According to SunTrust Robinson Humphrey tech analyst Robert Peck, Twitter is preparing to purge an estimated 10 million porn-posting users. Ditching such a large chunk of users sounds drastic until you do the math: Twitter claims to have 302 million monthly users, so getting rid of the explicit posters will only account for about 3 percent of its total—although that’s just counting the users and not their followers.
Why would they do such a thing? Perhaps because of this incident:
Nielsen, the television and digital measurement company, was forced to halt one of its paid-for Promoted Tweets campaigns this week after its ads were served against profile pages dedicated to pornography, according to Adweek.
The Nielsen paid-for tweet, reading “Am I getting the most value from my media buy? Learn what other questions you should ask in our webinar recording,” appeared on the “Homemade Porn” and “Daily Dick Pictures” profile pages, Adweek reports. The trade magazine says ads from other brands including Duane Reade, NBCUniversal, and Gatorade also showed up in feeds next to pornographic images and videos. The problem appears to be tied to a new ad format “Suggested by Twitter,” which only first rolled out in March.
Which suggests that this is indeed a bug and not a feature.
And there’s always the problem of defining porn beyond “I know it when I see it,” because, well, you probably don’t, and I can’t imagine how you’d automate Miller v. California.
Just for the record, I follow three individuals with porn, or at least porn-y backgrounds: one current performer, one retired, and one who possibly aspires to stardom. The retired one posts nothing questionable at all. Then again, I am not one to look down my nose at sex workers, who in some ways could be considered, um, manual labor.
I also follow a handful of naturists, most of whom post nothing untoward, though I’ve seen some, um, odd retweets pop into my timeline. (Last night presented a fairly unique experience: how do you compliment someone on her new dress when you’ve hardly ever seen her in any kind of dress at all?)
Twitter’s media policy is simultaneously clear and murky:
If you upload media that might be considered sensitive content such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures, you should consider applying the account setting “Mark my media as containing sensitive content.” We do not mediate content. All content should be marked appropriately as per our guidelines.
After all, “should” is a long way from “must,” and there are an awful lot of people out there who, if asked, would come down on the side of “must.”