Twitter said monthly users dropped by 1 million in the second quarter, and predicted that number will decline further as the company continues to fight against spam, fake accounts and malicious rhetoric on its social network. The shares plunged as much as 20 per cent in early trading.
Monthly active users were 335 million – a decline from 336m in the first quarter, San Francisco-based Twitter said in a statement on Friday. Though that measure was up 2.8 per cent from a year earlier, the company expects monthly visitors to fall again in the current period. Twitter blamed the projected drop on intensified efforts to clean up the platform, stricter privacy rules in Europe and changes to the way its service is used through SMS messaging.
“We are confident that this is in the best long-term interest of the platform and will enable long-term growth as we improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter” and re-allocate resources, including those used to prepare for the data privacy changes in Europe, Twitter said in a note to shareholders accompanying the earnings release.
The shares, which had gained almost 80 per cent this year through Thursday, plunged on the report initially but pared some of those losses. They were down 12 per cent to $37.63 at 9:03 a.m. in New York in pre-market trading.
Twitter reported net income for the third consecutive quarter, which has helped drive the shares 79 per cent higher this year to $42.94 at Thursday’s close. But the company gave a forecast for third-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortszation of as much as $235m, falling short of analysts’ average estimate of $268m.
Twitter’s user woes are similar to those of Facebook, which also has been plagued by manipulation, robot accounts and unrest about the growing influence of social media in the culture. Chief executive Jack Dorsey has said his priority is to reduce abusive conversations on the platform and the company said its machine-learning algorithms are identifying more than 9 million potential spam or automated accounts a week.
The huge number of deletions have raised concerns among investors that Twitter – the favourite communications tool of US President Donald Trump – can’t attract a more general audience to supplement the politicians, entertainers and journalists who are among its prime users. The company, however, said the vast majority of malicious accounts are inactive or caught before they become counted among active users.