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Twitter is a social media microblogging service created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey. It was formally incorporated in May 2007. Users on Twitter can post 140-character status updates ("tweets"), and get updated on tweets by other users through the Twitter website, the mobile-optimized site, SMS text messages or a large number of Twitter API-based services and clients, including clients for most mobile devices such as the iPhone. Here is an example of a tweet made in 2022 by Paul Pierce, a retired professional basketball player who was for many years the main star for the Boston Celtics:

Functionality is often developed at Twitter through a process of codifying common community practices. The syntax to reply to another user (so-called "at-replies") has been formalized from early usage, as have hashtags and 'retweeting' functionality, which allows a user to rebroadcast a Twitter message to other users.

Historic influence on written English

Because of the early requirement to keep tweets under 140 characters (280 is now allowed), along with the use of Twitter on mobile phones with a very small screen, a very large vocabulary of abbreviated phrases, such as IDK instead of "I don't know", have sprung up in English, and their use (also encouraged by other online platforms) has spread far beyond Twitter. These urban slang abbreviations are now in common use wherever humans type, such as LOL for "laughing out loud", or ROFLMAO for "rolling on the floor, laughing my a-- off". New ones are still constantly springing up.

Anonymity, and rules against bad behavior

As of 2022, accounts are free and the site is monetized by advertising. Users may, but need not, use their real names, and real names when used are not verified. As with most social media sites that allow undisclosed identities free reign, there is wide latitude for tweets to become impolite, accusatory and combative. Because of the high volume of posts, it is difficult to moderate posts for honesty or against bad actors. This has made Twitter such a target for users of hate speech that the company's management has developed wide-ranging tools for automatic moderation of posts which violate the company's rules, which (in 2022) prohibit promotion of the following[1]:

  • Abuse/harassment
  • Hateful conduct
  • Perpetrators of violent attacks
  • Suicide or self-harm
  • Sensitive media, including graphic violence and adult content
  • Illegal or certain regulated goods or services

Twitter's popularity

Twitter has been extremely popular: originally the preserve of the early adopting geek market (including a lot of attendees at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas), it is now used by a wide variety of celebrities, politicians, sports figures, and other famous people. Many tweets in 2022 also include an image. As of 2022, Twitter had about 206 million daily active users, including 38 million in the United States[2].

Twitter bans Donald Trump (2020)

Twitter has been the target of political conservatives in the United States since 2020, when it banned President Donald J. Trump "for life" for repeated violations of its rules, and because the company deemed that his posts in the run-up to the January 6, 2021 riots at the U. S. Capital building were intended to incite violence[3] The @realdonaldtrump handle had 88.7 million followers when Twitter suspended it, and its loss removed Trump's ability to reach his very large audience quickly[4]. During the four years of his presidency, Trump had famously used the Twitter platform to insult, deride and threaten his political and business critics, not shying away from blatant sexism and displaying widespread hostility for illegal immigrants despite the fact that his wife is also a U. S. immigrant who, arguably, received preferential treatment in receiving residency rights after moving to New York City from Slovenia in 1996 while employed by one of Trump's businesses.

Elon Musk acquisition of Twitter could remove the Trump ban

As of 2022, Twitter is undergoing additional controversy because of its impending acquisition by ultra-billionaire Elon Musk, who is expected (if the acquisition completes) to remove much of the content moderation which is intended to limit the ability of extremists to use Twitter to promote personal and public violence. Trump supporters see content moderation as undesirable cencorship, and call it suppression of "free speech"[5]. But to many others, "free speech" is being used in Twitter's case as a euphemism for the right to use the platform to promote unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election; in this view, removing content moderation is giving posters a green light to use hate speech and incite violence against others.


  1. The Twitter Rules, last access 10/13/2022
  2. Twitter Revenue and Usage Statistics (2022)
  3. Permanent suspension of @realDonaldTrump by Twitter executives, last access 10/13/2020
  4. Donald Trump loses social media megaphone on Deutsche Welle (DW), last access 10/13/2022
  5. Buy, Elon, buy: Musk's renewed interest in Twitter could be a win for free speech, USA headline from Oct. 10, 2022