Gangs in Manhattan are going high tech. No, we're not talking about hacking local banks and transferring funds to untraceable off shore accounts. Instead, hooligans have turned to Twitter to talk trash to each other and coordinate attacks.
"I knoe bitches from oyg that would dead mob yah s--t in harlem," one girl wrote in a series of tweets aimed at drawing out a rival for a fight (and annoying the sh--t out of anyone with even a basic grasp of the English language).
The above tweet references an East Harlem-based gang (OYG), also known as Jeff Mob, and this type of stuff is becoming increasingly common. But such tweets also makes it a little bit easier for law enforcement to stay privy on what's going down.
"It is another tool...just like old phone records," a police source said. "We can go through them [messages] to track these guys down."
Unfazed by the virtual paper trail, one 15-year-old gang member nicknamed Lil V says his gang takes certain precautions, one of which includes using lingo that's difficult to understand.
Maybe Miley Cyrus was on to something, or perhaps she started a trend. But whatever the reason, Twitter's rapid rise appears to have to turned into a downward tumble, according to data provided to eMarketer by Nielsen.
We're not talking about just a few Twitter users leaving the service. According to Nielsen, traffic to Twitter slid 27.8 percent between September and October, dropping from 26.2 million unique visitors to 18.9 million. Nielsen's numbers were perhaps the most dramatic, but other research firms also noted a decline. According to comScore, unique visitors were down 8.1 percent in October, while Compete noted a more modest 2.1 percent drop.
No matter whose numbers you trust, the drop in traffic is concerning for one of the hottest services on the web. But are they telling the whole story?
"While it's valuable to look at Twitter's web traffic, the true picture won't emerge until all the third-party traffic from mobile phones and API clients is accounted for," wrote senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson on the eMarketer blog.
We know exactly how popular Twitter has grown, but never did we consider that anyone could be arrested for not using the microblogging service. Apparently that's a real possibility, as teenager singer Justin Bieber and his entourage found out.
Bieber was supposed to appear at the Roosevelt Field mall on Friday, but decided to keep his distance because the crowd was getting a bit too rowdy. When the police showed up, they asked James A. Roppo, a record label exec, to help clear out the crowd by sending a Twitter message, and then arrested him after claiming he didn't cooperate, Newsday reports.
"We asked for his help in getting the crowd to go away by sending out a Twitter message," said Kevin Smith, Nassau County Police Det. Lt. "By not cooperating with us we feel he put lives in danger and the public at risk."
In a radio interview, Bieber said the scene was "so crazy" that he couldn't make his way into the building, adding that the authorities had threatened to put in him handcuffs and haul him off to jail.
Roppo could face charges that include criminal nuisance, endangering the welfare of a minor, and obstructing government administration, Smith said.
Well that was short lived. Twitter, the crazy-popular microblogging service responsible for Miley Cyrus' sheltered IRL existence until she disconnected her account, said it plans to end a service that links distinguished message posters to new users.
Called the "suggested users" list, the idea was to connect new Twitter users with some 500 celebrities, sports figures, and politicians that might be of interest, but the service drew criticism in California over perceived unfairness towards GOP gubernatorial candidates, according to an AP report.
"The list will be going away," Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said at a conferences in Malaysia. "In its stead will be something that is more programmatically chosen, something that actually delivers more relevant suggestions."
As it stands now, names on the suggested user list are selected by company officials. Some took issue when, until recently, only Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls in California were placed on the list, which helped boost their number of followers.
As to the new service, Stone didn't offer up any additional details.
Perhaps looking to restore order in the court -- and a little common courtesy -- a federal judge in Georgia has banned using Twitter while in the courtroom, CBSNews.com reports.
According to U.S. District Judge Clay Land, Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure should be interpreted to ban Twitter. This is what it says:
"Except as otherwise provided by a statute or these rules, the court must not permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during judicial proceedings or the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom."
The ban came after a reporter for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer asked permission to tweet the deets from a corruption trial, which was scheduled to start on Monday.
Some changes are coming to Twitter that the microblogging site hopes will help curtail the amount of spam that flows through its Trending Topics area, the social networking site announced in a blog post.
"As Twitter grows and the number of tweets each day continues to astound us, we’ve noticed an increasing amount of clutter in the public timeline, especially with trending topics," Twitter noted. "Trends began as a useful way to find out what’s going on but has grown less interesting due to the noisiness of the conversation."
Twitter's solution is to start experimenting with ways of ranking retweets, though the service didn't say how this would work. If we had to guess, we'd say it would be based on some kind of algorithm that gauges a user's popularity, among other factors, rather than a manual approach.
According to the blog post, any initial changes will be minor and "the improvement won't be very noticeable at first."
Twitter already speaks both English and Japanese, which is twice as many languages as some of its American users, but it's only the beginning for the microblogging service. Expected to roll out soon, Twitter plans to add support for French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
"These languages are commonly referred to using the acronym FIGS and are often the starting point for services like Twitter when it's time for more language support," the microblogging service announced on its blog. "Later, we hope to offer Twitter in several other languages."
Twitter plans to add multi-language support by first tapping into its userbase. The microblogging service said it has begun offering a simple tool for people with experience in other languages to suggest translations for the Twitter website. Later on, Twitter plans to distribute the translations to Twitter platform developers, "making it easier for them to offer multiple language support as well."
Or to sum it all up in 140 characters: Twitter to add language support for French, Italian, German and Spanish. Wants volunteers to help translate website. See http://bit.ly/LIa4C
Had things gone perfectly to plan, Twitter would have launched geolocation support for developers today at the Twitter Conference in LA, but apparently there are still some bugs to be worked out. But while it's not quite ready for prime time, Ryan Sarver, Twitter's platform lead, had a few updates for attendees.
According to Sarver, Twitter will soon be able to store location data, such as latitude and longitude coordinates, on a per-tweet basis. For those concerned with privacy, location information will be opt-in only and will require a visit to the settings page (it won't be enabled by default). Somewhat surprisingly, users won't see the new feature on the Twitter website when geolocation goes live other than on the settings page.
Also on the privacy front, Twitter will scrub geo-data stored in tweets more than 14 days old, which Sarver says will avoid subpoenas about a user's location. Location data will be deleted outright from Twitter's database, and not just anonymized.
Sarver had plenty more to say on the microblogging service's geolocation update, which you can read here.
Twitter is on the brink of sealing the deal for yet another round of funding, which will value the microblogging site at around $1 billion, TechCrunch reported on Wednesday.
While not yet finalized, the company is expected to raise around $50 million, with most of it coming from New York-based Insight Venture Partners. All but a done deal, Chief Executive Evan Williams feels confident enough it will go through that he's announced the latest round of funding to employees.
Twitter's website recorded 44.5 million visitors in June, representing a 15-fold year-over-year increase, according to data from comScore.
"When something like Twitter or Facebook becomes a cultural phenomena, it's much more than the sum of the parts. It's really tapping into a cultural shift," said Salil Deshpande, a general partner at venture firm Bay Partners. "As the network effect increases, the value increases."
Just how popular is Twitter? By the end of the year, some 18 million U.S. adults will access the microblogging service on any platform every month. That's more than the population of Switzerland, Singapore, and Norway combined, and also a 200 percent increase over 2008 stats. By 2010, that number's expected to jump to 26 million, representing another 44 percent increase.
The numbers come courtesy of eMarketer, who notes that the final tally might be even higher due to users accessing Twitter not just through the service's website, but via text messages, mobile apps, and various desktop applications as well.
"Since our earlier Twitter user estimates were published in April of 2009, the number of Twitter.com visitors has risen sharply," said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna. "In addition, research data shows healthy -- and growing -- percentages of U.S. Internet users adopting the popular microblogging platform. These two factors compelled us to upwardly revise our previous forecast.".
On the flip side, eMarketer says "large numbers" of users end up abandoning the service after a short stint, and yet others only Tweet their latest happenings on an infrequent basis.
Surprised by Twitter's explosive growth? Hit the jump and sound off. And if you want follow us on Twitter, you can do so here: