As Twitter takes on the trolls, it’s fighting a tough battle to keep advertisers

24 Oct 2019

Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey. Image: Matt Crossick/PA

It has been a rough quarter for Twitter as its efforts to clamp down on trolls coincides with a dip in advertising revenue.

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey has insisted the company is cracking down on abusive content and spotting problem accounts faster. The claim came as US president Donald Trump’s favourite communication tool revealed that revenues from advertising and sales missed expectations from investors and analysts in a “challenging” third quarter between the end of June and end of September.

Dorsey said: “We’re continuing to improve relevance while testing ways to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for on Twitter.

“We also continue to make progress on health, improving our ability to proactively identify and remove abusive content, with more than 50pc of the tweets removed for abusive content in Q3 taken down without a bystander or first-person report.”

Bosses said “a number of headwinds” led to missing expectations, including product issues and lower advertising spend. Revenues during the period hit $824m, below the $874m expected. Shares tanked by 20pc immediately following the announcement.

In a letter to shareholders, the company wrote: “In Q3 we discovered, and took steps to remediate, bugs that primarily affected our legacy Mobile Application Promotion product, impacting our ability to target ads and share data with measurement and ad partners.

“We also discovered that certain personalisation and data settings were not operating as expected. We believe that, in aggregate, these issues reduced year-over-year revenue growth by three or more points in Q3.”

Twitter added that, for the rest of the year, the headwinds will “continue to weigh on the overall performance of our advertising business in the near term”.

The aftermath of ‘headwinds’

Total ad engagements increased 23pc year over year and costs per engagement dropped 12pc. Twitter does not break down details for each individual country or region – beyond the US – but the numbers show that international revenues grew slower than in America.

US revenues hit $465m, up 10pc year on year, but was only up 7pc in the rest of the world, at $358m. Last quarter, Twitter scrapped reporting monthly active users and moved instead to measuring “monetisable daily active users” (mDAUs) – those who get ads shown to them.

In the third quarter Twitter said there were 145m mDAUs, up 4pc on the second quarter of 2019, and a 17pc increase compared with the same period last year. Dorsey said the growth was “driven by ongoing product improvements”.

“We’re continuing to improve relevance while testing ways to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for on Twitter,” he said.

Twitter has faced criticism over failing to clamp down on trolls, abusive messaging and fake news. To deal with manipulated videos like deepfakes, the company recently unveiled new rules specifically targeting synthetic content that could threaten someone’s physical safety or lead to offline harm.

– PA Media