Technology

Twitter boss vows to improve trolling problem as advertisers take flight

Revenues missed expectations on Wall Street, knocking 20% of the company's value

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey has insisted the company is cracking down on abusive content and spotting problem accounts faster.

The claim came as US President Donald Trump’s favourite communication tool revealed that revenues from advertising and sales missed expectations from investors and analysts in a “challenging” third quarter between the end of June and end of September.

Mr Dorsey said: “We’re continuing to improve relevance while testing ways to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for on Twitter.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO
Jack Dorsey said he is continuing to crack down on abusive content (Matt Crossick/PA)

“We also continue to make progress on health, improving our ability to proactively identify and remove abusive content, with more than 50% of the tweets removed for abusive content in Q3 taken down without a bystander or first person report.”

Bosses said “a number of headwinds” led to missing expectations, including product issues and lower advertising spend.

Revenues during the period hit 824 million US dollars (£639.7 million), below the 874 million dollars (£678.6 million) expected.

Shares tanked by 20% immediately following the announcement.

In a letter to shareholders, the company wrote: “In Q3 we discovered, and took steps to remediate, bugs that primarily affected our legacy Mobile Application Promotion (MAP) product, impacting our ability to target ads and share data with measurement and ad partners.

“We also discovered that certain personalisation and data settings were not operating as expected.

“We believe that, in aggregate, these issues reduced year-over-year revenue growth by 3 or more points in Q3.”

Twitter added that, for the rest of the year, the headwinds will “continue to weigh on the overall performance of our advertising business in the near term”.

Total ad engagements increased 23% year over year and costs per engagement dropped 12%.

Twitter does not break down details for each individual country or region – beyond the US – but the numbers show that international revenues grew slower than in America.

US revenues hit 465 million dollars (£361 million), up 10% year on year, but was only up 7% in the rest of the world, at 358 million dollars (£277.9 million).

Last quarter, Twitter scrapped reporting monthly active users and moved instead to measuring “monetisable daily active users” (mDAUs) – those who get ads shown to them.

In the third quarter Twitter said there were 145 million mDAUs, up 4% on the second quarter of 2019, and a 17% increase compared with the same period last year.

Mr Dorsey said the growth was “driven by ongoing product improvements”

“We’re continuing to improve relevance while testing ways to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for on Twitter,” he said.

Twitter has faced criticism over failing to clamp down on trolls, abusive messaging and fake news.

To deal with manipulated videos like deepfakes, the company recently unveiled new rules specifically targeting synthetic content that could threaten someone’s physical safety or lead to offline harm.

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