Twitter’s new terms of service were launched last week, to general acclaim from users. The new terms aim to tackle the rising tide of spam that threatens to engulf Twitter, as well as prepare the ground for the arrival of advertising.
The refreshed Twitter Rules spell out a number of different reasons why you may find your Twitter account terminated. In calling time for inappropriate avatars, squatting and multiple, near-identical accounts, the new rules turn into policy what was already established moderating practice.
The new terms emphasise the personal touch, stating that you’ll be in violation of the terms of service “if your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates.”
Now this could cause a real headache for councils, the vast majority of whom use feeds to automatically tweet stories and releases. In banning all bots, the new terms would appear to call time for many councils on Twitter.
Stuart Harrison suggests councils mitigate the risk by personalising their tweets, supplementing feed stories with replies and additional information.
Whilst I agree councils aren’t currently making the best use of Twitter – using it as a broadcast medium with which to distribute press releases – I’m not sure many councils will be able to do this.
I expect that over the coming months and years more councils will follow Brighton’s lead and recruit dedicated social media officers. But until that happens few have the resources to really put the social into social media.
Right now it’s not clear how – or indeed if – Twitter will police this. But if they do start banning all automated feeds, I’m not sure many councils will have the capacity to change tack quickly and keep their feeds running.
That would be a real shame. As Liz Azyan found, more councils are using Twitter than any other social platform (30% at the last count). The relatively swift adoption of Twitter is a rare example of council officers embracing social media and, well, JFD-ing it.
If Twitter starts banning councils for automated feeds, it’s unlikely many will have the determination or resources to get their feeds running again. Councils are inherently risk-adverse, and if we get burned with this it could be a real setback for social media in local government.
The problem is, the new terms imply that all bots are bad. Yet plenty of users don’t think they are.
I think of Twitter as a one-stop information resource. The personal touch is part of what makes Twitter so useful (the ability to ask questions on seemingly any subject and get a string of useful answers in minutes is really invaluable). But announcements from companies and organisations are often genuinely useful too, and Twitter would be a poorer place without them.
Like bad pubs, bad feeds are easy to spot and easy to avoid.
And this is where we’re likely to see some push-back. Many automated feeds are demonstrably popular, and Twitter is unlikely to want to get on the wrong side of the powerful media organisations currently using their service by banning their feeds.
That being the case, I suspect (and hope) Twitter will use their discretion and separate the good bots from the bad.
What do you think? Is Twitter right to ban bots?