Twitter Says No, Hundreds Of Twitter Employees Are Not Reading Your DMs

Twitter Says No, Hundreds Of Twitter Employees Are Not Reading Your DMs

Via YouTube screenshot

On Monday, conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe published undercover footage of Twitter engineers alleging the social network has hundreds of employees reading “everything you post online” — including direct messages.

But according to Twitter, these claims are factually incorrect and misleadingly portrayed by O'Keefe's media organization Project Veritas.

The undercover video shows Twitter engineer Clay Haynes telling a Project Veritas activist that hundreds of employees have seemingly unrestricted access to Twitter users' private data. “There’s teams dedicated to it.. at least, three or four hundred people,” Haynes is heard saying on camera. “They’re paid to look at d**k pics.”

Twitter disputes these claims. “We do not proactively review DMs. Period,” a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes, and we enforce strict access protocols for those employees.”

Twitter did not answer questions about the number of employees who have such access or the specifics of precautions it takes to protect sensitive user data.

“… technically accurate to a degree, but exaggerated for effect by drunk idiots.”

A former senior Twitter employee echoed the company's comment, observing that the claims in Monday's Project Veritas video were “technically accurate to a degree, but exaggerated for effect by drunk idiots.” The former employee noted that the group of engineers able to view such sensitive data is “pretty small” and that it is only permitted access to it “in response to a report (i.e. 'so and such is harassing me via DM').”

Two former senior Twitter employees also noted that the bulk of moderation work is conducted algorithmically — in part due to the number of reports Twitter processes daily. In the Project Veritas video, a Twitter engineer seems to confirm this.

Monday's undercover video was the latest in a series of Project Veritas sting videos aimed at investigating Twitter. Last week, O'Keefe released footage of Twitter engineers alleging the company is “more than happy to help the Department of Justice in their little investigation” by handing over Trump tweets and direct messages. Twitter pushed back hard on the claims last week, noting in a statement that it “only responds to valid legal requests, and does not share any user information with law enforcement without such a request.” In the same statement, a Twitter spokesperson condemned Project Veritas' videos for tricking employees into talking under false pretenses.

“We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative,” Twitter said last week. “Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”

This isn't the first time Twitter has come under scrutiny for how it manages employee access to user data. Last November, the company faced criticism after a contract employee temporarily suspended president Trump's account. The suspension prompted questions as to whether employees could access user information and take action to suspend or ban users at will. Since the November incident Twitter has apparently taken steps to better secure the employee permissions, according to an individual familiar with the decision making process.

Quelle: <a href="Twitter Says No, Hundreds Of Twitter Employees Are Not Reading Your DMs“>BuzzFeed

Facebook Couldn't Handle News. Maybe It Never Wanted To.

Getty Images / John Paczkowski, BuzzFeed News

When news broke on Thursday evening of Facebook's dramatic overhaul of its News Feed, the worlds of media and publishing erupted. But inside Facebook, the reaction was markedly different — indifference. “No one cares about feed changes,” a current Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News.

Though the changes have trimmed $25 billion from FB's market cap and have likely given publishers night sweat–inducing anxiety, they don't appear to be generating much discussion within Facebook’s rank and file. As of late Thursday evening, it hadn't even really registered on the company's internal Q&A board, which was preoccupied with other things, like questions hoping for a Facebook foray into cryptocurrency, and queries about exit interviews and AI chatbots.

But for most everyone else using the world’s largest social network to draw attention to their content, the change is potentially seismic. While Facebook is notorious for its endless piddling product tweaks, this one seems a substantive shift in strategic vision. It’s an unprecedented acknowledgment that Facebook’s core feature — News Feed — has not worked out at all the way it was intended. It was abused by peddlers of misinformation. It was used by foreign governments to attempt to interfere in elections. It made people feel bad.

In many ways, Facebook’s planned changes to News Feed are a retreat from the online public square the company helped create. They’re a tacit admission that the company’s great news experiment — which made it one of the most successful publishers in the world — failed. And now Facebook wants to go back to an idealized safe space, free of hyperpartisan pages, misinformation, and fake news. But when you’re home to nearly 2 billion humans, no change is ever simple; Facebook moved fast, broke things, and changed the way that the world produces, consumes, and shares information. And changing course more than a decade into one of the most disruptive social experiments ever might prove more than just a little difficult.

Facebook has framed the upcoming changes to its News Feed as ones that will make the platform a better, safer place where users can “build relationships” instead of whiling away hours consuming “passive” content. It’s not about time spent, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the New York Times, but “that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” For Zuckerberg well spent means not just more rewarding interactions with friends and family, but less misinformation and fake news — and presumably less congressional scrutiny as well. For a company that’s always prioritized engagement and attention above all else (Zuckerberg told the New York Times Thursday that the change could “cost the company in the short term”), the selfless frame — we are willing to sacrifice attention for the good of our users — feels like a departure. And it’s one that some former senior employees aren’t exactly buying.

“They're getting way too much credit for being altruistic here,” a former senior Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News. “This strikes me less as focused on fake news as much as a last-gasp effort to get people to view Facebook as place to share intimate updates with friends and family.”

For the last five years, according to multiple sources, Facebook has lost “friend and family sharing” to other social platforms including Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and others. “Time spent in Facebook has been declining for the past couple years for the first time ever,” the former senior employee said. “Facebook has research showing that if the percentage of friend/family content gets too low then people don't find Facebook valuable anymore.” It’s worth noting that this former employee is dubious of Facebook’s spin. “I don't think it will work,” the former senior employee said. “And I think it's a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ attempt, in that they get good press for trying to address sensationalist news.”

Some outside observers agree. “I think it makes sense to understand this more as 'we need more things for people to engage with' than 'we’re trying to make the world a better place,'” former White House chief digital officer and Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman told BuzzFeed News.

For publishers, the change is a reckoning of sorts — a potentially massive shift in the way that media and news organizations have been building or courting audience, and, in many cases, the way they create and present their content. And it’s been broadly met with everything from grave concern and outrage to reluctant optimism.

That the shift will cause upheaval for publishers is a given, but there’s no guarantee that Facebook’s goal to increase meaningful interactions with people you know will solve the company’s fake news problem. While it may cut down incidental exposure to misinformation, the changes could, in some cases, only harden filter bubbles with a steady stream of content from people with similar ideologies. Meanwhile, a retrenchment from News Feed into more walled-off Groups and communities could exacerbate exposure to misinformation. As one platform executive told BuzzFeed News, “the people who end up being chemtrailers or anti-vaxxers do so because of friend and community groups.”

Given that research suggests 45% of all American adults say they get at least some news from Facebook, the shift is a potentially risky change of course that’s likely to have unintended consequences for news consumers. As the fallout from its election interference crisis demonstrated late last year, Facebook hasn’t just reshaped the media, but rewired our lives in unknowable ways. It’s altered our political landscape with its ability to influence voters and upend traditional advertising, and — in the case of Donald Trump — even decreased a candidate’s need to rely on major political parties.

“It is concerning, though, that at a time of immense turbulence in the world, content from media organizations is being deprioritized,” another former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “Facebook has become an essential piece of infrastructure for public content, and we should be wary of anything that undermines the platform's utility here. The media is on the frontlines of helping our society navigate the present challenges, and Facebook has an obligation to help its community connect with information as readily as with friends.”

And so, with Facebook’s centrality in our lives and the greater culture, the company’s retreat feels less like a selfless act than an abdication of a civic responsibility that Facebook perhaps never truly wanted.

Facebook’s relationship to news has always been rocky. The company tried for years to make it work for the platform. It hired trending news curators. It worked with publishers, paying them to create live content (BuzzFeed is a partner) and it hosted their articles. But Facebook’s commitment to news has always been hampered by an algorithmic approach that prioritizes likes and engagement. In this sense, news, which can be unpleasant and upsetting and controversial, has always been at odds with Facebook’s goal. People don’t “like” bad news and sharing controversial opinions can result in negative user experiences or, worse, unfriending: the ultimate negative outcome in Facebook’s eyes. In many ways, the changes Facebook announced yesterday are the logical conclusion to an increasingly anxious — and ultimately doomed — years-long courtship with news. “News on Facebook has actually hurt, not helped, them,” another former senior Facebook employee told BuzzFeed.

News, which can be unpleasant and upsetting and controversial, has always been at odds with Facebook’s goal.

To hear Facebook insiders tell it, it’s unclear how much the company truly wanted to be in the media game. “Public content was all about defeating Twitter originally,” said one. Facebook referral data bears this out. In late 2013 — starting just weeks before Twitter’s IPO — BuzzFeed News reported that traffic from Facebook referrals to more than 200 publisher sites went up 69% from August to October 2013. As the former employee explained, this show of strength ultimately didn’t do much to kill Twitter, and perhaps drew Facebook’s attention away from its original mission.

A chart of Facebook referrals to BuzzFeed Partner Network sites from October 2011 to October 2013 illustrates the sharp increase in late 2013.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Great News Feed Shift of 2018 has made fewer waves inside Facebook HQ. Multiple former employees told BuzzFeed News they believe the move will be popular among Facebook employees. “Jamming more news and celebrity content in everywhere was always seen as being at the expense of Facebook's main focus on connecting people,” a former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “There were a million other things to do, like improving performance, fixing the broken desktop site, or trying to improve mediocre core features.”

A current employee echoed that sentiment, noting that inside the company the changes are being viewed as a positive step.“Facebook will become more local,” they told BuzzFeed News. “I think it’s good for humanity, overall.”

Still, after years of grand claims from Facebook and its top executives, it’s hard not to view the changes the company is making to its News Feed as an admission that the company overreached and ultimately failed to deliver a new way forward for news. More than that, it feels like a scaling back of Zuckerberg and Facebook’s ambition as a whole. The news game has been responsible for many of Facebook’s crises and a good deal of its bad press, but it’s also played a fundamental role in making the platform central to the lives of hundreds of millions. Even with news deprioritized, Facebook is still among the best ad tech companies on the planet and home to many vibrant online forums. The question is, for the company that wants to fundamentally reshape the world, is that enough?

Quelle: <a href="Facebook Couldn't Handle News. Maybe It Never Wanted To.“>BuzzFeed

Exclusive Networks Of Teens Are Making Thousands Of Dollars By Selling Retweets

It’s called “tweetdecking.”

BuzzFeed News

Teens and twentysomethings with large Twitter followings are making thousands each month by selling retweets, multiple users who engage in the practice told BuzzFeed News.

The practice is known as “tweetdecking,” so named because those involved form secret Tweetdeck groups, which they call “decks.” Scoring an invite to join a deck usually requires a follower count in the tens of thousands.

Within these decks, a highly organized system of mass-retweeting exists in order to launch deck members' tweets — and paying customers' tweets — into meticulously manufactured virality.

Customers, which can include both individuals and brands, pay deck owners to retweet one or more of their tweets a specified number of times across deck member accounts. Some decks even allow customers temporary access to the deck, almost like a short-term subscription to unlimited deck retweets. Single retweets tend to cost around $5 or $10. Week- or monthlong subscriptions can cost several hundreds of dollars, depending on the deck's popularity.

People who run their own decks frequently make several thousands of dollars each month, multiple deck owners said.

“It’s the simplest thing ever, all you do is have your friends join and you have fun and tweet and make money,” Kendrik, aka @Simpnmild, an 18-year-old from Chicago who runs two of his own decks, said. “It’s the easiest thing ever. No hard work at all.”

As the owner of two decks with about 15 people in each, Kendrik works with all sorts of people and brands who want their tweets seen by the deck’s massive collection of followers. These customers pay a few hundred dollars to gain temporary access to the Tweetdeck so they can retweet themselves across several of the powerful deck accounts, pretty much ensuring it goes viral.

Kendrik said he makes between $3,000 and $5,000 a month doing this, and he pays members of his deck “based on who has the most page activity for the month” via PayPal.

And a 19-year-old named Lewie, aka @lxwie, who said he both runs a deck and is a member of another deck, said he makes between $2,000 and $3,000 each month.

“And here we are going viral daily,” said Lewie.

Deck members make less — but not insignificant — amounts of money. Several members of decks said they earn hundreds of dollars each month just for retweeting tweets onto their account.

Tweetdecking violates Twitter's spam policy, which does not allow users to “sell, purchase, or attempt to artificially inflate account interactions,” and many deckers get suspended as a result. Still, they often return with new accounts and get right back in the game.

So, who are these people forking over all this cash for a couple thousand retweets? They range from “small apps, a lot of grown people who want to make a presence on social media, and some teens who just want to go viral,” said Kendrik.

And go viral they do. If you've spent some much time on Twitter in the past year, you've probably seen a number of tweets that bizarrely have retweets into the tens or even hundreds of thousands. Many of these massively viral tweets come from decks — and most are plagiarized.

A tweet first posted in August 2017 that was “decked” by Kendrik the following December

Twitter: @NicholasPeters_ / Twitter: @SimpnMild

Plagiarized tweets have been a part of Twitter pretty much since people started making jokes on the site, particularly through popular “parody accounts” like @Dory and @GirlPosts, many of which are now run as full-fledged ad sales businesses.

But the rise of decks has changed the game, allowing pretty much anyone to break into the biz of stealing tweets for cash. Deck owners, members, and customers are all getting into it in order to increase their own following, and in turn, strengthen the deck's success and profitability.

Naturally, not everyone's so happy to see tweets getting stolen. Members of the self-proclaimed group “Trash Twitter,” a small collective of late-teens and early-twenties guys with popular accounts, have had their joke tweets stolen several times. Unlike the tweetdeckers, they haven't seen a dime from it, they said.

“Honestly, it sucks how they can just take full credit for our tweets, and get paid,” said Danyal, aka @TrashQuavo, an 18-year-old from the UK in the group. “Sometimes we would plan a tweet for days just for it to get stolen.”

“I tweet to have fun and give people a laugh,” one of the members, who goes by @TrashYeWest, said. “They just care about followers.”

@hotlinekream / Via Twitter: @hotlinekream

In December, 22-year-old Kareem Rose from Virginia, aka @hotlinekream, went viral when he tweeted a thread in which he called out dozens of deck accounts and urged people to block them.

“I was basically tired of seeing the same tweet go viral once a week by a different account,” Rose told BuzzFeed News. “Our timelines were basically getting overflowed with tweets we’ve seen before and it honestly made Twitter less enjoyable. Not only that, but we were tired of having our tweets stolen from the deck accounts and them getting the credit for it.”

As his thread gained traction (and, after he tweeted that he was doing an interview about it with BuzzFeed News), Rose said several of the tweetdeckers and their fellow deck members began harassing him.

They also began mass-reporting his account, a revenge tactic that trolls frequently use to try and get people's accounts locked or suspended. (A spokesperson for Twitter said that Twitter “does not automatically suspend accounts based on a large number of reports.”)

“I was told by multiple accounts that I was being mass-reported by nearly every tweetdecker,” said Rose. “I was also threatened to have my private information (address, social security, etc.) leaked, my Twitter account hacked, my family’s information leaked, and I was also threatened to have my name be put on pedophile forums.” (Fortunately, those threats were not acted upon, Rose said.)

Rose wound up deleting his thread due to the harassment — but his message persisted, because he and a bunch of his friends started the hashtags #TweetDeckIsOverParty, #TweetDeckWars2017, and #TakeBackOurTimelines2018.

And Rose isn't the only person who says he faced harassment when he spoke out against the tweetdeckers. Several “Trash Twitter” members said they've experienced it, too.

“If they don’t like you it’s an instant mass-report really,” Danyal said.

A tweet first posted by Danyal in May that was decked — by an account literally named @JackedYoTweets — just two hours later. The decked version got more than four times as many retweets.


A few tweetdeckers acknowledged that they steal tweets, and even agreed it's a problem. Most excused it by saying everyone does it, so what's the big deal?

“A lot of the content that deckers tweet are stolen like 90% of the time,” said one 20-year-old deck member, who goes by @broebong. “It's almost a plague now and I understand why people complain, because it really does get annoying to see the same tweets recycled over and over and never get new content or some type of originality.”

And of course, in the end, money is money.

“I'm just doing it because it's easy money and it makes people happy in the end,” said @broebong. “People will pay to have their stuff promoted to my audience and it's just extra money that I can put to savings.”

In spite of criticisms, many tweetdeckers remain staunchly defensive of the practice.

“Anyone that tries to explain what tweetdecking is always gets it wrong… When people say it's 'fake fame/clout' it's also false,” said Kendrik.

“Anything negative towards decks is always false.”

Quelle: <a href="Exclusive Networks Of Teens Are Making Thousands Of Dollars By Selling Retweets“>BuzzFeed