David Holmes, at PandoDaily, tells me some stuff I did not know:
… First, it’s important to note how Twitter makes its money. In a Medium piece, Steven Levy writes that while Twitter’s user growth has continually disappointed Wall Street, it’s met revenue expectations far faster than many expected, hitting an estimated $1.375 billion in revenue last year. Twitter earned this cash through promoted tweets and trends that worm their way into users’ feeds. Crucially, Levy writes, advertisers do not pay based on how many people see the tweets; they pay based on how many people engage with them by retweeting, favoriting, or clicking a link.
That’s been Twitter’s revenue strategy all along. Rather than focus solely on building its user base (though, to be sure, Twitter is rightly concerned about that, too) it works to create an experience that leads to highly-engaged users who will be more likely to interact with each other in positive ways — and that includes brands.
… A Twitter troll is not a very valuable asset — not to fellow users and, more importantly, not to advertisers. It’s difficult to monetize trolls and their burner accounts, which exist not to be part of a larger conversation, but solely to spew vitriol at Twitter’s more earnest users. Furthermore, a Twitter full of hate is not a Twitter most users want to use. Facebook can algorithmically downplay negative posts if it wants. But Twitter’s more raw feed — along with “mentions” which make targeted attacks all too easy — don’t allow for that kind of robotic tinkering. And again, Twitter’s intent, from both a user and advertising perspective, is to create the richest experience possible for each individual, regardless of how many use the service. Even if casting off the trolls causes it to lose users (which, in the long-run, it won’t), it will have only lost users that harm the platform’s long-term ambitions…
Celebrities notwithstanding, I believe Dick C. when he says, “We’re going to start kicking these (abusers) off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.” (Sarah Jeong has a post at the Verge theorizing that Twitter is perfectly capable of better policing trolls — though there’s also the fear that these mechanisms could be abused to silence free speech). It’s not because I believe Costolo is a decent human being. He seems like a pretty good guy, but that’s beside the point — good intentions mean nothing in the world of billion dollar companies.
No, it’s because a Twitter full of trolls is a Twitter that won’t make a dime for the company or its advertisers. And the reality is, money has always been the biggest and often only incentive for a company to do good.