For years, Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB) have enjoyed a healthy rivalry: They’ve competed for acquisitions, talent and advertising dollars, and sometimes gone so far as to copy each others’ features in the never-ending pursuit to grow their audiences.
But the clash between the two tech companies appeared to take on new life this week after Twitter’s decision to place fact-check labels on some of President Donald Trump’s tweets sparked a series of threats, including an imminent executive order regulating social media companies.
The CEOs of the two companies traded criticisms in public. Former employees posted their own jabs on social media. And some legislators were quick to highlight the differences between the approach Twitter and Facebook took, potentially only adding to the tensions.
Since 2016, social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have vowed to crack down on misinformation related to elections. Monday, they faced their first big test, when delayed results from the Iowa Democratic caucus gave rise to partisan infighting, rampant misinformation, and conspiracy theories. Unsurprisingly, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. Twitter struggled to contain viral electoral misinformation and unfounded accusations of vote rigging from Trump allies, while Facebook grappled with disinformation.
Twitter has said it will “pause” plans to disable inactive accounts following user backlash, a day after announcing plans for a huge cull of such accounts.
The social network said it now would not remove accounts until it had a process for “memorialising” dead users on the network.
It admitted not having a policy in place was a “miss on our part”.
The firm said it was taking action on inactive accounts due to regulatory concerns.
1. Twitter will free up handles by deleting inactive accounts
“As part of our commitment to serve the public conversation, we’re working to clean up inactive accounts to present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter,” the company said. Sounds like a smart move, with one big catch: If someone with a Twitter account died more than six months prior and no one else has their login, their account will be deleted. So hopefully, Twitter will come up with a way to memorialize these accounts.
Now that we’re all used to seeing tweets from randos we don’t follow in our feeds, Twitter is introducing a new way for you to discover just how many bad opinions are really out there regarding the things you care most about.
Essentially, Topics will expand the reach of Twitter functions like following, muting, and adding to Lists beyond individual accounts to include tweets focused on a specific thing. Whether you’re into Mars news, Carly Rae Jepsen, or Liverpool FC, you’ll be able to follow those interests as you would an account, being served the “top tweets” from “experts, fans or [accounts that] just tend to talk about that thing a lot”, according to the Twitter blog.
1. Jack Dorsey says Twitter will ban all political ads
Arguing that “internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse,” CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter will be banning all political advertising — albeit with “a few exceptions” like voter registration. Not only is this a decisive move by Twitter, but it also could increase pressure on Facebook to follow suit, or at least take steps in this direction.
Leadership at Twitter stated today that they want to “protect healthy discourse and open conversation.” To that end, they are no longer accepting advertising from state-controlled news media entities. This comes on the heels their discovery of 936 accounts inside China that were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
IN JANUARY, ON the heels of @realDonaldTrump’s second year in office, shortly after Elon Musk had been fined $20 million and Kevin Hart’s Oscar-hosting gig had been canceled because of controversial tweets, and weeks following Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s return from a 10-day silent meditation trip to Myanmar, about which he praised the food and the beauty of the monasteries but neglected to mention the ongoing regional genocide, Twitter made it clear that some things were about to change.
Just not the tweets. Though the company had spent the better part of the year promoting “healthy conversations,” it wasn’t much interested in putting the screws on its users. Debates, disagreements, the occasional blow-out controversy—that was all stuff that made Twitter Twitter. No, instead, Twitter decided to change itself from the outside in. It was time to give the experience of using Twitter a makeover.