Twitter says US election changes took their toll on user numbers – but it was worth it


Twitter has revealed that changes to the platform designed to combat misinformation ahead of the US election had resulted in a “small but measurable” hit to user numbers.

The social media company made the disclosure as it published results showing better than expected quarterly sales and profits for the three months to the end of December.

It said the negative impact of some of the changes it made in the run-up to the November poll were “well worth the effort to protect the integrity of the conversation around the election period”.

trump twitter grab
Donald Trump was a prolific user of the platform

The company’s letter to shareholders made no mention by name of Donald Trump, who had been a prolific user of the platform while in office.

His tweets around the election period were subjected to misinformation labelling and he was eventually banned from the platform.

In its quarterly results on Tuesday, Twitter said some of the changes enacted ahead of Mr Trump’s defeat by Joe Biden, designed to “encourage thoughtful consideration, and reduce the potential for misleading information”, had been “very effective” but others less so and would be discontinued.

“In aggregate, the discontinued changes had a small but measurable negative impact on global mDAU [monetisable daily active users] in Q4, which was as expected and well worth the effort to protect the integrity of the conversation around the election period in the US,” the company said.

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It also said there had been a “dip in US advertiser spend during a short period bracketing the US presidential election on November 3, followed by a strong resumption in demand that continued through the holidays”.

Twitter’s measure of “monetisable” daily active users rose by 5 million to 192 million over the quarter thanks to “ongoing product improvements and global conversation around current events”.

FILE PHOTO: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2018
Jack Dorsey said 2020 was an extraordinary year for Twitter

However that figure fell slightly short of Wall Street’s expectation of 196.5 million users.

Twitter also flagged up the likelihood of lower rates of user growth over coming quarters when comparing to 2020 when numbers had been buoyed by a “pandemic-related surge”.

Revenues in the three months to 31 December rose 28% to $1.29bn while net profits rose 87% to $222m compared to the same period a year ago.

For the year as a whole, revenues were up by 7% to $3.72bn while the company chalked up a net loss of $1.14bn almost entirely due to a one-off income tax charge, compared with a profit of $1.47bn in 2019.

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said: “2020 was an extraordinary year for Twitter.

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

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