You Ask, I Answer: Thoughts on Twitter?

Debbie asks, “This is outside the realm of analytics, but would love to know your thoughts about Twitter? It’s been a valuable resource to keep up with journalists, source requests, etc., but now am feeling wary about it. Your thoughts? Recommendations on alternative platforms?”

In this video, I discuss the challenges of Twitter’s current management and how it is becoming less reliable, stable, and useful. Twitter has made some decisions that have fundamentally changed the character of the network. There are documented evidence and vulnerabilities that bad actors can take advantage of while the community tries to patch them. I highlight two issues: Twitter released its source code for its recommendation engine, and Russian hostile actors are actively trying to check in source code into Twitter’s recommendation algorithm to treat anything that’s Ukrainian as propaganda. Twitter is in an interesting place, and I recommend being cautious about it. However, there are plenty of other social networks, such as LinkedIn, Discord, and private social platforms that you can join or create if the community doesn’t exist. These private social platforms can be a real hub and resource center to your industry, and if you do so, it confers enormous benefits to your business or brand.

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You Ask, I Answer: Thoughts on Twitter?

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Christopher Penn 0:00

In today’s episode, Debbie asks, this is outside the realm of analytics.

But we’d love to know your thoughts about Twitter.

It’s been a valuable resource to keep up with journalist source requests instead of but now feeling very wary about it your thoughts recommendations on alternative platforms? Oh, where should we begin on Twitter.

Twitter is becoming less and less reliable, less and less stable and less and less useful as its current management makes increasingly less thoughtful decisions.

That’s the way I would put it, were decisions that fundamentally changed the character of the network.

And I’ll highlight two things that I think are substantially problematic.

There’s a bunch of things that are problematic.

But they’re these two things.

There’s documented evidence that these are problematic.

And these are emblematic of the direction Twitter’s going that is, from my point of view, the wrong direction.

Point number one, Twitter released its source code on March 31.

On GitHub, for its recommendation engine.

And in general, open source, it’s a good thing for open source software to exist, it is generally a way to create high quality software, it’s generally a way to reduce vulnerabilities.

However, it’s a long process to get there, right Linux, the operating system was not created overnight.

Apache the Apache web server package was not created overnight, it took years for these packages to evolve, to close up vulnerabilities and to become the enterprise software they are today.

But in that time, there were a lot of challenges those software packages faced.

Twitter is in the same sort of boat right now where it has opened its source code.

But in doing so is opened up a number of vulnerabilities that bad actors can take advantage of while the community tries to patch them if they can be patched.

Bitdefender, the security company identified and even filed a critical vulnerability for Twitter’s recommendation engine as a whole, to say that the recommendation engine now the code is available, makes it trivial for a hostile actor to set up automated ways to essentially game the system to report accounts to get them kicked off the platform.

And it’s fully expected that hostile actors will be doing so in the near future.

And I forget what CVE number is we can look it up in the CVE database.

And you can go to bit defenders website to read the documentation of this.

And I wholeheartedly agree this is a pretty big problem that the community has not solved yet.

That vulnerability means that bad actors can take advantage of it and you know, silence critics, right.

And we’re not talking about massive, huge projects.

Thanks to tools like autonomous AI, you can have it spin up a couple of 1000 Twitter dummy Twitter accounts and bought somebody to death.

Figuratively, their account not not literally in relatively short order.

And you don’t need much more than a gaming laptop to do that.

We’re not talking about cloak and dagger, you know, huge rooms full of servers and stuff.

And the matrix like thing as it’s you can a kid with a laptop can do it.

And until the source code is closed up, that becomes a problem.

That’s That’s one example where Twitter that decision to open the source code in the long term is a good decision in the short term, particularly around things like elections, not so good.

Number two, if you look at the poll requests within the GitHub repository, for those who are unfamiliar, if you want to be able to participate in an open source project, you check out a portion of the code with what’s called a pull request.

You make edits to it, and you submit it back to the company.

And then somebody on that project, or consortium people approve or reject your proposed changes.

You can look right in the pull requests right on GitHub and see that hostile actors, Russian hostile actors are actively trying repeatedly to check in source code into Twitter’s recommendation algorithm that treats anything that’s Ukrainian as propaganda flags is propaganda tries to get rid of it.

So you have Russian about spies.

They’re just, I guess, hackers, for lack of better term, trying to intentionally corrupt Twitter source code for how it makes recommendations.

And this is at a decent scale.

Now, granted, a lot of the community is finding these things and saying no, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to look at it and go, Well, it seems like that’s the kind of thing where at some point someone’s going to get through, right? Yeah.

Not everyone has succeeded, only one person has to succeed, to fundamentally change that recommendation algorithm in, in a way that is harmful to society at large.

Right.

We generally agree most people who are not Russian or paid by Russians generally agree that Russia invading Ukraine is an unlawful act, right? It’s illegal.

It’s against the entire international community.

And it was just a bad thing.

Right? So Russia is attempting to control a social network, a public social network by corrupting the algorithm, also a bad thing.

And so I think it is right to be wary about Twitter, because what’s happening in these documented battles for how the source code works, is problematic, at least in the short term, at least in the next couple of years.

Over time, yeah, the community if source code remains open, the community may be able to close up some of these holes and improve the government governance.

But for right now, it’s not great.

It’s not great.

That combined with the whole blue checkmark, gold checkmark business, where businesses are being told to have a gold checkmark that is, verifies you, as an organization need to pay $1,000 a month.

I don’t see a whole lot of companies going yeah, let’s do that.

Particularly when the previous process was had more background checking, and not as much just forking over money.

Twitter’s in an interesting place.

We don’t know what’s going to happen with it.

We don’t know whether the current management is high as a kite and just making shit up and hoping something will stick or if there is an actual plan.

And from an outsider’s perspective, it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of a coherent plan other than trying to stop losing money.

But in the process of doing so Digiday had a piece recently, it was in the most recent newsletter talking about how advertisers have pulled back and now publishers are pulling back saying yeah, we don’t really want to be here, because there’s the verification system, we’re not going to pay you 1000 bucks a month to tell people that our articles legit, we’re just gonna go over to Instagram.

In terms of where to go elsewhere, there’s plenty of other social networks.

I dislike the Facebook family of companies, because Facebook has is ethically challenged as well.

But they do exist.

LinkedIn, I think LinkedIn is the last sane social network that’s being run by run by grownups.

And so I think, particularly for credible sources, it’s a good place to spend a lot of time I spend a lot of time and slack and Discord in different communities based on my interests.

And yeah, you still have to do critical thinking there, you still have to evaluate what people share.

And, you know, some people are dummies, and some people are not.

But I think those are places where if you’re looking at a specific topic, like you know, B2B marketing, or influencers or SAS software, or, you know, cloud computing, there’s probably a private social media community that has a really good fit for that, that you can join, and eventually become influential, perhaps, but certainly find good information that doesn’t have all the problems of a public social network, you know, so I would say, if I was if I was in your shoes, and you’re looking for resources to connect with, start looking at some of the private social platforms like Discord, find a Discord server in your area of focus.

And if there isn’t one, there is an opportunity for you to create it and be the source of record be the hub for your industry, particularly for folks who are in your industry who are under 35.

Because Discord attracts that crowd quite a bit and be a real hub, a resource center to your industry, you will find that it confers enormous benefits if you do so to your company, your business, your brand, etc, whether you’re a publisher, marketer, whatever, if the the community doesn’t exist, create it.

So really good question.

I am not optimistic on Twitter in the short term, I am cautiously optimistic on the long term, like a 10 year horizon if it survives, its current growing pains, but the short term Yeah, I’m not putting a whole lot of credence to things I find out there.

Thanks for asking.

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