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Twitter Q3 Earnings Preview: A Crisis Of Confidence

How much have Twitter’s recent gaffes around censorship and abuse hurt its user base? We’ll know more this week.

Twitter Q3 Earnings Preview: A Crisis Of Confidence
[Photo: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images]

It’s been a tough couple of months for Twitter. The social network caught flak yet again for silencing some voices, but not others, and it caused controversy by brazenly testing out a new 280-character limit. When Twitter delivers its third earnings report of the year on Thursday morning, analysts aren’t expecting to hear positive news about revenue and user growth—and we can’t imagine why anyone would after quarters of declining or inconsistent results.

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Last quarter, Twitter saw no user growth. Its leadership, to its credit, is acutely aware of the platform’s stagnant user base, which is why it now emphasizes its daily user growth (albeit without actually disclosing what those numbers are). This quarter likely won’t be any different. While the fallout from Twitter’s suspension of actress Rose McGowan—including the subsequent boycott—happened after the quarter ended, it’s seen plenty of third-quarter hurdles. Notably, its insistence in September that President Trump’s tweets are newsworthy, whether they’re in violation of Twitter’s content rules or not, sparked pushback.

A notable change at the end of the quarter was the increase in character count, but it’s hard to see how that will endear the platform to the new users it so desperately needs. More importantly, it’s an update that feels tone deaf when Twitter isn’t adequately addressing issues of abuse and harassment.

With that in mind, we’re interested to see how Twitter will spin this crisis of confidence. Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey have expressed, through myriad tweets, Twitter’s commitment to becoming a kinder, safer place. And just last week, Twitter published its calendar of safety updates for the first time, finally displaying the transparency the company has long promised. 

If Twitter is the place where the #MeToo campaign took root—just one of many instances in which the platform surfaces voices that might otherwise go ignored—surely it can figure out how to ensure those voices don’t get drowned out. 

We’re also watching for any discussion of Twitter’s live video efforts, which the company has been somewhat silent on in recent months. If Twitter claims its salve for stagnant user growth is investing in live video, let’s see the numbers.

Twitter will report third-quarter financial results on Thursday morning.

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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