For nearly three years, Twitter has been miscounting how many people use its product. It turns out, the social media company been doing even worse than it seemed.
Every quarter for the past 11, Twitter overestimated its monthly users by about 1 to 2 million people, executives said Thursday in the company’s third-quarter earning call with investors.
The company announced Thursday that it had fixed the error, adjusting its previous estimate of 328 million monthly users down to 326 million. But thanks to a jump of 4 million new users — largely from the United States — last quarter, Twitter still hit the mark in earnings.
About 330 million users log onto the social network every month, executives said, right in line with Wall Street projections.
Twitter also announced that it expects to turn a profit by the end of the year. This is in part due to the fact that the company saw its lowest quarterly loss in three years last quarter, about $21 million, and is spending far less than it has ever on stock-based compensation for employees.
All this, announced before Wall Street trading began Thursday morning, sent Twitter shares climbing as much as 12 percent — and largely overshadowed Twitter’s recent efforts to transparently address issues of harassment and hate speech that have plagued the service for years.
The company last week became the first social media company to reveal how it monitors content and attempts to protect users from trolling and abuse in announcing several changes to its content policies.
Those changes included banning nonconsensual nudity, unwanted sexual advances and tweets that encourage or advocate violence. The company also announced several new policies meant to address issues like violent groups, hateful imagery and how people whose accounts have been suspended are notified.
The announcement was widely seen as a response to the latest round of intense criticism facing the company, following a boycott started by several influential female users who said they would sign off the service to show solidarity with actress Rose McGowan, whose account was suspended when she tweeted a personal phone number in a series of tweets accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape and sexual abuse.
“We’re committed to making Twitter safer, and we continue to improve and leverage our technology to reduce the reach of abusive tweets,” the company wrote in its letter to shareholders. “This quarter, we further refined our machine-learning algorithms in order to better identify and act on accounts demonstrating abusive behavior. Moving forward, we’re focused on addressing this issue from a policy, enforcement, and product perspective, and we’ll be taking a more aggressive stance on our abuse rules and on how we enforce them.”
These issues, however, did not come up in Thursday’s call with investors.
That may be because several of these changes would be enacted during Twitter’s fourth quarter. Or it may be because, so far, it is not clear how or whether they will impact the company’s bottom line.
One big change that did come up during the call Thursday was Twitter’s decision to allow some randomly selected users longer tweets — effectively doubling the company’s 140-character rule.
CEO Jack Dorsey said though brevity remains an important feature of Twitter, the new character count may make the service more inviting to people who struggle to contain messages to that length, a lasting relic born of the days when tweets were sent via text message and character count was limited.
“We saw a bunch of patterns where people were abandoning tweets in certain languages because they could not express themselves within the character limit,” Dorsey said in the earnings call. “We’re still watching how this impacts the service overall. Want to make sure we’re maintaining our sense of brevity … but also make sure we’re addressing these constraints.”
Dorsey said Twitter would release its findings about whether the new character limit has been a success in coming weeks.