‘Combating fake ids is a top priority for Twitter’

Priyanka Pani Thomas K Thomas Mumbai | Updated on February 22, 2018

MATTHEW DERELLA, Global Vice-President, Revenue and Partnership, Twitter

Matthew Derella, Global V-P, talks about the microblogging site’s challenges, and the Great Indian Opportunity

Twitter has had a profound impact on the way we interact and gather information. From the US elections to the Arab Spring, Twitter is influencing how we think and what we think like never before. While the microblogging site has become a tool for those looking for real-time information, it is facing a tough challenge on how to make the platform more relevant for a larger number of users. It also faces credibility issues, with a large number of fake users pushing fake news in a bid to influence public opinion on issues that matter. In a conversation with BusinessLine, Matthew Derella, Global Vice-President, Revenue and Partnership, Twitter, spoke about how the company is dealing with these challenges and how India is shaping up its global strategy. Excerpts:

What are you liking about India?

I’m blown away. Some of my best friends are Indians living in America, so I feel like I have a connection. The incredible culture, the warmth, the speed and the change that is happening here is truly energising.

On a professional level, it’s also an incredible opportunity for us. I talked to the UP police department and understood how they’re using the service — it’s fundamental for doing their job in a much more direct way for them, to connect with younger, mobile-first citizens and actually solve crimes.

In many ways, I think this is a way to use the service that will be replicated in many areas around the world and it’s all starting right here. The trends that you see here are also pretty incredible.

When you look at a market like India, how do you explain why one should get on Twitter?

If you want to be informed about what’s happening in the world, not necessarily by people you know but by people who have expert opinions, and you want it faster, from a diverse group of people so you can see all sides of the issue, with the best content that’s available from all around the world, and have it personalised just for you, Twitter is your answer. We can help people stay informed, see public conversations around important topics based on their interest and around what’s happening.

Fundamentally, we’re solving a problem. The one thing we need to get better at is making the platform instantly valuable when people arrive on Twitter, who haven’t been on the platform, and let them instantly find out what’s happening.

You’re seeing us develop areas within the product that allow us to do better.

How big is India in terms of revenue and user base from a global perspective?

We don’t share specifics. However, as we look at the opportunity in terms of users and business, we see this on a path of upward trajectory and we see it as an area of growth for us in 2018. India is the first market I’m visiting in 2018 and that should emphasise on the importance of India as a market for us.

Are you doing anything with Bollywood or TV channels when it comes to video and live video?

Just recently, we partnered with Filmfare to livestream the red carpet from Jio Filmfare Awards 2018.

In our business, we get these amazing experiences to visit these places and have upfront, personal connections with celebrities. But Twitter allows every single person that logs in to have that dream come true. And Filmfare Awards is a great example of that, as it gave VIP access to the red carpet, and the ability to talk to the stars with just a tweet.

That’s just one example. We continue to roll out other content partnerships that serve the same purpose across news, sports and entertainment.

We’ve been doing a lot with e-sports recently, as sports is exploding recently as a category. We’re always looking to do more, whether it is football or any other sport as we believe there’s a big opportunity for us there.

One of the interesting trends we’re seeing is the rise of the South Indian cinema. In fact, #Mersal was the top hashtag from 2017 in India.

There is a massive opportunity for us to do more in South India and be more regional. When you look at South India, you see a region and I see a continent.

I love that there are unique cultures and unique languages, and we’re looking to make locally relevant content to appeal to different parts of India.

Fake IDs is an issue globally and in India as well. How does that affect the credibility of the platform?

Combating the problem of fake ids is a top priority for Twitter. If we want to show people what’s happening and what people are talking about, it has to be from credible sources. Often, public information is very powerful with regard to credibility, as you have people fact-checking right there in front of you. There’s a lot of work we have to do in that space.

For starters, what we’re doing is using machine learning to understand whether it’s malicious information or fake news and get to the source. We’re trying to get to the level of two-step verification and making people link their phone numbers. These are very sophisticated groups, so our work is never done.

We are constantly working on improving the platform and knocking down misinformation before it even starts.

We’re also increasing our machine learning to take the onus off the user to find and report accounts. We’ve taken down 10 times more accounts for targeted abuse than we did just a year ago. So, there is a lot of work happening but we have a lot more to do.

We’re also finding ways within the product to allow users to go to a place where there are credible sources giving out information on exactly what’s happening. The Explore Tab is a great example of that, to get curated moments from leading sources around what’s happening now.

It’s through a combination of manual work and technology that we’re able to get all the tweets together, that are being put together by our editors.

There are two parts to it — one is the technological and policy approach and the other is how we find surface areas that allow us to put up the most credible sources.

Intrusion and privacy are some concerns when it comes to digital advertising. What’s your take?

We’re always philosophically believed that the user should be in control and we should be transparent about how we’re targeting ads. For over a year now, users have control and are able to turn off ads based on interest. This past year, we’ve taken to a new level which I believe is industry leading.

We’ll also be opening up an Ads Transparency Center which enables people to see every ad and the creator and why someone is being targeted. It will be connected to, accessible from app or desktop.

Especially around elections, we want to add another layer, which is higher up.

The US will be the first to try that out, where you can see who’s targeting, why they are targeting, how much they’re investing and all the different targeting they’re using. We’ll also be bringing about a change to show the user that they’re seeing a political ad, as we want to add a layer of transparency above what we already have.

A lot of that conversation brings back trust, and there are several entities that are trying to break that trust we have with our users but we’re doing everything we can to continue holding their trust, as it is critical to us for growing our business.

Published on February 22, 2018

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