Twitter sees jump in user base amid US election turmoil
In this file photo taken on August 10, 2020 In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone on August 10, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Twitter said on February 9 its user base jumped to 192 million in the quarter marked by the heated US presidential election and a battle against misinformation.
Olivier Douliery / AFP

Twitter sees jump in user base amid US election turmoil

Glenn Chapman (Agence France-Presse) - February 10, 2021 - 8:01am

SAN FRANCISCO, United States — Twitter’s user base jumped to 192 million in the quarter marked by US presidential election turmoil and a battle against misinformation, the social media giant said on Tuesday.

Ranks of “monetizable” daily active Twitter users rose 27% from a year earlier during the fourth quarter, which ended just days before former president Donald Trump was booted from the service.

Chief executive Jack Dorsey said the San Francisco platform remained focused on “promoting healthier conversations for those who use our service.”

Twitter and Facebook suspended Trump in early January over posts accused of inflaming violence in the US Capitol, as social media scrambled to respond to mayhem by supporters buying into his baseless attacks on the integrity of the election.

The unprecedented sanctions came after the now former president took to social media to repeat his numerous false claims about fraud and other impropriety in the election he lost to Joe Biden.

Twitter suspended Trump during a social media crackdown that came after Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol in a deadly siege, interrupting congressional debate over Biden’s election victory.

Twitter reported profit nearly doubled from a year earlier to $222 million on revenue that soared 28% to a record $1.29 billion. “2020 was an extraordinary year for Twitter,” Dorsey said.

“We are more proud than ever to serve the public conversation, especially in these unprecedented times,” he said.

The results sparked a modest uptick in shares of Twitter, which has been working to boost advertising as it seeks to broaden its base beyond its core audience of celebrities, journalists and politicians.

“Twitter caps off a turbulent 2020 with a strong performance,” eMarketer analyst Nazmul Islam said of the quarterly results that beat market expectations.

Twitter might see user growth ebb in the current quarter due to “removal of accounts and defections from those who oppose account bans,” Islam noted. He expected spending by advertisers at Twitter to remain strong nonetheless.

Apple bite?

Twitter warned that ad revenue could take a hit from changes Apple is making to the iOS software powering its mobile devices. A new Apple feature referred to as a “privacy nutrition label” tells users what tracking data is gathered by mobile apps and asks for consent via an onscreen prompt.

Tracking data is used to target advertising in ways that make it more likely to get clicks, making money for platforms in the process. 

“Assuming the global pandemic continues to improve and that we see modest impact from the rollout of changes associated with iOS 14, we expect total revenue to grow faster than expenses in 2021,” Twitter said.

Financial analysts were watching to see whether the absence of Trump’s attention-grabbing behavior at Twitter will take a toll on the messaging platform’s use or revenue.

“It looks like Twitter has a solid path of profitability, but they could take a hit this quarter due to Trump and a lot of Republicans being pulled off the platform,” said Rob Enderle, analyst at Enderle Group.

“I know the platform is a lot more pleasant now,” he said.

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