Some interesting internal documents have surfaced recently from Twitter that give some very interesting, and concerning, glimpses into the workings of the company.
First, there’s this story about how ‘heavy tweeters’ are leaving Twitter:
NEW: Twitter is struggling to keep its most active users – what it calls "heavy tweeters" – engaged on the platform, according to internal docs.
It is the most important type of user. They are less than 10% of all users but account for 50% of revenuehttps://t.co/Z30E5HFdcP
— Sheila Dang (@Sheila_Dang) October 25, 2022
What I found really interesting about this article was that Twitter classifies its heaviest users as being users who only tweet 3-4 times a day and check in on the site 6 times a week. The irony is, I do that now, and my posting volume is waaaaaay down. For years I tracked my daily activity on Twitter, and tried my best to hit at least 100 tweets a day. During Sundays and #Blogchat, it was not uncommon for me to send 200-300 tweets a week. I would love to see how Twitter calculated its heaviest users in say 2012, as I bet it required those users to have far more than 3-4 tweets per day. I would suspect 30-40 tweets per day being more likely.
That article speaks to activity on the platform among the site’s heaviest users. But another internal document speak to its culture. And it’s not impressive. Twitter’s employees wrote a letter to Elon Musk, making a list of demands of Twitter’s likely future owner:
— Mack Collier (@MackCollier) October 25, 2022
First, the idea of employees giving their new boss a list of demands just screams entitlement and also a lack of experience working in the ‘real world’.
But this passage in the letter really speaks to the culture at Twitter now:
Elon Musk’s plan to lay off 75% of Twitter workers will hurt Twitter’s ability to serve the public conversation. A threat of this magnitude is reckless, undermines our users’ and customers’ trust in our platform, and is a transparent act of worker intimidation.
Twitter has significant effects on societies and communities across the globe. As we speak, Twitter is helping to uplift independent journalism in Ukraine and Iran, as well as powering social movements around the world.
The fact that Twitter workers believe the site exists to ‘serve’ the public conversation instead of HOSTING the public conversation is telling. Twitter is a platform, which means its job legally under Second 230 protections of the CDA is to host content from its users. The statement from Twitter’s workers makes it clear that the workers view the site as a publisher. The statement about ‘uplifting’ independent journalists and ‘power social movements’ may sound noble, but that’s not Twitter’s job as a platform.
A platform hosts content. A publisher edits content. The statement from Twitter’s workers make it clear that they are curating/editing content, and they are proud of that fact.
This is why politicians have been pushing for Section 230 protections to be changed or revoked for social media sites. In short, Section 230 says that social media sites, even blogs like this one, are platforms. That means the blogger or site owner has limited responsibility for any content left by a user. If someone leaves a comment on this blog, the responsibility for that comment falls on the person who left the comment, not the blogger (me). But that protection is only afforded because Section 230 says this blog is a platform.
The issue with Twitter and certain other social media sites is they have been leveraging Section 230 protections as a platform, but they have been editing and curating content on the platform, as if they were a publisher. These sites are basically misusing Section 230 protections, and it’s why politicians in recent years on BOTH sides of the isle have threatened to repeal those protections.
Which would crush smaller content creators. It would mean blogs like this one would be almost forced to turn off comments, because the responsibility for those comments would shift from the commenter, back to the blogger.
Twitter’s internal letter to Elon Musk makes it clear that the content moderation team is run by activists rather than employees working for a platform. And Elon has long made comments about how ham-fisted Twitter’s content moderation is, so it will be interesting to see what changes are made, if Elon does take over.