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Twitter, Let’s Do The Timewarp

by Louise W. Rice
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As the saying goes, “Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”  Are we talking about the story of how your favorite vase ended up in a million pieces on the floor?  Are we talking about Everygame casino welcome bonus and how Bob took advantage of it and won a million dollars?  Or are we talking about the story of Twitter, the online social media company?  It turns out, that in this article, we are talking about the story of Twitter.  “You need to know the past, in order to understand the present, so you can prepare for the future.”

When was Twitter Founded?

Twitter was founded on March 21, 2006, 16 years ago.  Currently, it has its headquarters in San Francisco, CA, and its main founder was Jack Dorsey.  According to Archive.org, the first “about us” page was captured on November 9, 2006, with the following simple about page, “Twitter was born as an interesting side project within the offices of Odeo in March of 2006. We are a part of Obvious Corporation in the beautiful South Park neighborhood of San Francisco, California.”

When I clicked on the archive blog, the oldest post I found was these …

“Have Your Quake And Twitter It Too

“Last night, I felt an earthquake, but my fiancé didn’t believe me. Within seconds my phone started twittering with reports from friends.”

“Did anyone just feel that earthquake?”

“Just felt that earthquake. No one else here did.”

“Damn, I always miss the quakes.”

“Aha! See? It was an earthquake and Twitter had my back. The quake was a light 4.4 centered somewhere in Sonoma county.”

If you look at the other blog posts, besides the technical ones on sharing Twitter and sharing things to Twitter, the beginning blog articles tend to give the impression that Twitter can be used to create a community.  Where you can go for information.  Sharing article links with a quick comment about the link.  And just plain old selling of Twitter and how it is better than other options.

“Twitter lets me SMS to a group all at once and creates a handy ‘what I’m up to right now’ insert for my site. A kind of in-situ, realtime, status message blogging. Fun!”

Those are interesting to read, because it gives you an idea of what the original vision of Twitter was, besides the obvious one of “to make money”.

Twitter Timewarp

2007

In November 2007, the Twitter About Us page said, “Twitter, Inc. was born out of the offices of Obvious in March of 2006. We are located in the beautiful South Park neighborhood of San Francisco, California.”.  The about us page looks a little bit cleaner, but not much.

2008

In December 2008, the about page started to look professional.

About Us: 

“Twitter is a privately funded startup with offices in the SoMA neighborhood of San Francisco, CA. Started as a side project in March of 2006, Twitter has grown into a real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices.”

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

“Jack Dorsey had grown interested in the simple idea of being able to know what his friends were doing. Specifically, Jack wondered if there might be an opportunity to build something compelling around this simple status concept.”

Isn’t Twitter too much information?

“No, in fact, Twitter solves information overload by changing expectations traditionally associated with online communication. … users do not expect a response when they send a message to Twitter. On the receiving end, Twitter is ambient–updates from your friends and relatives float to your phone, IM, or website and you are only expected to pay as much or as little attention to them as you see fit.”  “The result of using Twitter to stay connected with friends, relatives, and coworkers is that you have a sense of what folks are up to, but you are not expected to respond to any updates unless you want to.  … users are very much in control of whose updates they receive, when they receive them, and on what device. For example, we provide settings for scheduling Twitter to automatically turn off at dinnertime, and users can switch off Twitter updates at any point.”

When you read that About description, Twitter sounds great.  You get to receive the information that you want to receive, and not receive the information that you don’t want to receive.

2009

In September 2009, people liked Twitter, because it was simple.  Twitter asks one question, “What are you doing?” and you can respond with up to 140 characters.  From a technology perspective, Twitter was built with Ruby on Rails.  At this point, people could not make money off of Twitter, but the owners of Twitter were thinking about it.  As Twitter grew, they still wanted to keep things simple, which is 2022, which included not allowing the user to edit tweets.  But back in 2009, “We plan to build Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.”

2010

By September 2010, there were 175 million users, 95M tweets, and 300 employees.  People worldwide are recognizing the benefits of Twitter for both personal use and business use.  Some people are active participants on Twitter, while others just choose to listen.

2011

By December 2011, Twitter had been translated by volunteers into Traditional Chinese, Indonesian, Portuguese, Italian, Filipino, Turkish, Malay, English, French, Korean, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, German, Russian, and Dutch.

Also, by this time, Twitter had started the organization HTTP://140hope.org (which, in 2022, no longer exists).  But this is what hope140 said back in 2011.

“At Twitter, one thing that drives us is our desire to make a lasting impact as a company. Being a force for good is at the heart of that mission. Looking outside the walls of Twitter HQ, we see lots of good stuff happening all the time, which invokes an incredible sense of hope that keeps us going.”

“The open exchange of information is just beginning to become an everyday part of how the world communicates. As folks like you spread positive knowledge through the platform, we’ll be collecting it and highlighting good social movements that you might want to get involved in. So drop in every once in a while to see what’s happening.”

The sentence that stands out to me is “The open exchange of information is just beginning to become an everyday part of how the world communicates. 

2012

On October 18, 2012, Twitter censored an account for the very first time.  It was run by neo-Nazis.  ” a relatively new Twitter policy that gives the company “the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.” As such, the ban is only effective in Germany. The rest of the world is free to follow the bigots.”

So the view in 2012 was that if the laws of a country said information (or a group) should be banned, then the group is banned in that specific country.  But in the rest of the world, the “bigoted” information was still available for people to read, if they wanted to read it.

“[the neo-nazis] distributed racist materials in schools, sent abusive video messages to officials and threatened physical violence against immigrants.”

From Twitter, “The issue isn’t so simple for free speech advocates. Twitter has long been a haven for dissidents, activists and freedom fighters, the vast majority of whom are not neo-Nazis. However, this particular group fits all the qualifications that Twitter laid out when it warned in January that it might “restrict certain types of content” in “countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression … such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.”

“In the past, censorship is something that wasn’t in Twitter’s playbook. Now, that’s no longer true.  We’ll have to wait and see how Twitter puts this policy into play in the future. ”  (Source: The Atlantic: Twitter Censors Users for the First Time, October 18, 2012).

In December 2012, Twitter now allowed ads (paid ads) and Twitter Ads for Good (for non-profit organizations).

Security is definitely now an issue.

Twitter is being recognized for being used in media, sports, TV, journalism, and music on the social side.  Government and politics on the political side.  So by the 2012 Presidential election, Twitter realized that it was an important factor in public discussion of political and social ideas.

2013

In December 2013, Twitter’s main belief was “Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

2014

By 2014, Twitter was actively censoring accounts at the request of various governments.   France and Germany, it was against Neo-Nazis.  In Pakistan, by May 2014, Twitter was actively requesting 5 accounts a month to be disabled due to the Tweets being blasphemous.  Russia, in May 2014, requested that Twitter block all Russian pro-Ukrainian political accounts.  Twitter did this because Russia threatened to completely ban Twitter from Russia if they did not, and Twitter did not want to lose its Russian ad revenue.

2016

In 2016, there were claims of bot interference in elections on Twitter and other social media platforms.  Day after the election, the view of Twitter employees was “I could feel it in my timeline — there was a strong sense of ‘what have we done’ from Twitter employees.”  The Twitter employees, at this time, believed that they were personally responsible for Trump being elected.  The fact that Twitter employees even felt that they had that power is scary.

2017

By 2017, Fortune magazine made the claim, “President [Trump] is saving Twitter”.

2018

In 2018, Twitter rolled out a “quality filter” that hid content and users deemed “low quality” from search results and limited their visibility, leading to accusations of shadow banning. After conservatives claimed it censors users from the political right,  So much for Twitter’s 2013 view of “Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”  And it only took 6 years for Twitter to go from “grudgingly doing its first ban” to “Twitter will decide for every user what Twitter deems to be ‘appropriate’ material for people to read and see.”

In October 2018, Twitter banned the “Occupy Wall Street movement” Twitter accounts.  80 activists had their accounts suspended.  Twitter reported that 1500 accounts were suspended because Twitter believed that these accounts were being run by pro-Trump people who were masquerading as liberal activists.

Also, in 2018, a huge number of accounts from “citizen journalists,” “independent journalists,” or “anti-media journalists” were being banned on Twitter.  In other words, by 2018, Twitter was definitely showing a bias towards standard, traditional news media outlets like NBC, ABC, CNN, etc.

2020

In 2020, the ISPs in Tanzania blocked social media in their country during election week.  (WOW, good for Tanzania). 👍

In October 2020, Twitter banned a New York Post article about Hunter Biden that recently, in 2022, major news media are now admitting was true.

2021

On January 4-6, 2021, US Democrats requested that Twitter and Facebook ban Donald Trump.  In January 2017, there were people who wanted to ban President Trump from Twitter.  They just needed an excuse to do it, and they used January 6, 2021, to do it, and the congress let them.  Dems were asking Twitter to ban Donald Trump even before January 6, when he did nothing that was illegal in the laws of the United States.

On January 8, 2021, Twitter banned Donald Trump, the current President of the United States.  When the current President of the United States’ speech can be banned by Twitter, nobody’s speech is protected.  Regardless of if you like or dislike Donald Trump, he was the duly elected President of the United States at the time.

Summary

In January 2019, there were 330 million monthly active Twitter users.  Due to the decline in monthly users, Twitter is no longer recording this information.  Instead, it is only recording monetizable daily active users (the people who are using Twitter to make money).

In April 2022, Elon Musk, who is pro-free-speech, brought 9.2% of Twitter’s shares.  Musk made a bid to outright buy Twitter for $54 dollars per share ($43 billion total).  The Twitter board rejected the offer.

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