A digital magazine pulls back the curtain on a social media giant’s unique role in protecting the public conversation.
- Strategy |
Twitter is rapidly expanding its team dedicated to products and features that empower healthier conversations on the platform. But Twitter users still don’t feel the company has their backs — especially those from marginalized communities who bear the brunt of abuse online.
We are building trust by pulling back the curtain on what Twitter is doing to encourage healthy, safe, and inclusive debate and discourse. We’re doing it by embodying Twitter’s core brand: honest, straightforward, and no BS.
- Strategy and branding for a new editorial franchise, Common Thread
- Establishing an editorial approach, including themes that define the course of the storytelling
- Management of all storytelling, including pitching, reporting, writing, and editing a suite of long-form content
THE RESULTS IN NUMBERS
2+ minutes average time spent on the site, 4x the industry average
page views within the first two weeks of launch
‘Real talk’ on trust and safety for a brand that’s all about the discourse
A decade ago, platforms like Twitter were heralded for their role empowering people during pivotal moments in history, such as the Arab Spring. As social platforms have matured, the public perception has been that these platforms have gained too much power in the public conversation. This power has had huge ramifications for society.
Given social media’s central role in modern culture, people have rightfully demanded more transparency from Twitter. They want to know what companies are doing to protect the public conversation, why they’re doing it, and how it affects them and others. To that end, Twitter hasn’t always gotten it right and has made plenty of mistakes — this has led to public distrust. Arguably more than any other social platform, Twitter is working to rebuild that trust, hiring hundreds of engineers, researchers, product managers, and social scientists to examine the platform objectively and make it better.
The task now is to rebuild trust.
With Twitter, we created the storytelling series Common Thread to talk about why online conversations are the way they are and what Twitter is doing to make its service safer and more enriching.
Speaking to the average Twitter user, these stories pull back the curtain on how Twitter thinks about weighing the big moral questions at the heart of these technologies that connect us — and also polarize us. With a series of unflinching, straightforward, intellectually curious storytelling, we aimed to shift perception about Twitter: from the distant architects of a social platform to an active and empathetic steward of its own community.
So far, we’ve produced a dozen stories, tackling issues such as the difference between good bots and bad bots and why that matters, what a trauma-informed approach to reporting abuse means for Tweeters, and how Twitter can build more kindness into its timeline (no, really!). Our reporting has spurred several Twitter threads on these provocative concepts. They have also served as topics for discussion on Twitter Spaces.
A journalistic approach
Using the skills of journalism, we initiated our work as we would a reporting mission. We went straight to the source — Twitter itself. Namely the product managers, policy specialists, designers, researchers, and data and social scientists who help identify health and safety challenges and set out to build the products and features that help to solve those challenges.
We booked nearly 50 hours worth of interviews with dozens of experts, both inside the company and externally. We also spoke with regular Twitter users to capture the authentic experiences of people on the platform.
From this reporting, our editors defined the stories that would speak to our audience and begin to reveal how Twitter must weigh extremely complex and competing interests, all in the name of enabling the greatest amount of safe, healthy, and robust discourse.
Bringing a storytelling platform to life
When setting out to define the qualities and characteristics of Common Thread, we followed these editorial principles to keep our writing and reporting on message and free from distractions:
- We talk about how Twitter arrived at a decision — even if it was hard and filled with disagreement — as much as the decision itself.
- We explore the impact of missteps, so even in failure, we are building a deeper understanding of the platform.
- We invite voices that constructively prod and question Twitter’s own actions, showing Twitter can step out of its echo chamber.
- We show how the platform is changing, to better connect policy decisions to user experience.
- We embrace the symbiotic relationship between the health of conversations on Twitter and Twitter’s evolving business.
- We break the narrative out of single posts on a catch-all blog and onto the many channels that influential audiences frequent.
In 2022, we are reporting on even meatier topics that are in the zeitgeist, such as examining the limits of hateful speech through a product lens to the difficult questions policy specialists must weigh when it comes to misinformation and disinformation on the platform.
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