Thursday January 17, 2019
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Twitter Wants to Revamp Its ‘Core’, Worried About The Outcome

Twitter may not have to reinvent itself completely to improve.

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Twitter, tweets, India
The Twitter logo appears on a phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.. VOA

After long resisting change, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wants to revamp the “core” of the service to fight rampant abuse and misinformation. But it’s not clear if changing that essence — how it rewards interactions and values popularity — would even work.

Though Dorsey was scant on details, what is certain is that the move will require huge investments for a company that doesn’t have the same resources that Google and Facebook have to throw at the problem. Any change is likely to affect how users engage with Twitter and hurt revenue, testing the patience of both users and investors.

“Social networks have a history of … well-intentioned but badly designed efforts to fix this,” said Nate Elliott, principal at marketing research firm Nineteen Insights.

Twitter isn’t alone in having to deal with hate, abuse, misinformation and bad actors using the service for elections interference, targeted harassment and scams. And Twitter isn’t alone in proposing fixes that don’t get to the heart of the problems.

Case in point: Facebook. After Russian trolls were found to have used Facebook to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections, including by purchasing ads, the company spent a lot of time and energy building a tool that shows who’s behind political advertisements. But Elliott said it’s not even clear which ads on Facebook are the ones causing problems around foreign elections meddling. In 2016, Russian agents weren’t so much running political ads for or against candidates but rather social ads on divisive such as gun control and immigration.

But like Facebook, Twitter has to try — or at least be seen as trying.

Dorsey told The Washington Post that Twitter had not considered changing the core of the service until now. Like Facebook and others, Twitter has been accused of tinkering around the edges, tweaking policies and hiring masses of moderators when what’s really needed is a fundamental shift in how they work and how they make money in order to survive. While many former executives and other insiders have proposed radical shifts at major social networks, it’s rare for a sitting CEO to propose something as drastic as revisiting the foundation that his company is built on.

Twitter Lite
Twitter isn’t alone in having to deal with hate. Pixabay

“We often turn to policy to fix a lot of these issues, but I think that is only treating surface-level symptoms that we are seeing,” Dorsey said.

Twitter confirmed Dorsey’s comments to the Post, but declined further comment.

Revamping the core could mean changing the engagement and rewards designed to keep users coming back — in the form of seeing their tweets liked, responded to and retweeted, and seeing their follower counts grow. It’s the tiny dopamine hits we get with each like that makes us feel better and keeps us returning for more. Take that away, and users might not want to return. In turn, advertisers might stay away, too, as they rely on monthly and daily user numbers, as well as user interactions, to gauge how well their ads work and how much to spend.

Unlike Facebook, Elliott said, Twitter doesn’t have billions of users to absorb any hits on user growth. Even if the changes work, he said, “it’s going to cost them so many users and so much money I can’t imagine them sticking with these kinds of changes.”

Paul Verna, an analyst with research firm eMarketer, also isn’t “terribly optimistic” that Twitter can make its service safer without hurting its business. The same goes for Facebook, and YouTube.

“Because they rely on an advertising business model, they need to not only continue to reach audiences, but try to get them to spend as much time on platforms as possible,” he said. “That creates an inherent tension between your business needs and being a good citizen.”

Also Read: Slow Disclosure of Tesla Raising Governance, Social Media Concerns

That said, Twitter may not have to reinvent itself completely to improve. Elliott said better policies might go a long way toward reducing the abuse. For example, it’s currently OK to harass someone on Twitter, as long as it’s not harassment based on certain categories such as gender and sexual orientation. Elliott said Twitter may just need to prohibit all harassment. (VOA)

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Social Media Overuse- A Serious Threat

Scientists have found a connection between excessive social media use and behavior associated with substance abuse.

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Social Media, digital, Encryption, drink, whatsapp, depression
Study Links Social Media Addicts, Substance Abusers (VOA)

Addicted to social media? That’s not just an expression anymore. Scientists have found a connection between excessive social media use and behavior associated with substance abuse.

Researchers at Michigan State University and Monash University in Australia found that heavy social media users tended to make riskier decisions usually seen in drug addicts.

“Around one-third of humans on the planet are using social media, and some of these people are displaying maladaptive, excessive use of these sites,” said Dar Meshi, the study’s lead author and assistant professor at Michigan State University in the U.S.

“Our findings will hopefully motivate the field to take social media overuse seriously,” Meshi said.

Digital, social-media
social media takes over your mental health

Meshi and his team had 71 participants take the Iowa Gambling Task, which is used to measure decision-making abilities in substance abusers and non-abusers.

“Decision-making is oftentimes compromised in individuals with substance use disorders. They sometimes fail to learn from their mistakes and continue down a path of negative outcomes,” Meshi said.

At the end of the exercise, Meshi and his team found that heavy social media users took greater risks even while knowing that they came with negative consequences, the same way drug addicts do.

Also Read: YouTube Bans Dangerous, Harmful Pranks From its Platform

The participants also said that they constantly think about the platforms when not using them and that they lose sleep because of their online activities.

“I believe that social media has tremendous benefits for individuals, but there’s also a dark side when people can’t pull themselves away,” Meshi said. “We need to better understand this drive, so we can determine if excessive social media use should be considered an addiction.” (VOA)