What Snowden Joining Twitter Says About Twitter (and Snowden)

For Starters, Twitter Still Has a Troll Problem

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At noon on Tuesday, former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden debuted on Twitter (@Snowden, Twitter-verified) with this five-word tweet:

A few observations:

• Twitter is almost ancient by tech-company standards -- it turned 9 years old in March -- but a high-profile Twitter debut can still make headlines. News organizations around the world from the BBC to The New York Times have covered the arrival of @Snowden, and it's the big centerpiece story on the front page of today's print edition of USA Today.

• The Twittersphere continues to move blazingly fast. Other newer social-media and messaging platforms (Snapchat, WhatsApp), may be getting all the attention lately, but Twitter still has enviable scale and momentum. Within just two hours on Twitter, Snowden had gained 300,000 followers, and at 9:50 a.m. ET today (less than 22 hours into his joining the Twittersphere) he hit the one-million-follower mark.

• Here's a Twitter-produced visualization of the global response to @Snowden (people tweeting about or responding to the account) with the first few hours (click the play button):

• Snowden's sense of humor is intact -- which is going to be very helpful if he wants to gain traction (not just followers) on Twitter. (If he intends to use Twitter to rally around the cause of fighting the surveillance state, well, a spoonful of sugar will help that medicine go down, particularly among the complacent American populace.) Not only is he wryly following just one Twitter account -- @NSAGov -- but within his first hour he publicly addressed this tweet to celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:

• Twitter still has a serious troll problem. Witness this tweet that a guy named George (apparently some kind of anti-free speech advocate who is running for president?) publicly addressed to Twitter co-founder (and current interim CEO) Jack Dorsey:

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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