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Society and Twitter


Twitter has been used for a variety of purposes in many industries and scenarios. For example, it has been used to organize protests, sometimes referred to as "Twitter Revolutions", which include April 2009 Moldovan parliamentary election protests, 2009 student protests in Austria, 2009 Gaza–Israel conflict, 2009 Iran green revolution, 2009 Toronto G20, 2010 Bolivarian Revolution, 2010 Germany Stuttgart21, 2011 Egypt Revolution, 2011 England riots, 2011 United States Occupy movement, 2011 Anti-austerity movement in Spain, 2011 Greece Aganaktismenoi movements, 2011 Italy Rome demonstration, 2011 Wisconsin labor protests, 2012 Gaza–Israel conflict, 2013 protests in Brazil, 2013 Gezi Park protests. A result of the Iranian election protests saw the government of Iran block Twitter in censorship.

In January 2016, Twitter was sued by the widow of a U.S. man killed in the 2015 Amman shooting attack, claiming that allowing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to continually use the platform, including direct messages in particular, constituted the provision of material support to a terrorist organization, which is illegal under U.S. federal law. Twitter disputed the claim, stating that "violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear." The lawsuit was dismissed by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, upholding the Section 230 safe harbor, which dictates that the operators of an interactive computer service are not liable for the content published by its users. The lawsuit was revised in August 2016, providing comparisons to other telecommunications devices.

In October 2017, actress Rose McGowan said that Twitter had suspended her account for 12 hours after she repeatedly tweeted about former film studio executive Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct toward her and others. Twitter explained that McGowan's account had violated its privacy policy because one of her tweets included a private phone number. According to The New York Times, "Many Twitter users expressed outrage over Ms. McGowan's account being locked". After the tweet was removed, her account was unlocked several hours before the 12-hour ban was set to expire. A Twitter representative stated, "We will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future." Later that day, software engineer Kelly Ellis, using the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter, urged women to shun Twitter for 24 hours, beginning at midnight, in solidarity with McGowan and, tweeted Ellis, "all the victims of hate and harassment Twitter fails to support." The boycott was joined by activists, celebrities and journalists.

Twitter is banned completely in Iran, China and North Korea, and has been intermittently blocked in numerous countries including Egypt, Iraq, Turkey and Venezuela on different bases. In 2016, Twitter cooperated with the Israeli government to remove certain content originating outside Israel from tweets seen in Israel. In the 11th biannual transparency report published on September 19, 2017, Twitter said that Turkey was the first among countries where about 90 percent of removal requests came from, followed by Russia, France and Germany. As part of evidence to a US Senate Enquiry, the company admitted that their systems "detected and hid" several hundred thousand tweets relating to the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak.

In May 2008, The Wall Street Journal wrote that social networking services such as Twitter "elicit mixed feelings in the technology-savvy people who have been their early adopters. Fans say they are a good way to keep in touch with busy friends. But some users are starting to feel too connected, as they grapple with check-in messages at odd hours, higher cellphone bills and the need to tell acquaintances to stop announcing what they're having for dinner." The following year, John C. Dvorak described Twitter as "the new CB radio".

Twitter has been adopted as a communication and learning tool in educational and research settings mostly in colleges and universities. It has been used as a backchannel to promote student interactions, especially in large-lecture courses. Research has found that using Twitter in college courses helps students communicate with each other and faculty, promotes informal learning, allows shy students a forum for increased participation, increases student engagement, and improves overall course grades.

In a 2011 study, researchers found that young peoples use of Twitter helped to improve relationships with teachers, encourage interactive learning, and ultimately lead to high grades. In the same study it was found that out of a group of 158 educators, 92% agreed that the reason they use Twitter is because of how user friendly it is, another 86% agreed that they started and continue using Twitter because of how easy it is to learn, and finally, 93% said they use Twitter because it is free. People found that sifting through large amounts of data is challenging, however, with the simple nature of Twitter large amount of information became easily accessible. Much of this simplicity comes from the use of the hashtag, and the intuitive nature of how Twitter as a microblogging site operates. These features help to promote education outside the classroom on a global setting where students and educators are easily able create, connect, and share knowledge. This ultimately promotes growth and learning among students and educators, not just in the class room, but virtually and around the world.

World leaders and their diplomats have taken note of Twitter's rapid expansion and have been increasingly utilizing Twitter diplomacy, the use of Twitter to engage with foreign publics and their own citizens. US Ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul has been attributed as a pioneer of international Twitter diplomacy. He used Twitter after becoming ambassador in 2011, posting in English and Russian. On October 24, 2014, Queen Elizabeth II sent her first tweet to mark the opening of the London Science Museum's Information Age exhibition. A 2013 study by website Twiplomacy found that 153 of the 193 countries represented at the United Nations had established government Twitter accounts. The same study also found that those accounts amounted to 505 Twitter handles used by world leaders and their foreign ministers, with their tweets able to reach a combined audience of over 106 million followers.

Twitterbots are capable of influencing public opinion about culture, products and political agendas by automatically generating mass amounts of tweets through imitating human communication. The New York Times states, "They have sleep-wake cycles so their fakery is more convincing, making them less prone to repetitive patterns that flag them as mere programs." The tweets generated vary anywhere from a simple automated response to content creation and information sharing, all of which depends on the intention of the person purchasing or creating the bot. The social implications these Twitterbots potentially have on human perception are sizeable according to a study published by the ScienceDirect Journal. Looking at the Computers as Social Actors (CASA) paradigm, the journal notes, "people exhibit remarkable social reactions to computers and other media, treating them as if they were real people or real places." The study concluded that Twitterbots were viewed as credible and competent in communication and interaction making them suitable for transmitting information in the social media sphere. While the technological advances have enabled the ability of successful Human-Computer Interaction, the implications are questioned due to the appearance of both benign and malicious bots in the Twitter realm. Benign Twitterbots may generate creative content and relevant product updates whereas malicious bots can make unpopular people seem popular, push irrelevant products on users and spread misinformation, spam and/or slander.