Twitter Tools

June 10, 2019

One of our readers spotted “5 Twitter Tools to Discover the Best and Funniest Tweets.” The article is a round up of software utilities which will provide a selected stream of information from Twitter “content creators.” Keep in mind that threads have been rendered almost useless by Twitter’s editorial procedures. Nevertheless, if you don’t have access to a system which provides the “firehose” content or a repository of indexed and parsed Twitter content, you may find one of these useful:

  • Funny Tweeter
  • Ketchup (an easy way to provide Google with information about Tweets)
  • Really Good Questions
  • Thread Reader (what about those disappeared tweets and the not available tweets
  • Twitter’s digest
  • Twubbler (not exactly a Palantir Gotham timeline, however)

Consult the source article for explanations of each and the links.

Stephen E Arnold, June 10, 2019

Excitement for Twitter Slurpers

February 6, 2019

TechTimes reported that Facebook now makes publicly available what the Zuck has had for some time. One can delete Facebook messages. The options are delete for everyone or just for the sender. The speed with which the messages disappear from the Facebook servers is murky. If you are a Twitter slurper, you may have to make certain that the slurps are taking place with alacrity. DarkCyber does not have a full count of the number of entities engaged in chugging down tweets, but there are more than some people may think. Tweets, like Facebook, provide a quite useful stream of data. Zippy analytics can make tweets turn cartwheels. Losing tweets from certain handles of interest is not good news.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2019

Twitter Bans Accounts

August 22, 2018

i read “Facebook and Twitter Ban over 900 Accounts in Bid to Tackle Fake News.” Twitter was founded about 12 years ago. The company found itself in the midst of the 2016 election messaging flap. The article reports:

Facebook said it had identified and banned 652 accounts, groups and pages which were linked to Iran and to Russia for “co-ordinated inauthentic behavior”, including the sharing of political material.

One of the interesting items of information which surfaced when my team was doing the research for CyberOSINT and the Dark Web Notebook, both monographs designed for law enforcement and intelligence professionals, was the ease with which Twitter accounts can be obtained.

For a program we developed for a conference organizer in Washington, DC, in 2015, we illustrated Twitter messages with links to information designed to attract young men and women to movements which advocated some activities which broke US laws.

The challenge had in 2015 several dimensions. Let me run down the ones the other speakers and I mentioned; for example:

  • The ease with which an account could be created
  • The ease with which multiple accounts could be created
  • The ease with which messages could be generated with suitable index terms
  • The ease with which messages could be disseminated across multiple accounts via scripts
  • The lack of filtering to block weaponized content.

Back to the present.

Banning an account addresses one of these challenges.

The notion of low friction content dissemination, unrestricted indexing, and the ability to create accounts is one to ponder.

Killing an account or a group of accounts may not have the desired effect.

Compared to other social networks, Twitter has a strong following in certain socio economic sectors. That in itself adds a bit of spice to the sauce.

Stephen E Arnold, August 22, 2018

Challenges to High School Science Club Management Methods

August 17, 2018

High school science club management methods involve individuals who often perceive other students as less capable. The result is an “I know better” mindset. When applied on a canvas somewhat larger than a public high school, the consequences are often fascinating.

I am confident that high school science club management methods are indeed effective. But it is useful to look at two recent examples which suggest that the confidence of the deciders may be greater than the benefit to the non-deciders.

The first example concerns Google. The company has had some employee pushback about its work on US government projects. I learned when I read “Google Employees Protest Secret Work on Censored Search Engine for China.” The newspaper of record at least around 42nd Street and Park Avenue said:

Hundreds of Google employees, upset at the company’s decision to secretly build a censored version of its search engine for China, have signed a letter demanding more transparency to understand the ethical consequences of their work. In the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, employees wrote that the project and Google’s apparent willingness to abide by China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.” They added, “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

High school management methods have created an interesting workplace problem: Employees want to pick and choose what the company does to generate revenue. Publicly traded companies have to generate revenue and a profit.

How will Google’s management deal with the apparent desire of senior management to make revenue headway in China as its employees appear to want to tell management what’s okay and what’s not okay. I assume that high school science club management methods will rise to this challenge.

The second example is provided by the article “Twitter Company Email Addresses Why It’s #BreakingMyTwitter.” Twitter management is making decisions which seem to illustrate the power of “I know better than you” what’s an appropriate course of action. Twitter has made unilateral changes which appear to have put developers and users in a sticky patch of asphalt. Plus, management has taken an oddly parental approach to the Alex Jones content problem.

I learned from the article:

It’s hard to be a fan of Twitter right now. The company is sticking up for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, when nearly all other platforms have given him the boot, it’s overrun with bots, and now it’s breaking users’ favorite third-party Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterific by shutting off APIs these apps relied on. Worse still, is that Twitter isn’t taking full responsibility for its decisions.

My takeaway is that high school management methods are more interesting than the dry and dusty notions of Peter Drucker or the old school consultants at the once untarnished blue chip consulting firms like McKinsey & Company and Booz, Allen type operations.

Business school curricula may need an update.

Stephen E Arnold, August 17, 2018

Twitter Bots: Usefulness Questioned

July 27, 2018

Twitter Bots have become the junk mail of the digital era. We get harassed and prodded by these autonomous accounts. Whether you are a celebrity or an average joe, you have likely been confronted by artificially intelligent Tweets that are tough to determine validity. We learned about an interesting way to combat this phenomenon from a recent Zero Hedge story, “Researchers Unmask Anonymous Twitter Accounts with 97% Accuracy Using Machine Learning.”

According to the story:

“For users who occasionally engage in anonymous tweeting, this revelation shouldn’t go unacknowledged. In their study, the researchers discovered that their most basic algorithm could correctly identify an individual user in a group of 10,000 using just 14 pieces of metadata from their posts on twitter nearly 96.7% of the time. Furthermore, attempts to obscure the individuals’ identity by tampering with the data were remarkably ineffective.”

Finally, we are getting to a stage where human intelligence is outwitting the artificial brand. These researchers are not alone, as was made big news recently, Twitter purged millions of accounts linked to bots recently. This is good news for regular folks, but also for retailers who now can have a more legitimate pedestal to stand on. It might be optimistic, but life seems to be inching closer toward the old definition of “normal.”

Patrick Roland, July 27, 2018

Twitter: A Brief Guide

March 12, 2018

Twitter continues to be of interest to some of the professionals with whom the addled goose speaks. The ease with which social media can be manipulated is becoming better understood. (Note: Few ask why the algorithms used by some social media outfits are vulnerable, but that’s a question which will follow as understanding increases.)

Social media is constantly changing and just as soon as you are familiar with one search technique it is replaced with another. Twitter is not the most popular social media platform, but it continues to hold its own against Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

In some ways, Twitter is very much like other communication platforms. An “official handbook” has to be assembled by a persistent reader of blog posts, books on Amazon, and information presented in the comments to Hacker News or Reddit, however.

Now a content centric company like Espirian has drafted its own guides that share the in’s and out’s of social media, especially the best ways to search the social Web sites. Espirian wrote the, “Twitter Search: Advance Guide 2018” to help bloggers and other content curators become Twitter search experts.

Here is a short description of the guide:

“Whether you’re researching blog ideas, looking for work or just trying to find out what’s going on near you, the advanced features of Twitter search will help you find the content you need.

We noted that one useful way to to search Twitter is to access the Tweetdeck. The Tweetdeck, an app which allows its users to have a bird’s eye view of their Twitter accounts, their own tweets, others’ tweets, and their news feed. Another way to search Twitter is to access the advanced search option.

For some researchers the difficulty of performing advanced searches is frustrating. Twitter has resisted adding some metadata to its users’ accounts. Despite its quirks, Twitter can be useful for analysts, marketers, and some researchers.

Whitney Grace, March 12, 2018

Facebook and Twitter: Battle Platforms

February 16, 2018

Social media is, according to an analysis by Lt. Col Jarred Prier (USAF), is a component of information warfare. “Commanding the Trend: Social Media As Information Warfare” explains how various actions can function as a lever for action and ideas. Highly recommended. The analysis suggests that social media is more than a way to find a companion and keep up with the kids.

Stephen E Arnold, February 16, 2018

EU Considers Making Platforms Pay for News Content

February 13, 2018

European journalists are sick of giant internet companies profiting from their labor without recompense, we learn from Yahoo News’ article, “Net Giants ‘Must Pay for News’ From Which They Make Billions.” The declaration from nine press agencies comes in support of a proposed EU directive that would require companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to pay for the articles that bring so much ad revenue to their platforms. The write-up shares part of the agencies’ plea:

Facebook has become the biggest media in the world,” the agencies said in a plea published in the French daily Le Monde. “Yet neither Facebook nor Google have a newsroom… They do not have journalists in Syria risking their lives, nor a bureau in Zimbabwe investigating Mugabe’s departure, nor editors to check and verify information sent in by reporters on the ground. Access to free information is supposedly one of the great victories of the internet. But it is a myth,” the agencies argued. “At the end of the chain, informing the public costs a lot of money.

News, the declaration added, is the second reason after catching up on family and friends for people to log onto Facebook, which tripled its profits to $10 billion (€8.5 billion) last year. Yet it is the giants of the net who are reaping vast profits “from other people’s work” by soaking up between 60 and 70 percent of advertising revenue, with Google’s jumping by a fifth in a year. Meanwhile, ad revenue for news media fell nine percent in France alone last year, “a disaster for the industry”.

Indeed it is. And, we are reminded, a robust press is crucial for democracy itself. Some attempts have been made in France, Germany, and Spain to obtain compensation from these companies, but the limited results were disappointing. The press agencies suggest granting journalists “related rights” copyrights and assure a concerned Parliament that citizens will still be able to access information for free online. The only difference, they insist, would be that an appropriate chunk of that ad revenue will go to the people who actually researched and created the content. That sounds reasonable to this writer.

Cynthia Murrell, February 13, 2018


Twitter Changes API Offerings and Invites Trouble

December 8, 2017

Twitter has beefed up its API offerings to users, but it comes with an increasing price tag. While that is not a huge issue for many people, it will invite some problem if not played properly. We discovered this interesting change in a recent Venture Beat piece, “Twitter’s New Premium APIs Give Developers Access to More Tweets, Higher Rate Limits.”

According to the story:

Twitter is offering a solution for developers who are angry about limitations imposed on their apps when they use the service’s free APIs. The company has now introduced premium APIs to bridge the gap between the free service and the enterprise-level tools it provides through Gnip.


Developers will likely welcome this solution, though many will also say it’s long overdue. After the company’s mea culpa at its Flight conference in 2015, Twitter has made efforts to understand developers’ needs and has reallocated resources, including selling its Fabric mobile developer platform to Google.

Time will tell if this uptick in API accessibility will help Twitter financially. The company has long been seeking a financial home run since going public. While there are several ways APIs can solve outside problems and bring stability to a company, this can also fall flat on its face. Especially if developers don’t want to pay the fees or if the APIs don’t live up to the hype. Fingers crossed.

Patrick Roland, December 8, 2017

Google Search and Hot News: Sensitivity and Relevance

November 10, 2017

I read “Google Is Surfacing Texas Shooter Misinformation in Search Results — Thanks Also to Twitter.” What struck me about the article was the headline; specifically, the implication for me was that Google was not responding to user queries. Google is actively “surfacing” or fetching and displaying information about the event. Twitter is also involved. I don’t think of Twitter as much more than a party line. One can look up keywords or see a stream of content containing a keyword or a, to use Twitter speak, “hash tags.”

The write up explains:

Users of Google’s search engine who conduct internet searches for queries such as “who is Devin Patrick Kelley?” — or just do a simple search for his name — can be exposed to tweets claiming the shooter was a Muslim convert; or a member of Antifa; or a Democrat supporter…

I think I understand. A user inputs a term and Google’s system matches the user’s query to the content in the Google index. Google maintains many indexes, despite its assertion that it is a “universal search engine.” One has to search across different Google services and their indexes to build up a mosaic of what Google has indexed about a topic; for example, blogs, news, the general index, maps, finance, etc.

Developing a composite view of what Google has indexed takes time and patience. The results may vary depending on whether the user is logged in, searching from a particular geographic location, or has enabled or disabled certain behind the scenes functions for the Google system.

The write up contains this statement:

Safe to say, the algorithmic architecture that underpins so much of the content internet users are exposed to via tech giants’ mega platforms continues to enable lies to run far faster than truth online by favoring flaming nonsense (and/or flagrant calumny) over more robustly sourced information.

From my point of view, the ability to figure out what influences Google’s search results requires significant effort, numerous test queries, and recognition that Google search now balances on two pogo sticks. Once “pogo stick” is blunt force keyword search. When content is indexed, terms are plucked from source documents. The system may or may not assign additional index terms to the document; for example, geographic or time stamps.

The other “pogo stick” is discovery and assignment of metadata. I have explained some of the optional tags which Google may or may not include when processing a content object; for example, see the work of Dr. Alon Halevy and Dr. Ramanathan Guha.

But Google, like other smart content processing today, has a certain sensitivity. This means that streams of content processed may contain certain keywords.

When “news” takes place, the flood of content allows smart indexing systems to identify a “hot topic.” The test queries we ran for my monographs “The Google Legacy” and “Google Version 2.0” suggest that Google is sensitive to certain “triggers” in content. Feedback can be useful; it can also cause smart software to wobble a bit.

Image result for the impossible takes a little longer

T shirts are easy; search is hard.

I believe that the challenge Google faces is similar to the problem Bing and Yandex are exploring as well; that is, certain numerical recipes can over react to certain inputs. These over reactions may increase the difficulty of determining what content object is “correct,” “factual,” or “verifiable.”

Expecting a free search system, regardless of its owner, to know what’s true and what’s false is understandable. In my opinion, making this type of determination with today’s technology, system limitations, and content analysis methods is impossible.

In short, the burden of figuring out what’s right and what’s not correct falls on the user, not exclusively on the search engine. Users, on the other hand, may not want the “objective” reality. Search vendors want traffic and want to generate revenue. Algorithms want nothing.

Mix these three elements and one takes a step closer to understanding that search and retrieval is not the slam dunk some folks would have me believe. In fact, the sensitivity of content processing systems to comparatively small inputs requires more discussion. Perhaps that type of information will come out of discussions about how best to deal with fake news and related topics in the context of today’s information retrieval environment.

Free search? Think about that too.

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2017

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