Yesterday, Twitter rolled out a couple new enhancements that it says will “give you more control over what you see and who you interact with on Twitter” and help you “control your experience.” Two words that don’t appear in the announcement: “abuse” or “harassment.” But those are the underlying issues they’re trying to tackle.
The first change allows everyone to see only people they follow in their notifications and mentions:
Don’t want to see notifications from everyone? Starting today, everyone will have the ability to limit notifications to only people they follow on mobile and on twitter.com. Simply turn it on if you want to give it a go. If not, no worries — your individual Twitter experience will continue unchanged.
The second is a “quality filter” that was previously available to only verified users, who make up only about 0.06 percent of Twitter’s user base.
Turning on the quality filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. When turned on, it filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated — it does not filter content from people you follow or accounts you’ve recently interacted with. Please note that the quality filter may also affect Tweets in other places outside of the notifications timeline, such as top search results and replies on Twitter.
Now, when the quality filter debuted for verified users last year, the in-app description was quite explicit about the fact that among its most significant purposes was removing “threats” and “offensive or abusive language”:
Well, that's an interesting & welcome addition, Twitter! (Was prompted about this on opening the app.) pic.twitter.com/Ka2VDvqwNf
— Anil Dash (@anildash) March 23, 2015
That specific language is now gone; the current description only that it “improves the quality of the Tweets you’ll see”:
— Twitter Support (@Support) August 18, 2016
The unhelpfully unspecific language was noticed by Erin Kissane, who tweeted about it this morning:
So many people who would love to block harassing tweets are turning off “Quality Filter” bc its name is so vague they can’t tell what it is
— Erin Kissane (@kissane) August 19, 2016
.@wolfewylie No no, this new filter is *very* good at eliminating death/rape threats, etc. Not useless at all, just poorly described.
— Erin Kissane (@kissane) August 19, 2016
To be super clear: Twitter’s new “Quality Filter” is a tool to reduce the threats/slurs/trolling in your replies, it does not affect your TL
— Erin Kissane (@kissane) August 19, 2016
The fact that I, a total rando, need to explain this is why I am aghast at Twitter’s ongoing communication deficit.
— Erin Kissane (@kissane) August 19, 2016
Photo of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters by Matthew Keys used under a Creative Commons license.
Journalism lives in interesting times. By many measures, the opportunity for invention and impact are greater than ever. By others, it’s an industry crippled by stubborn financial conditions.
But we’re bullish at Nieman, and every day invest in the people we think can make a difference. If you’re someone with an idea to advance journalism and think that time at Harvard could help, we’d like to hear from you.
We’re accepting applications now for our next group of Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows. This is a chance to join us here on campus for up to 12 weeks to work on a project. The deadline for applying is October 14 and you can submit online.
In five years of offering these fellowships, we’ve welcomed a diverse group of journalism influencers. Reporters, developers, editors, academics, and others from the U.S. and abroad have been among the applicants we’ve supported. The projects have ranged from Pulitzer-winning correspondent Paul Salopek’s epic seven-year walk across the globe to test concepts of slow journalism, to futurist Amy Webb’s provocative plans for rewriting the future for journalism schools. Many of our fellows have published the results of their inquiry with us. Jack Riley, head of audience development at The Huffington Post U.K., spent a month at Harvard studying the opportunities for news organizations with wearables, such as the Apple Watch. He wrote about his findings for Nieman Lab.
Visiting fellow alumna Melody Kramer, who researched a terrific project on public media, made a short video about her proposal, her application, her interview with us, and how she tackled eight weeks at Harvard. You’ll find her description helpful in deciding both whether and how to apply. Be sure to consider whether your needs are better met by our longer Nieman Fellowship, geared toward broader inquiry and professional development. Applications for that fellowship are not due until December 1 for international journalists and January 31 for U.S. applicants.
We believe there are two keys to a successful visiting fellowship. First, a focused inquiry is better than a broad one. Two or three months speed by quickly and having clear goals — even if it’s only a part of a larger project — is important. And plan ahead. One question we ask of every applicant: “Why Harvard?” Since our founding in 1937, this remarkable university has nurtured and encouraged approximately 1,500 journalists and others who care about the future of the news. But before you arrive on campus, it helps to know what resources here can best contribute to your work, including those at the Nieman Foundation — Nieman Lab, Nieman Reports, Nieman Storyboard, or others.
Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to reading your proposals.
Ann Marie Lipinski is curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.
Few would argue at this point that the email newsletter isn’t one of the most powerful ways for publishers to develop strong relationships with readers. What’s less clear is the best strategy to employ within those newsletters themselves.
At Fusion, the newsletter strategy of choice has been built on the idea that its emails should feel organic and human, not robotic and automated. All three of its newsletters — the tech-oriented Real Future, its weekly thematic email, and its main daily email — feature stories that are handpicked the site’s section and social media editors. More, each email also features a brief intro from one of Fusion’s writers or social media managers, with a link to their Twitter profiles.
This more human touch has been core to the success of independent newsletters such as The Skimm and Lenny Letter, which have been built on the personalities of their writers, but it’s an idea that relatively few publishers have adopted, argues Alton Phillips, Fusion’s head of audience development. Most publishers tend to be more at home with newsletters that feature little more than auto-generated list of links to their recent stories.
“There’s a thematic through-line and a coherence that you get from reading the intro and the email all the way through,” he said, describing Fusion’s approach. “This is not something you’re going to create by just sending out a email RSS feed or using an algorithm.”
Such an intensely human-based newsletter strategy does come with some drawbacks, however. One of the obvious advantages of the hands-off, RSS-based approach to newsletters is that it requires little input from reporters, editors, and social media managers. Purely from a resources perspective, it’s a tempting proposition.
Phillips said that to make the more involved approach to newsletter creation work, Fusion would have to make the process of adding and curating stories as easy as possible. To do so, Fusion’s product team earlier this year built a simple tool that lets its reporters and editors build and send the site’s newsletters from within the site’s CMS. The tool gives Fusion’s staff a live preview of the newsletter they’re putting together, letting them move around story modules based on what they want to feature or what’s performing well. (The Times of London built something similar that we wrote about last year.) They’re also able to see what the newsletter looks like on mobile screens, which is vital during a time where most email is opened on a mobile device and sites are getting the majority of their traffic through mobile.
“Curating each newsletter from the ground up takes less than an hour with the way we’ve set things up,” said Chris Mainenti, senior manager for audience development at Fusion. “Based on other places I’ve been this all usually takes hours. All people need to do is change the subject line and send.”
Fusion’s focus on human citation also lets Fusion’s newsletter editors push subscribers to a variety of stories. The Real Future newsletter, for example, regularly features non-tech stories from other sections. The idea is that a reader who is normally mostly interested in Fusion’s, say, pop culture stories, will get some exposure to coverage from elsewhere as well.
“We see this as a way to bring together that some interconnected pieces of a reporting that we think tell an interesting story together, or give perspective on another big story,” said Mainenti. “It’s a powerful way to push people to read new things.”
For Fusion, these email readers have proven to be much more valuable than those coming through other platforms. Phillips said that Fusion’s email readers tend to share more of Fusion’s content, spend more time on the site, and revisit the site the most often.
Fusion’s focus on its newsletter readers isn’t surprising in today’s media ecosystem. Publishers’ ongoing reliance on traffic from Facebook in particular has been a fraught, one-sided proposition. The social network’s ability to tweak its algorithm to suppress certain kinds content has made publishers wary about the platform’s longterm viability, and pushed many to diversify their traffic sources. Email, being a comparatively open platform free of control by any one company, has been attractive for that reason. “In that sense, it’s our most valuable platform,” said Phillips.
The Center for Public Integrity has added a new feature to its "Tracking TV ads in the 2016 presidential race" interactive graphic that illuminate how Democrat Hillary Clinton is walloping Republican Donald Trump on the airwaves.
The updated ad tracking tool now allows readers to explore how candidates and their allies — super PACs, political parties and the like — have bombarded potential voters with political messages since the presidential race's general election phase effectively began in mid-June.
Among the notable takeaways during the general election:
- Presidential campaigns, along with organizations advocating for or against presidential candidates, have already aired more than 104,000 TV ads on broadcast and national cable outlets.
- Clinton and her political allies — primarily supportive super PACs — account for more than 90 percent of all TV ads. Clinton's own campaign leads all organizations with nearly 68,000 ad spots aired. Next is pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action, with more than 25,000 ad spots.
- Trump's campaign hasn't aired a single TV ad during the general election, although that will soon change, as Trump is planning a significant TV ad blitz. To date, only about 7,000 TV ads have been sponsored by a pair of pro-Trump groups — the NRA Political Victory Fund and the Rebuilding America Now super PAC.
- Live in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Virginia? You're enduring the brunt of the presidential TV ad blitz so far. Floridians alone have seen more than 23,500 ads — more than residents of any other state.
As a Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont vociferously argued for political transparency, especially when money was concerned.
On June 30, Sanders’ campaign requested a second 45-day extension, saying the senator had “good cause” to delay because of his “current campaign schedule and officeholder duties.”
Again, regulators approved Sanders’ punt.
Now that Sanders’ second extension has expired, spokesman Michael Briggs confirmed to the Center for Public Integrity that the senator won’t file a presidential campaign personal financial disclosure after all.
“We were told that since the senator no longer is a candidate there was no requirement to file,” Briggs said.
FEC spokesman Christian Hilland verified that Sanders has not filed a personal financial disclosure. He likewise confirmed that Sanders, who technically ceased to be a presidential candidate when Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination on July 26, is no longer required to file one.
A 2011 legal advisory from the United States Office of Government Ethics provides Sanders cover, stating that “the requirement to file a Public Financial Disclosure Report … ends when the candidate is no longer seeking nomination or election to the office of president.”
On the one hand, who now — beside political voyeurs and snoopy journalists, perhaps — would care about the investments and income of an also-ran presidential candidate who hasn’t been a major factor in Election 2016 for more than two months?
But on the other, Sanders expertly exploited a system that effectively allowed him to delay, delay, delay — all while he chided Clinton receipt of six-figure paydays for delivering closed-door speeches to officials at investment bank Goldman Sachs and other powerful special interests. (Both Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump filed their personal financial disclosures on time in mid-May without asking for extensions.)
Therefore, in the teeth of a Democratic primary where Sanders posed a bona fide threat to Clinton, voters couldn’t definitively know whether Sanders — historically one of the Senate’s least wealthy members — suddenly parlayed his political fame into personal profit. Or, for that matter, whether he sustained financial distress.
The form Sanders didn’t file would have detailed his finances through the middle of May 2016.
His most recent U.S. Senate disclosure, which details only his 2015 assets, show his wealth concentrated in a collection of mutual funds owned by his wife, Jane Sanders.
Beyond his Senate salary, Sanders himself draws a small pension from the government of Burlington, Vermont, where he once served as mayor. And he’s also received a handful of modest honoraria for speeches and television show appearances, although he reported donating them to charity.
Sanders also carried up to $50,000 in credit card debt and up to $1 million in mortgage debt, according to his 2015 U.S. Senate personal financial disclosure.
Sanders filed that Senate disclosure document on June 6. This somewhat undercuts his presidential campaign’s argument, made around the same time, that Sanders was too busy campaigning to complete and submit a presidential disclosure covering his finances during early 2016.
“It’s disappointing that a candidate who spent so much time talking about political reform ... and was critical of Hillary Clinton’s personal finances, chose not to let us know anything about his own,” said policy analyst Richard Skinner of the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for political transparency.
Had Sanders filed a personal financial disclosure report this month, it would have looked more or less like the ones Sanders had filed in the past, Briggs said.
“There’s a couple decades’ worth of congressional financial disclosure reports that show pretty much the same thing from year to year,” Briggs said.
The public will eventually find out how Sanders managed his assets while running for president: As a sitting senator, Sanders must next year file a personal financial disclosure with the U.S. Senate covering calendar year 2016.
After agreeing to purchase all of the Gawker Media properties earlier this week, Univision has decided to shut down Gawker.com, the site reported Thursday. Gawker said the site will go dark next week.
In a short post, Gawker’s J.K. Trotter said staffers learned Thursday afternoon that the site would close:
Nick Denton, the company’s outgoing CEO, informed current staffers of the site’s fate on Thursday afternoon, just hours before a bankruptcy court in Manhattan will decide whether to approve Univision’s bid for Gawker Media’s other assets. The near-term plans for Gawker.com’s coverage, as well as the site’s archives, have not yet been finalized.
The New York Times reported that the site will remain online but won’t publish any new content after Monday.
Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy in June after it said it couldn’t pay the $140.1 million judgment it owed the wrestler and actor Hulk Hogan in a case that was funded and supported by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel.
On Tuesday, Univision agreed to purchase all of the company’s assets, beating out tech publisher Ziff Davis, which also submitted a bid.
CNN reported on Wednesday that Gawker founder Nick Denton was also leaving the company.
This also marks the end of Gawker’s flagship site, a blog founded by Denton in 2002. Gawker was deeply independent, publishing stories that more traditional outlets wouldn’t touch. The site greatly influenced the culture of online journalism, and it helped launch the careers of many of its former staffers who are now at publications such as Vox Media, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and others.
As news of the site’s closure broke on Thursday, users on Twitter mourned its loss and reminisced:
gawker is dead because peter thiel (w the help of charles harder) has succeeded in creating a world where owning gawker is simply not viable
— jordan (@jordansarge) August 18, 2016
You can hate Gawker, but this whole thing should make you very uncomfortable
Anything can be destroyed if a rich person gets put out enough
— Chappell Ellison (@ChappellTracker) August 18, 2016
all of the writers you like and none of the writers you don’t started at gawker
— brian feldman (@bafeldman) August 18, 2016
Don't know specifically. But Gawker proper was really the only one of the sites without a strong endemic ad proposition.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 18, 2016
Gawker was based on a fundamentally conservative premise: People in power (in the media, politics, tech, etc) deserve esp. harsh scrutiny.
— Nick Baumann (@NickBaumann) August 18, 2016
denton, never sold out until forced to, now https://t.co/uqzRZbSfjI is no more
arianna, got rich and now runs a wellness consulting company
— Matthew Zeitlin (@MattZeitlin) August 18, 2016
Sure, Gawker wrote a lot of garbage but it was punctuated by world-changing and often doc-based scoops.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) August 18, 2016
So excited for the worst people on the Internet to celebrate Gawker shutting down
— Bobby Big Wheel (@BobbyBigWheel) August 18, 2016
Silver lining for Gawker dot com staffers: they will all have jobs, be it at Univision or at other Gawker Media sites
— Tom Kludt (@TomKludt) August 18, 2016