Twitter is rolling out a refreshed user interface for DMs on Android

Twitter is launching a redesigned user interface for DMs on Android, the company announced on Friday. Starting today, Twitter users on Android will see a more modern interface for direct messages that is consistent with the rest of the app. With this rollout, Twitter is bringing the Android experience on par with its iOS interface.

The refresh also brings an improved composer, as well as better tweet forwarding, context for message requests and clearer read receipts. The social network is also introducing improvements to the interface’s scrolling performance and responsiveness.

Twitter Android refresh

Image Credits: Twitter

Now, when Android users open their DMs, they will no longer see the boxy design they’re used to. They will now also see if they have received message requests from people they may know. The three-dot menu in the top right corner of the UI has also been replaced with a Settings symbol.

Twitter says it saw a need to improve how people use DMs on Twitter on Android devices, which is why it decided to revamp the interface. The Android refresh is arguably long overdue, considering that iOS users have had access to the redesign for quite some time now, while Android users were stuck with a somewhat outdated one. 

Twitter DM refresh

Image Credits: Twitter

The launch of the new interface comes as Twitter has been working to improve the DM experience for users over the past year. In February, the company rolled out the ability for users to pin up to six DM conversations to the top of their inbox for easy access. The social network also rolled out the option for users to search for specific messages in their DMs in March.

Last year, Twitter made some long-awaited changes to DMs, including the ability to DM a tweet to multiple people at once in individual conversations. Also, instead of timestamping individual messages with the date and time, Twitter started grouping messages by day to reduce timestamp clutter.

Twitter is rolling out a refreshed user interface for DMs on Android by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Here are some of the cringiest revelations in the Elon Musk text dump

A new, particularly juicy document has surfaced in discovery leading up to the Elon Musk v. Twitter trial, slated to take place in a few weeks. Behold: a trove of texts between Musk and key figures at Twitter, like founder Jack Dorsey, board chair Bret Taylor and current CEO Parag Agrawal, and other casual chats with investor Jason Calacanis and even Joe Rogan.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get down to it.

‘I kinda don’t think I should be the boss of anyone’

Elon Musk doesn’t want to be a boss. That’s a big revelation for someone who’s the CEO of more than a few companies.

In an early April conversation with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal – before their relationship soured to the point of poop emojis – Musk admitted that he doesn’t love being a leader.

“Frankly, I hate doing mgmt stuff. I kinda don’t think I should be the boss of anyone. But I love helping solve technical/product design problems,” Musk told Agrawal.

Musk and Agrawal’s relationship seemed promising at the beginning.

“Treat me like an engineer instead of a CEO,” Agrawal told Musk.

Throughout their conversations, founder and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey routinely speaks highly of Agrawal’s engineering ability. But on April 26, Dorsey, Musk and Agrawal got on a Google Hangout together to discuss the takeover. Judging by the texts, it didn’t go well.

“At least it became clear that you can’t work together. That was clarifying,” Dorsey said.

Count your blessings that you don’t need to pay Doge to tweet

Elon Musk has had some controversial ideas for Twitter, like verifying all human users and making the algorithm open source (this was Dorsey’s idea first). But perhaps his worst idea yet is to combat bot spam by making people pay dogecoin to tweet.

“I have an idea for a blockchain social media system that does both payments and short text messages/links like twitter. You have to pay a tiny amount to register your message on the chain, which will cut out the vast majority of spam and bots. There is no throat to choke, so free speech is guaranteed.”

A few days later, on April 13, Musk’s idea took greater shape.

“My Plan B is a blockchain-based version of twitter, where the ‘tweets’ are embedded in the transaction of comments,” he told Steve Davis, president of The Boring Company. “So you’d have to pay maybe 0.1 Doge per comment or repost of that comment.”

Thankfully, Musk later concluded that a blockchain-based Twitter would not be feasible at this time.

Jack Dorsey is known as ‘jack jack’ in Elon’s phone

We already knew that Dorsey was aboard the Musk takeover train. But in these texts, it seems that the two entrepreneurs do really respect each other. So much so that Dorsey earned the pet name “jack jack” in Elon’s phone. Cute!

As early as March, Dorsey and Musk were conversing over the future of Twitter.

“A new platform is needed. It can’t be a company. This is why I left,” Dorsey said. When Musk asked what Twitter should look like, jack jack replied, “I believe it must be an open source protocol, funded by a foundation of sorts that doesn’t own the protocol, only advances it. A bit like what Signal has done. It can’t have an advertising model.”

In a public comment in April, Dorsey said that “Elon is the singular solution” that he trusts. But he was just as supportive of Musk in private.

“I appreciate you. This is the right and only path. I’ll continue to do whatever it takes to make it work,” jack jack told Musk.

Gayle King: Buying Twitter is a ‘gangsta move’

Elon Musk doesn’t employ communications teams and generally does not enjoy talking to journalists. But, alas, he talks to Gayle King, co-host of CBS mornings.

“ELON! You buying twitter or offering to buy twitter Wow!” the news anchor told Musk. “Now Don’t you think we should sit down together face to face this is as the kids of today say a ‘gangsta move.’”

We are pretty sure that the kids are not saying this. But it is worth noting that Gayle King is one of very few women who Musk ever talks to over hundreds of texts.

Musk then told Gayle King that Oprah should join the Twitter board.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds. Wisdom about humanity and knowing what is right are more important than so-called “board governance” skills, which mean pretty much nothing in my experience,” Musk said.

To be honest, we would watch an Oprah interview with Elon Musk.

Joe Lonsdale wanted to connect Musk and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Joe Lonsdale, who co-founded Palantir and now runs the venture firm 8VC, also makes an appearance. Lonsdale recently made remarks blaming Black culture for racial disparities in funding and calling men who take paternity leave “losers,” for context.

“I love your ‘Twitter algorithms should be open source” tweet…” Lonsdale texted in late March. “Our public squares need to not have arbitrary sketchy censorship.”

Musk responded with “Absolutely. What we have right now is hidden corruption!”

Lonsdale dropped back by in mid-April. “Haha even Governor DeSantis just called me just now with ideas how to help you and outrages at that board and saying the public is rooting for you,” Lonsdale wrote. “Let me know if you or somebody on your side wants to chat w him.” (Musk replied with a brief and brutal “Haha cool.”)

Jason Calacanis volunteered to be Twitter CEO

Angel investor Jason Calacanis couldn’t help but slide into Musk’s texts in April when news of the offer to buy Twitter was out in the wild, joking that Musk should raise his offer to $54.21 — “the perfect counter.”

“You could easily clean up bots and spam and make the service viable for many more users — removing bots and spam is a lot less complicated than what the Tesla self driving team is doing,” Calacanis wrote. “And why should blue check marks be limited to the elite, press and celebrities? How is that democratic?”

Calacanis also swooped in the following day offering more unsolicited advice, including his suggestion to cut Twitter’s workforce by more than half to make its revenue math more favorable. “Day zero,” Calacanis wrote. “Sharpen your blades boys. 2 day a week Office requirement = 20% voluntary departures.”

He also suggested that Twitter recruit MrBeast to make original video content as well as dip a toe into more creator monetization features with video — a “huge unlock”— giving video creators 100% of ad revenue up to their first $1 million then splitting revenue.

Both Musk and Calacanis agreed that Twitter Blue is “an insane piece of shit” and its features should be razed and rethought outright. “These dipshits spent a year on Twitter Blue to give people exactly… Nothing they want!” Calacanis texted.

When Musk asked if he wanted to be a strategic advisor if the deal panned out, Calacanis swore the text equivalent of an oath to Twitter’s future owner: “Board member, advisor, whatever… you have my sword,” Calacanis wrote. “Put me in the game coach! Twitter CEO is my dream job.”

His enthusiasm appears to have gotten him into hot water with Musk soon after.

“What is going on with you marketing an SPV to randos? This is not ok,” Musk wrote in May. “Morgan Stanley and Jared [Birchall, Musk’s wealth manager/right-hand man] think you are using our friendship not in a good way.”

Calacanis defended himself by describing how the Musk/Twitter deal “captures the world’s imagination in an unimaginable way,” hence why he took it upon himself to field investment interest.

“You know I’m ride or die brother — I’d jump on a grande [sic] for you,” Calacanis said, earning himself a tapback.

Joe Rogan was stoked

“I REALLY hope you get Twitter,” Joe Rogan texted on March 23. “If you do, we should throw a hell of a party.” (Musk replied with the 100 emoji.)

Rogan also asked if Musk would “liberate Twitter from the censorship happy mob.”

“I will provide advice, which they may or may not choose to follow,” Musk said.

Riot Games President Mark Merrill thinks Elon is Batman

We quote directly with no comment:

“You are the hero Gotham needs — hell F’ing yes!”

Here are some of the cringiest revelations in the Elon Musk text dump by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter is adding a new TikTok-like full-screen video feature

Twitter is adding new features to make it easier for users to watch and discover videos on its platform, the social network announced on Thursday. Most notably, the company is launching a scrollable TikTok-like scrollable video feed.

In the coming days, users on iOS will be able to click on a video in their feed to enter the new scrollable video feed. Once you finish watching the video you clicked on, you will be able to scroll up to start browsing more video content. You’ll then be in a scrollable feed of videos, which is similar to the browsing experience on TikTok. If you want to exit the viewer and go back to the original tweet, you can click the back arrow in the top left corner.

Twitter says the purpose of the new immersive media viewer is to make it easier for users to discover engaging videos. The social network didn’t say when the immersive media viewer will roll out to users on Android.

In addition, Twitter is launching a new video carousel within its Explore tab. Users will see a new “Videos for you” category that will display popular and trending videos that the app thinks you would be interested in.

Twitter video section

Image Credits: Twitter

Twitter began testing a TikTok-like video feed back in December 2021 to give users a more personalized Explore page. In this test, Twitter turned the entire Explore page into a video feed, complete with a “For You” tab. With the changes announced today, Twitter isn’t focused on replacing the entire Explore page with a TikTok-like feed.

The company’s approach to a TikTok-like feed can be seen a somewhat tolerable one, especially considering that it isn’t directly forcing it onto users, as the previous TikTok-like video feed test did. People who like scrollable video feeds can access the immersive view if they like, and users who don’t want a video feed can choose to not open up the immersive viewer.

But of course, not everyone likes change, especially when it’s the introduction of a copycat feature from another platform. Instagram learned this the hard way, as it was essentially forced to walk back it TikTok-like full-screen home feed a few months ago due to immense backlash from users. It’s possible that Twitter wants to avoid a similar situation, which is why it’s opting to add a more controllable experience when its comes to scrollable video feeds.

Twitter is adding a new TikTok-like full-screen video feature by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter is rolling out podcasts to Blue subscribers on Android

Twitter is rolling out its redesigned Spaces tab, which includes podcasts, to Twitter Blue subscribers on Android. The Android launch comes a few weeks after Blue subscribers on iOS got access to podcasts and the redesigned Spaces tab.

When Twitter first announced that it was introducing podcasts to its platform, the social network said they would be accessible to a group of iOS and Android users. Now, Twitter is instead going to test podcasts exclusively with Twitter Blue subscribers.

The redesigned Spaces tab introduces personalized hubs for users called “Stations” that group content together based on different topics, such as news, music, sports and more. The recommendations you see are based on the themes and people that you follow. Twitter Blue users will now be able to access a personalized selection of live and recorded Spaces. The hubs will also feature the most popular podcasts from around the world.

Twitter says podcasts are part of its plans to provide users with an “all-in-one, personalized audio destination” by giving users even more audio content to listen to. The company says its internal research shows that 45% of people who use Twitter in the U.S. also listen to podcasts monthly, so the company will automatically suggest podcasts to help users discover content based on the topics they’re interested in.

Twitter is rolling out podcasts to Blue subscribers on Android by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Elon Musk wants “government-imposed muzzle” on his tweets thrown out

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is sick and tired of having to pause before tweeting to consider the potential implications on his company’s stock price. The celebrity executive is urging a federal appeals court to throw out a provision in his 2018 consent decree with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that requires him to get pre-approval from Tesla lawyers for certain Tesla-related public communications.

The appeal comes a month after a federal judge quashed Musk’s motion to end the same SEC settlement provision.

In the brief, which was filed on Tuesday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan and reported by Reuters, Musk’s lawyers call the mandate a “government-imposed muzzle,” the effect of which is “to inhibit and chill Mr. Musk’s lawful speech.” They say the provision violates the First Amendment and restricts Musk’s speech on a broad range of topics that are unrelated to the statements that gave rise to the SEC’s 2018 lawsuit.

The lawyers also claim that the SEC can’t show that the provision meets any compelling government interest and is, thus, unenforceable.

How did we even get here? It all started with a tweet from Musk that ran up Tesla’s stock price, causing the SEC to get involved.

In August 2018, Musk tweeted:

Tesla’s stock jumped by over 6% after that tweet, leading to significant market disruption, according to regulators.

A few weeks later, the SEC filed a complaint alleging securities fraud because, the agency said, the buyout was not at all close and was “subject to numerous contingencies,” according to the SEC. Regulators said the claims constituted fraud because they were false and misleading — a sentiment that’s increasingly being associated with Tesla. Apparently Musk hadn’t talked to any potential financing partners about the deal terms or price.

After much verbal foot-stomping, trolling on Twitter and complaints that the SEC’s actions were unjustified, Musk ended up settling with the SEC in October 2018. The settlement saw both Musk and Tesla pay separate $20 million fines. Musk also had to step down as chairman of Tesla, and agree to the provision to have some of his tweets and social media communications checked by a lawyer to ensure no more stock market seesawing would occur.

The tweets continue

In November 2021, Musk asked his Twitter followers if he should sell 10% of his stake in Tesla to cover tax bills on stock options. The result was a sharp decrease in Tesla shares. Last year, he ended up selling $16 billion worth of shares, and another $7 billion in August, probably in relation to his decision to buyout Twitter for $44 billion.

(Separately, Musk is trying to kill that deal, saying the company misled him about the number of bot accounts on the platform. Twitter has sued Musk to force him to complete the merger at the agreed-upon price. A trial is scheduled for October 17.)

Shortly after the November tweet, the SEC issued a subpoena to determine if Musk was complying with the previous settlement. The agency issued a second subpoena in June this year that asked for governance processes around compliance, according to a regulatory filing. This came after Tesla posted earnings for the second quarter while disclosing that most of its bitcoin had been sold off, leaving the company with $222 million in digital assets.

In August, a federal judge denied Musk’s attempt to terminate the provision in the 2018 settlement regarding his Tesla-related tweets. Musk’s lawyers argued at the time that the SEC had misused the settlement to launch an “endless, boundless investigation” of Musk’s speech and that the consent decree was “extracted from Musk through the exercise of economic duress.”

Musk’s net worth was $24.6 billion in 2018.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman said at the time that Musk’s argument didn’t hold any water and denied the motion, bringing us to the appeals court.

In Tuesday’s filing, Musk’s lawyers said the SEC needed to be reined in from keeping the executive under “constant threat” that it might reject his view of which disclosures need pre-approval.

“Under the shadow of the consent decree, the SEC has increasingly surveilled, policed, and attempted to curb Mr. Musk’s protected speech that does not touch upon the federal securities laws,” the lawyers wrote. “Any objective served by the pre-approval provision has been served.”

Even if somehow this provision were thrown out, which is unlikely, Musk would still be subject to scrutiny by Tesla’s own disclosure and controls procedures because he uses his own personal Twitter account to disclose news and information to investors. Tesla disbanded its press office in 2020.

“So long as Musk and Tesla use Musk’s Twitter account to disclose information to investors, the SEC may legitimately investigate matters relating to Tesla’s disclosure controls and procedures, including Musk’s tweets about Tesla, as well as the accuracy of Tesla’s public statements about its controls and procedures,” wrote SEC regulator Melissa Armstrong in a filing in the federal court of Manhattan earlier this year.

Elon Musk wants “government-imposed muzzle” on his tweets thrown out by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter’s first comms exec is building a comms network for execs

The communications world is an enigma, and at times, feels counter to the job of a journalist. So to hear that there’s an effort to help more comms people trade notes, share stories and prepare curated responses, I have the selfish worry that we’ll have less vulnerability coming from founders and executives around the startup world.

But, Sean Garrett, the first communications and marketing leader at Twitter, is trying to convince me otherwise. Garrett built Twitter’s communications team and helped the company develop a marketing, public affair and government relations strategy. He also advised the Obama White House on digital strategy and communications, Slack, and created two other communications consultancies. All background that makes his latest bet all the more interesting: Mixing Board, a startup to bring together communications and marketing leaders in one spot to help clients avoid “the BS PR stuff.”

Mixing Board brings together current, rising and seasoned marketing leaders to trade notes, whether that’s how to message a startup’s pivot or how to announce a stealthy business’ debut into the world. It offers different programs based on different needs but mainly focuses on scaling mentorship with executive advice hailing from Airbnb, American Express, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, the Obama White House, Oatly, Slack, Twitter, Virgin Group and others. Over 200 people are in the community to date.

The company doesn’t want to be an alternative to a PR agency but instead wants to help comms people within organizations level up through mentorship support and get more diverse ideas beyond the monolithic perspective of maybe their immediate network. In other words, its clients aren’t startups; it is the head of comms within a startup.

Right now, it’s free for comms leaders to join Mixing Board. The startup makes money through a community-sourced recruiting operation, in which companies pay the money to help with an exec search. The startup splits a finders fee 50/50 with the member who made the suggestion, and as Garrett describes, “it’s a far greater return than the karma points we all collected doing this kind of thing for free for many years … the success of it (as well as the current economic currents) are why we are also adding fractional/interim and consultant roles to what we help source.”

Unlike 10 years ago, when communications experts mostly stayed in their own lane and competed more than complemented, Garrett thinks that the current market brings a key opportunity to the cohort. “One of the big changes, obviously, that’s happened in the last few years is just the relative power of employees increasing. People talk a lot about its impact on social justice issues, it has an impact on organizing but also an impact on the truth,” he said. “Organizations and companies can’t ruin marketing campaigns or PR campaigns that aren’t based or centered around the truth because employees will call that right out — it can be dead on arrival.”

Employees are some of the best sources, both in organizing or in leaking corporate misgivings to the press, to beget change. To him, that shift in power is an opportunity for companies to focus on their truths and get comms people to be better and stronger at their jobs.

Another tailwind that Mixing Board seeks to capitalize on is the evolution of what a comms person is in charge of today, compared to when he first started. As I led this story with, often we think of comms as media relations. It is a part of the job, but Garrett stressed that so is editorial strategy, community moderation and events. Basically anything that includes someone talking to or supporting their audience could have a comms person involved, behind the scenes, making sure things run smoother.

“What’s really changed profoundly is that comms is now in that kind of leadership structure, more and more. And even I have a lot of peers who like our comms leaders who take on marketing below them,” he said. “No longer are they reporting the CMO, the marketing team is reporting to the comms person, right? It means the job is way more important … the comms thinking and perspective gets infused into executive strategy.”

Garrett gave me the example of Mixing Board helping comms folks drum up best ways to handle layoffs. Members will talk about “how to communicate with employees, how to contextualize this. Be direct, be clear. Don’t overpromise. Don’t do things like, say this is the last time we’re going to do this because if it’s not … you’re really screwed.”

“Really centering in on that internal audience and obviously there’s the external audience as well, but if you can get the internal audience right like it’s gonna go okay, and it’s gonna be okay,” he said. “You do remember when people treat you humanely, and when people treat you with kindness … that internal focus really should be the rule and [what will] center you.”

Another adjacent effort in the networking world is Coalition, a fund and network built by and for operators. Both business efforts are aggregating advice, bringing experts together in one vertical and building atop the needs that founders have for more curated advice (especially in a world where they may not be hiring as much). The difference, though, is that Coalition is trying to scale that advice outward by pairing companies with experts, while Mixing Board is trying to internally level up a career.

The founder also noted Reforge, which sells cohort-based programs, led by executives, to founders seeking advice on how to get through a certain business problem. “We are currently scratching the surface of how to unlock expertise that used to be stuck inside of organizations. Once we do, we can use it to create a flywheel of talent development and opportunity that lifts all boats,” he adds.

All the companies want to productize something that was often informal, sharing advice, with something that is difficult to force, building a true community.

As recent examples have shown, startups that sell access to community can struggle to balance efficacy with venture capital incentives. Mixing Board works with 200 members, but what does it look like when it hits 2,000 members? 20,000? We know networks can scale — ahem, YC — but we also know that there needs to be buy-in, proven value and natural synergy to make them work.

Now that Mixing Board has officially launched, the team is building a community and defining differentiation. To build a stronger foundation, Mixing Board raised $350,000 in a pre-seed round from Bloomberg Beta and others. The startup is now profitable, Garrett says, but more importantly, has time before it needs to make money, digitize and offer self-service tools, and raise more external financing.

Twitter’s first comms exec is building a comms network for execs by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter discloses it wasn’t logging users out of accounts after password resets

Weeks after Twitter’s ex-security chief accused the company of cybersecurity mismanagement, Twitter has now informed its users of a bug that didn’t close all of a user’s active logged-in sessions on Android and iOS after an account’s password was reset. This issue could have implications for those who had reset their password because they believed their Twitter account could be at risk, perhaps because of a lost or stolen device, for instance.

Assuming whoever had possession of the device could access its apps, they would have had full access to the impacted user’s Twitter account.

In a blog post, Twitter explains that it had learned of the bug that had allowed “some” accounts to stay logged in on multiple devices after a user reset their password voluntarily.

Typically, when a password reset occurs, the session token that keeps a user logged into the app is also revoked — but that didn’t take place on mobile devices, Twitter says. Web sessions, however, were not impacted and were closed appropriately, it noted.

Twitter explains the bug came about after a change it made last year to the systems that powered its password resets, meaning the bug has existed for a number of months undetected. To address the issue, Twitter has now directly informed the affected users, proactively logged them out of their open sessions across devices and prompted them to log in again. The company didn’t detail how many people were impacted, however.

“We take our responsibility to protect your privacy very seriously and it is unfortunate this happened,” Twitter wrote in its announcement, where it also encouraged users to review their active open sessions regularly from the app’s settings.

The issue is the latest in a long line of security incidents at the company in recent years, though it is not as severe as some in the past — like the bug reported last month that had exposed at least 5.4 million Twitter accounts. In that case, a security vulnerability had allowed threat actors to compile information on Twitter users’ accounts, which were then listed for sale on a cybercrime forum.

This past May, Twitter was also forced to pay $150 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for using personal information provided by users to secure their accounts, like emails and phone numbers, for ad targeting purposes. And in 2019, Twitter disclosed a bug that had shared some users’ location data to partners, and another which also led to user data being shared with partners. Plus, it faced an issue where a security researcher had used a flaw in the Android app to match 17 million phone numbers with Twitter user accounts.

While it’s helpful that Twitter is transparent about the bugs it finds and the fixes it makes, the company’s overall cybersecurity issues are now under increased scrutiny following the whistleblower complaint filed by its former head of security, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko in August.

Zatko alleged the company has been negligent in securing its platform, citing issues including a lack of employee device security, lack of protections around the Twitter source code, overbroad employee access to sensitive data and the Twitter service, a number of unpatched vulnerabilities, lack of data encryption for some stored data, an overly high number of security incidents, and more, as well as threats to national security.

In this context, even lesser bugs like the one disclosed this week may not be considered one-off missteps by a company, but rather yet another example of broader security issues at Twitter that deserve more attention.

Twitter discloses it wasn’t logging users out of accounts after password resets by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter allows more researchers to access platform data

Earlier this year, Twitter launched the Twitter Moderation Research Consortium (TMRC), a group of experts from across academia, civil society, nongovernmental organizations and journalism dedicated to studying Twitter’s platform governance issues. Previously, membership in the TMRC was limited to select trusted partners, but Twitter today began offering all researchers the chance to apply.

To be accepted into the TMRC, applicants must prove that they’re affiliated with one of several eligible organizations, have prior experience for “data-driven” analysis and a specific public interest use case for the data, and use “industry-standard” systems for safeguarding their research. Those ineligible include undergraduate students, industry and government officials and groups who’d planned to share the TMRC’s data with governments or other outside parties.

Twitter notes that successful applicants will be “researchers with a demonstrable history of independent research” or who’ve met criteria that “demonstrate an ability to be entrusted with the TMRC’s data and to pursue research for a qualified purpose.”

Once admitted, newly minted members of the TMRC will gain access to an archive of Twitter operations data dating back to 2018. Twitter says that it’ll continue to support disclosures of data pertaining to “persistent platform manipulation campaigns” — specifically content posted in violation of its manipulation and spam policy — and in the future share data about other policy areas (e.g. tweets that have been labeled as potentially misleading) with all TMRC members.

“By providing academics and researchers with access to specific, granular data (not just aggregated reports), we enable them to find insights and contextualize information in a way that increases the visibility of the reports themselves,” Yoel Roth, head of safety and integration at Twitter, wrote in a blog post. “Our goal is to remain transparent about the activity we identify on Twitter while addressing the considerable safety, security, and integrity challenges that come with disclosures of this kind.”

To date, the TMRC has operated in a pilot capacity, sharing Twitter data with members including the Stanford Internet Observatory about accounts that the social network removed in connection with platform manipulation and state-backed information operations. In March, Twitter announced it would expand the effort somewhat by providing “targeted” Twitter usage data around the war in Ukraine with researchers for analysis.

While Twitter has pledged to practice greater transparency through projects like the TMRC, critics contend that the company has mismanaged and misrepresented its data-sharing policies in the past. In a complaint recently filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Twitter’s former security chief, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, accused the company of misleading the public on its security practices, permitting Indian government agents to access internal data and hiring employees working behalf of foreign intelligence agencies, including Saudi Arabia’s.

Twitter allows more researchers to access platform data by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Block Party, a tool to combat online harassment, raises a $4.8M seed

If you’ve experienced any form of harassment on Twitter in the last couple of years, then you’ve probably heard of Block Party. And if you haven’t, lucky you!

Developed by software engineer and tech diversity advocate Tracy Chou, Block Party helps people curate a safer experience on Twitter. By building on top of Twitter’s API, Block Party lets users automate the process of blocking bad actors and creating block lists on Twitter. For example, if a particular tweet is breeding harassment, then you can automatically block anyone who likes or retweets that post.

Block Party launched in early 2021, but now, the company hopes to expand to other social platforms with the help of $4.8 million in seed funding.

“We’ve gotten a bunch of initial validation around, is this product going to be useful to folks? Is it going to be possible to build on top of platforms?” Chou told TechCrunch. “Is there going to be a willingness to pay for this, like how big is the market here?”

So far, the concept has proved itself. Chou said Block Party has attracted a variety of users, including both public figures and smaller accounts that simply want more privacy controls. As far as building on Twitter’s API goes, Chou said that Twitter proactively reached out to Block Party to make sure they can work in tandem.

“It’s been really cool to see that they understand that strategic alignment, where it’s a win-win-win to have a company like Block Party building the safety tooling,” Chou told TechCrunch. “It’s good for the end user, because they have better tooling to be more in control of their experience.” And it’s good for the platform, since they don’t have to dedicate the engineering and product design resources to the cause.

Image Credits: Block Party

Block Party is available as both a free and a paid service. As a non-paying subscriber, you can access tools like “moderate filters,” which mutes accounts that are more likely to be harassing, like newly-created accounts with few followers and no profile picture. Paid subscribers unlock access to features like keyword filters, allowing users to automatically block or mute accounts in their mentions with specific keywords or emojis in their username, display name or bio. Another paid feature, “helper view,” lets users assign a friend to help manage their account settings. Instead of sifting through damaging tweets yourself, this tool allows a friend to help you manage your filters, block lists and watchlists.

Chou describes Block Party as “middleware,” a term that reflects how users can take more control of their experience on social media through individualized, third-party apps.

“It doesn’t really make sense sometimes for platforms to get into some of these messages around defining what’s acceptable or not. They’re going to be able to define Terms of Service,” Chou explained. “But there’s gonna be a bunch of stuff in the middle where individual users may not want to see that content, but it doesn’t make sense for Twitter to ban a user for calling me ugly or stupid.”

Image Credits: Block Party

Instead of getting tied up in an ideological debate about what bad behavior is a punishable offense, users can turn to “middleware” like Block Party to decide for themselves as individuals what content they want to see. As Chou says, it’s not against the Twitter rules to call someone ugly — but that doesn’t mean you should have to see that in your mentions.

In theory, Twitter could build these filtering options itself. But Chou thinks social media platforms simply aren’t incentivized to prioritize safety over pure usage.

“I think looking at the structural incentives is very telling. Platforms are incentivized to produce more engagement — that is their North Star,” Chou said. “So that is what they’re going to be putting all of their resources towards.”

Right now, for example, as Twitter faces a legal battle with Elon Musk where $44 billion is at stake, internal priorities have shifted. The Verge reported that Twitter’s health team was reorganized into a team charged with identifying spam accounts, since Musk has used fake accounts as a key facet of his argument to terminate his acquisition of the platform. So, if Twitter isn’t able to dedicate as much resources to safety as it would like, at least Block Party can.

As Block Party plans to expand to other social platforms, Chou and her team of four full-time employees have curated a list of strategic investors that can help take the company to the next level. Some investors include Twitter’s director of machine learning ethics, Dr. Rumman Chowdhury; ex-Twitter head of product Jeff Seibert; Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp; former Instagram head of growth Bangaly Kaba and other experienced social media execs. The round was led by Stellation Capital with participation from Impellent Ventures, Fuel Capital, Goodwater Capital and Hyphen Capital.

Block Party, a tool to combat online harassment, raises a $4.8M seed by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

Nintendo is ending support for account logins via Facebook and Twitter

Nintendo is ending support for account logins through Facebook and Twitter on October 25, the company announced on Tuesday. After that date, players won’t be able to sign in or create a new Nintendo Account using a Facebook or Twitter account. Nintendo says players will still be able to log on or create a new Nintendo Account with their Google or Apple account.

If you’re asked to sign in again after October 25, you will need to enter the email address or username associated with your Nintendo account. If you haven’t set your Nintendo account or forgot your password, you will have to select “Forgot your password?” on the Nintendo Account sign in page and follow the instructions. If you don’t have access to your registered email address, you won’t be able to change the email address yourself and will have to contact Nintendo customer support.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause to those who have been using a Facebook or Twitter account to sign in to their Nintendo Account,” the company said in a statement on a support page.

Nintendo also announced that it’s getting rid of image sharing on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS on October 25 as well. After this date, players will no longer be able to post images to Twitter or Facebook through the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo notes that images and comments that have already been posted on Facebook and Twitter will remain available even after October 25.

Nintendo did not disclose the reasons behind these two changes, but the company’s decision to no longer let players post images to Twitter or Facebook through the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS isn’t exactly surprising, considering that the company has been gradually getting rid of features for these two devices.

Nintendo is ending support for account logins via Facebook and Twitter by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch