Former Disney CEO Says Company Found a ‘Substantial Portion’ of Twitter Users Were Not Real When It Evaluated Acquisition in 2016

Bob Iger, former Disney CEO, explained on Wednesday why Disney didn’t acquire Twitter in 2016. He said: “We enter the process immediately, looking at Twitter as the solution: a global distribution platform. It was viewed as sort of a social network. We were viewing it as something completely different. We could put news, sports, entertainment, [and] reach the world. And frankly, it would have been a phenomenal solution, distribution-wise. Then, after we sold the whole concept to the Disney board and the Twitter board, and we’re really ready to execute — the negotiation was just about done — I went home, contemplated it for a weekend, and thought, ‘I’m not looking at this as carefully as I need to look at it.’ Yes, it’s a great solution from a distribution perspective. But it would come with so many other challenges and complexities that as a manager of a great global brand, I was not prepared to take on a major distraction and having to manage circumstances that weren’t even close to anything that we had faced before. Interestingly enough, because I read the news these days, we did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users — I guess they’re called users? — and we at that point estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion — not a majority — were not real. I don’t remember the number but we discounted the value heavily. But that was built into our economics. Actually, the deal that we had was pretty cheap.”

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Twitter Is Becoming a Podcast App

Twitter has launched a test version of Twitter Spaces today that includes podcasts, “letting you listen to full shows through curated playlists based on your interests,” reports The Verge. From the report: The redesigned Spaces tab opens with Stations, topic-based playlists combining podcast episodes pulled from RSS with Twitter’s social audio events and recordings. It functions like a Pandora station but for spoken word and is pretty different from the a la carte listening podcast consumers are used to on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Live and upcoming spaces are still in the tab, further down the page. The test will roll out to a random group of users across the world, initially only in English. The more users listen, the more tailored the audio Stations will become. But Twitter isn’t starting from square one — the company is relying on what it already knows about its users’ interests to curate the playlists. It’ll draw from the interests of people they follow, as well.

“What we’re really trying to capture here is as if it’s like another user recommending you something,” Twitter senior product manager Evan Jones, who focuses on audio, told Hot Pod. Podcast discovery is notoriously difficult, limited either to top 100 charts, hand-picked selections on apps, or — more often than not — word of mouth. No platform has managed to crack it, yet. It’s easy to imagine the promotional possibilities around being able to share and listen to podcasts in the same app, but it’s not quite there yet. The test does not yet have a clipping capability, and listening can only happen in the Spaces tab, not on the timeline. That being said, Spaces has a clipping feature that could be applied to podcasts at some point.

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Twitter Will Hide Tweets That Share False Info During a Crisis

On Thursday, Twitter announced a new policy for dealing with misinformation during a period of crisis, establishing new standards for gating or blocking the promotion of certain tweets if they are seen as spreading misinformation. The Verge reports: “Content moderation is more than just leaving up or taking down content,” explained Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, in a blog post detailing the new policy, “and we’ve expanded the range of actions we may take to ensure they’re proportionate to the severity of the potential harm.” The new policy puts particular scrutiny on false reporting of events, false allegations involving weapons or use of force, or broader misinformation regarding atrocities or international response.

Hoax tweets and other misinformation regularly go viral during emergencies, as users rush to share unverified information. The sheer speed of events makes it difficult to implement normal verification or fact-checking systems, creating a significant challenge for moderators. Under the new policy, tweets classified as misinformation will not necessarily be deleted or banned; instead, Twitter will add a warning label requiring users to click a button before the tweet can be displayed (similar to the existing labels for explicit imagery). The tweets will also be blocked from algorithmic promotion. The stronger standards are meant to be limited to specific events. Twitter will initially apply the policy to content concerning the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the company expects to apply the rules to all emerging crises going forward. For the purposes of the policy, crisis is defined as “situations in which there is a widespread threat to life, physical safety, health, or basic subsistence.”

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Elon Musk Warns Twitter Users, ‘You Are Being Manipulated by the Algorithm’

Twitter’s potential new owner just made this announcement to his 93.1 million followers. “Very important to fix your Twitter feed,” the annoncement began:

1. Tap home button.
2. Tap stars on upper right of screen.
3. Select “Latest tweets”.

You are being manipulated by the algorithm in ways you don’t realize.

Easy to switch back & forth to see the difference.

Currently it’s been pinned to the top of Elon Musk’s Twitter feed. And minutes later, he added this reply to his own tweet. “This message brought to you by the Illuminaughty.”
Musk’s motivation isn’t clear — but just minutes earlier he’d tweeted a reply to own tweet from Friday that had suggested Twitter users check a sample of 100 Twitter accounts for the percentage of fake/spam/duplicate accounts. “I picked 100 as the sample size number,” Musk had added as a reply Friday, “because that is what Twitter uses to calculate less than 5% fake/spam/duplicate.” Musk’s follow-up tweet today?

“Twitter legal just called to complain that I violated their NDA by revealing the bot check sample size is 100! This actually happened.”

The tweets follow three more from the last 24 hours which all apparently comment wryly on Musk’s planned acquisition of Twitter. “Whoever thought owning the libs would be cheap never tried to acquire a social media company!” Musk tweeted earlier this afternoon. “At least, that’s what the lib hivemind thinks haha.”

And an earlier tweet appeared to allude to his recently-expressed interest in the number of fake/spam accounts on Twitter. Friday night, Elon Musk tweeted:

“The bots are angry at being counted.”

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Twitter Rolls Back Its Decision To Force You Into the Out-of-Order Timeline

Last week, Twitter introduced a change to the timeline that “would default to showing the algorithmically served Home feed while the reverse-chronological Latest feed was accessible in a separate tab,” reports The Verge. “The change […] made it more difficult to view tweets in chronological order.” Twitter is now reverting things to the way following significant backlash. From the report: Some users shared criticism of the change almost immediately after its March 10th announcement, as the Latest feed is preferred to the Home feed for many. The out-of-sequence Home feed can, at times, be confusing, especially for people who use Twitter for updates during a breaking news event like the war in Ukraine. However, two Twitter execs noted in replies to Verge contributing editor Casey Newton that they would be working on the problem, and it appears that the original change won’t be going through as planned. “We take feedback seriously, and in this case, we heard the new pinned Home & Latest wasn’t giving you the level of control over your timeline that you want,” Twitter spokesperson Shaokyi Amdo said in a statement to The Verge.

However, based on what the execs said, it seems Twitter may be investigating other possible changes to the timeline in the future. “Giving people choice and control over their Twitter experience is super important,” Twitter’s newly named VP of consumer product, Jay Sullivan, said in a reply to Newton on March 12th. “I’ll be working on this. Stay tuned.” Sullivan added that he was hoping the platform could achieve “a nice balance for all.”

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