In this file photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Twitter said on July 23, 2020, user growth soared in the past quarter even as ad revenues took a hit amid civil unrest in the US. The short-messaging service reported a net loss of $1.2 billion in the quarter, most of that coming from setting aside funds for income taxes.
Twitter accelerates user growth amid pandemic, unrest
Rob Lever (Agence France-Presse) - July 24, 2020 - 7:46am

WASHINGTON, United States — Twitter showed strong gains in its user base with more people turning to the short-message social network during the pandemic and civil unrest, according to a quarterly update Thursday that offered positive signs despite a big drop in ad revenues.

The short-message social network reported a net loss of $1.2 billion in the quarter, most of that coming from setting aside funds for income taxes.

Revenue slumped 19 percent from a year ago to $683 million. Despite some modest rebound from the pandemic-induced economic slump, Twitter said that "many brands slowed or paused spend in reaction to US civil unrest" in May and June.

Twitter said ad revenue declined 15 percent over the last three weeks of June, but appeared to have rebounded since then.

A key metric for Twitter, the number of "monetizable" daily active users, hit 186 million in the second quarter for a jump of 34 percent from last year.

Chief executive Jack Dorsey said the user gains showed "the highest quarterly year-over-year growth rate we've delivered" using this measure.

"People continue to come to Twitter to learn about and participate in conversations focused on systemic racism, Black Lives Matters, COVID-19 and the reopening and reclosing of economies all around the world," Dorsey told analysts on a conference call.

Twitter shares rallied to gain four percent on Wall Street following the results.

Recovering from hack

The earnings report comes a week after Twitter suffered a hack that affected high-profile accounts and raised fears about security of the service which has become a key element of political conversation.

Dorsey apologized for the incident and added that Twitter "moved quickly to address what happened," and had taken additional steps "to improve resiliency."

Twitter acknowledged late Wednesday that in 36 of the 130 accounts that were compromised, hackers were able to access direct messages intended to be private, adding to the severity of the incident.

Those affected included one unidentified elected official in the Netherlands.

"We are actively working on communicating directly with the account-holders that were impacted," Twitter said on its security blog.

The bitcoin-scam hack affected high-profile users including Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Barack Obama and others.

Dorsey said of the incident: "We understand our responsibilities and are committed to earning the trust of all of our stakeholders with our every action, including how we address this security issue."

Twitter, an important tool used by President Donald Trump, is seen by some analysts as an important element in news and political discussion, a key to its growth.

Helped by Facebook boycott?

Dorsey said the boycott of Facebook by brands concerned about "hateful" content could end up benefitting Twitter, which has long focused on what he calls the "health" of the platform, including efforts to curb misinformation and incendiary content.

"We are showing our commitment of service to the public conversation by our actions, and advertisers are definitely taking note," Dorsey told analysts.

"We are hearing this resonate and people are taking note of our difference ... We are going to continue to focus on taking the actions that we believe is important to maintain health, and we hope that others follow as well."

The research firm eMarketer said its estimate of Twitter's user base, using a different method than the company, shows the number of users will grow to some 305 million this year.

In the past quarter, "Twitter's user growth accelerated in Q2 as housebound consumers continued to use the platform to follow news about the coronavirus and other current events," said eMarketer analyst Jasmine Enberg.

Dorsey meanwhile confirmed reports that Twitter is looking at a subscription option but said that this would likely be "complementary" to the existing service.

He said Twitter was "in the very early phases of exploring" a new offering and that some tests are likely this year, while adding that "we have a really high bar for when we would ask consumers to pay for aspects of Twitter."

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 7, 2020 - 10:53am

The latest news about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms.

August 7, 2020 - 10:53am

US President Donald Trump orders that a ban on interacting with popular social media platform TikTok or its Chinese parent company take effect in 45 days.

"The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security," Trump says in an executive order.

After taking effect, the order will bar "any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd" or any company in which it has an interest. — AFP

August 5, 2020 - 11:04am

President Donald Trump defends his demand for the US government to get a piece of the action to let Microsoft or any other company here buy popular China-based social media app TikTok.

Trump's stance was slammed by critics who said it appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

"We have all the cards, because without us, you can't come into the United States," Trump says during a White House press briefing. — AFP

August 4, 2020 - 7:36am

President Donald Trump says that Chinese-owned hugely popular video-sharing app TikTok will be "out of business" in the United States if not sold to a US firm by September 15.

"I set a date of around September 15, at which point it's going to be out of business in the United States," he tells reporters. 

"It'll close down on September 15th unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal." — AFP

August 1, 2020 - 11:16am

President Donald Trump says he will bar fast-growing social media app TikTok from the United States as American authorities have raised concerns the service could be used by Chinese intelligence.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump says: "As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States." — AFP

August 1, 2020 - 10:47am

The hackers who accessed dozens of high-profile Twitter accounts in mid-July gained access to the system with an attack that tricked a handful of employees into giving up their credentials, according to a company update.

Twitter says in a security update late Thursday that the July 15 incident by bitcoin scammers stemmed from a "spear phishing" attack which deceived employees about the origin of the messages.

The hackers "targeted a small number of employees through a phone spear phishing attack," according to a Twitter Support statement. — AFP

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