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Global Management Forum 2019

Twitter's CFO: 'Asia is a very important opportunity'

Ned Segal discusses 'tremendous' 5G potential and political minefields

Twitter CFO Ned Segal says India, Indonesia and the Philippines are particularly promising. (Photo by Kotaro Igarashi)

TOKYO -- Twitter aims to learn from its experience in Japan to take its social media service deeper into Asia, with high hopes for big South and Southeast Asian markets in particular, its chief financial officer said in an interview.

"Asia is a very important opportunity for Twitter," Ned Segal said on the sidelines of the Nikkei Global Management Forum in Tokyo. The U.S. company sees "very significant opportunities in countries like India and Indonesia and the Philippines" because there are "so many people."

Japan, he said, is Twitter's second-largest market after the U.S., accounting for 16% of total revenue. "We learn from how people use Twitter in Japan, and we apply those [lessons] to the whole world, whether it is providing more characters for people to tweet in other languages, or creating bookmarks as a feature to allow people to save tweets for later."

Segal stressed that Twitter watches user behavior to tailor its service to their needs. He said the decision to create bookmarks "is a great example where we saw people sending tweets to themselves by direct message."

The emergence of 5G mobile networks, Segal said, "will be a tremendous opportunity for Twitter to give an even better experience to people," especially for video sharing. "The quality of the videos that they will see -- whether they are organic tweets or ads -- it will encourage them to use some of the features to share live video, and to consume live video."

But as Twitter looks to expand and capitalize on new technology, it also finds itself in an awkward position as a medium for political discussion and even manipulation.

In August, Twitter suspended fake accounts believed to have originated in China that aimed to discredit the Hong Kong demonstrations. "The health of the public conversation is our No. 1 priority," Segal said. "It's critical to us that people can trust the information that they see, and that they can feel safe being a part of the conversation."

Twitter has taken further action. "We also have recently updated our state-owned media policy, so that state-owned media cannot buy advertising on Twitter," Segal said.

After the interview was conducted, news emerged that Twitter will ban all political ads.

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