Why Twitter is the best social media platform for disinformation

Thomas Rid writes: Twitter is the most open social media platform, which is partly why it’s used by so many politicians, celebrities, journalists, tech types, conference goers, and experts working on fast-moving topics. As we learned over the past year, Twitter’s openness was exploited by adversarial governments trying to influence elections. Twitter is marketing itself as a news platform, the go-to place to find out, in the words of its slogan, “What’s happening?”

So what’s happening with disinformation on Twitter? That is very hard to tell, because Twitter is actively making it easier to hide evidence of wrongdoing and making it harder to investigate abuse by limiting and monitoring third party research, and by forcing data companies to delete evidence as requested by users. The San Francisco-based firm has long been the platform of choice for adversarial intelligence agencies, malicious automated accounts (so-called bots), and extremists at the fringes. Driven by ideology and the market, the most open and liberal social media platform has become a threat to open and liberal democracy.

In the course of late 2016 and 2017, Facebook tried to confront abuse: by hiring a top-notch security team; by improving account authentication; and by tackling disinformation. Twitter has done the opposite—its security team is rudimentary and reclusive; the company seems to be in denial on the scope of disinformation; and it even optimised its platform for hiding bots and helping adversarial operators to delete incriminating evidence—to delete incriminating evidence not just from Twitter, but even from the archives of third party data providers. I spoke with half a dozen analysts from such intelligence companies with privileged access to Twitter data, all of whom asked for anonymity for fear of upsetting their existing relationship with Twitter. One analyst joked that he would to cut off my feet if I mentioned him or his firm. Twitter declined to comment on the record for this story two times. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “Why Twitter is the best social media platform for disinformation

  1. Paul Woodward

    No doubt, Twitter’s crude constriction of language has had a corrosive effect on communication, but let’s not forget that in the realm of social media, it is dwarfed by Facebook. There are now 330 million active Twitter users worldwide and by this summer, Twitter users in the U.S. had actually started declining, dropping from 70 million to 68 million.

    The most destructive impact on language doesn’t come from a single source but from its pervasive misuse which engenders the expectation that words convey little meaning. When we hear advertisers, politicians, celebrities, journalists, preachers, professors, and others saying things that they themselves don’t regard as containing much truth, then we end up stripping language of its power to convey truth. Instead it ends up as merely an instrument for achieving narrow purposes.

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