings menu to switch to a different Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth device, especially as we interact with more and more of them. Control Center should unfurl a menu of networks or devices you can choose from.

Shoot GIFs – Live Photos are a clumsy proprietary format. Instagram’s Boomerang nailed what we want out of live action GIFs and we should be able to shoot them straight from the iOS camera and export them as actual GIFs that can be used across the web. Give us some extra GIF settings and iPhones could have a new reason for teens to choose them over Androids.

Gradual Alarms – Anyone else have a heart attack whenever they hear their phone’s Alarm Clock ringtone? I know I do because I leave my alarms on so loud that I’ll never miss them, but end up being rudely shocked awake. A setting that gradually increases the volume of the iOS Alarm Clock every 15 seconds or minute so I can be gently arisen unless I refuse to get up.

Maybe some of these apply to Android, but I wouldn’t know because I’m a filthy casual iPhoner. Send me your Android suggestions, as well as what else you want to see added to your favorite apps.

[Image Credit: Hanson Inc]

Twitter says it will now ask everyone for feedback about its policy changes, starting today

Twitter says it’s going to change the way it creates rules regarding the use of its service to also now include community feedback. Previously, the company followed its own policy development process, including taking input from its Trust and Safety Council and various experts. Now, it says it’s going to try something new: it’s going to ask its users.

According to announcement published this morning, Twitter says it will ask everyone for feedback on a new policy before it becomes a part of Twitter’s official Rules.

It’s kicking off this change by asking for feedback on its new policy around dehumanizing language on Twitter, it says.

Over the past three months, Twitter has been working to create a policy that addresses language that “makes someone feel less than human” – something that can have real-world repercussions, including “normalizing serious violence,” the company explains.

To some extent, dehumanizing language is covered under Twitter’s existing hateful conduct policy, which addresses hate speech that includes the promotion of violence, or direct attacks or threats against people based on factors like their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.

However, there are still ways to be abusive on Twitter outside of those guidelines, and dehumanizing language is one of them.

The new policy is meant to expand the hateful conduct policy to also prohibit language that dehumanizes others based on ” their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target,” says Twitter.

The company isn’t soliciting user feedback over email or Twitter, however.

Instead, it has launched a survey.

Available until October 9 at 6:00 AM PT, the survey asks only a few questions after presenting the new policy’s language for you to read through.

For example, it asks users to rate the clarity of the policy itself on a scale of one to five. It then gives you 280 characters max – just like on Twitter – to suggest how the policy could be improved. Similarly, you have 280 characters to offer examples of speech that contribute to a healthy conversation, but may violate this policy – Twitter’s attempt at finding any loopholes or exceptions.

And it gives you another 280 characters to offer additional feedback or thoughts.

You also have to provide your age, gender, (optionally) your username, and say if you’re willing to receive an email follow-up if Twitter has more questions about your responses.

Twitter doesn’t say how much community feedback will guide its decision-making, though. It simply says that after the feedback, it will then continue with its regular process, which passes the policy through a cross-functional working group, including members of its policy development, user research, engineering, and enforcement teams.

The idea to involve the community in policy-making is a notable change, and one that could make people feel more involved with the definition of the rules, and therefore – perhaps! – more likely to respect them.

But Twitter’s issues around abuse and hate speech on its network don’t really stem from poor policies – its policies actually spell things out fairly well, in many cases, about what should be allowed and what should not.

Twitter’s problems tend to stem from lax enforcement. The company has far too often declined to penalize or ban users whose content is clearly hateful in its nature, in an effort to remain an open platform for “all voices” – including those with extreme ideologies. Case in point: it was effectively the last of the large social platforms to ban the abusive content posted by Alex Jones and his website Infowars.

Users also regularly complain that they have been subject to tweets that violate Twitter guidelines and rules, but no action is taken.

It’s interesting, at times, to consider how differently Twitter could have evolved if community moderation – similar to the moderation on Reddit or even the moderation that takes place on open source Twitter clone Mastodon – had been a part of Twitter’s service from day one. Or how things would look if marginalized groups and those who are often victims of harassment and hate speech had been involved directly with building the platform in the early days. Would Twitter be a different place?

But that’s not where we are.

The new dehumanization policy Twitter is asking about is below:

Twitter’s Dehumanization Policy

You may not dehumanize anyone based on membership in an identifiable group, as this speech can lead to offline harm.

Definitions:

Dehumanization: Language that treats others as less than human. Dehumanization can occur when others are denied of human qualities (animalistic dehumanization) or when others are denied of human nature (mechanistic dehumanization). Examples can include comparing groups to animals and viruses (animalistic), or reducing groups to their genitalia (mechanistic).

Identifiable group: Any group of people that can be distinguished by their shared characteristics such as their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, serious disease, occupation, political beliefs, location, or social practices.

Tweetbot loses several key features ahead of Twitter’s API change

Twitter’s API changes won’t come out until tomorrow, but its ramifications are already being felt. Tapbots released an update today to Tweetbot for iOS that loses many of the Twitter client’s most popular or essential features. It also removed its Apple Watch app. In Tweetbot’s App Store release notes, Tapbots explained “on August 16th Twitter will disable parts of their public interface that we use in Tweetbot. Because Twitter has chosen not to provide alternatives to these interfaces we have been forced to disable or degrade certain features. We are sorry about this, but unfortunately this is totally out of our control.”

The changes mean that Tweetbot’s timeline streaming is now disabled, so timelines will refresh every one to two minutes instead–a loss for people who want to see new tweets in real-time. Push notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages will also be delayed by a few minutes, while push notifications for Likes, Retweets, Follows and Quotes have been disabled altogether (Tapbots’ release notes say they are looking at how to reinstate some of those in the future). Tweetbot’s Activity and Stats tabs have been removed.

As part of an effort to tighten control over how its services are used by third-party developers, Twitter announced in April 2017 that it will shut down User Streams, Site Streams and other APIs to prepare for the arrival of its new Account Activity API and other products.

Other third-party Twitter clients that will likely be affected by the API changes include Twitterific, Tweetings and Talon, which along with Tweetbot protested in April that they hadn’t been given enough time or information to prepare for the release, which was originally scheduled for June 19. In response, Twitter extended the deadline to August 16. Other apps that have already been impacted include Favstar, which went offline in June as a result of the API changes.