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article imageTwitter undertakes audit to purge itself of 'toxicity'

By Tim Sandle     Jul 30, 2018 in Internet
Twitter, in an attempt to clean-up its services of fake accounts, bullying and spam, has enlisted experts from universities to conduct an audit of across its platform.
Central to Twitter's mission is to identify echo chambers (a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified) and interactions that could be classed as “uncivil discourse”, and to trace where these are originating from.
In a statement, Twitter's Vijaya Gadde and David Gascaexplained what the aim of the new exercise is: "We want everyone’s experience on Twitter to be free of abuse, harassment, and other types of behaviors that can detract or distort from the public conversation."
Conversational abuse
According to Cortico, conversational abuse means: "balkanization, sustained isolation of socio-political tribes, failure to entertain other points of view, distortion of others’ views, etc."
With an echo chamber, this kind of behaviour happens when a group of similarly-minded people come together to discuss similar or shared perspectives. In some circumstances, these people become encouraged to hate those not engaged in the same discussion, thus creating the echo chamber.
Independent examination by academia
For the examination to be independent, Twitter has enlisted: Dr. Rebekah Tromble, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Leiden University; Dr. Michael Meffert at Leiden; Dr. Patricia Rossini and Dr. Jennifer Stromer-Galley at Syracuse University; Dr. Nava Tintarev at Delft University of Technology; and Dr. Dirk Hovy at Bocconi University.
The researchers will seek to develop algorithms to look for areas of abuse, intolerance or false information. One of the criteria set by Twitter is to look for anything that might seek to derail the democratic process.
Fake news and social media
As well as abuse on social media, fake news is a growing concern on social media. In a related area, the British parliament has completed an investigation into the handling of fake news by social media companies. The report is critical of the poor safeguards in place and general lack of action, especially by Facebook. A focus for particular criticism is the way Facebook refused to examine potential Russian interference in the election process until it was compelled to do so by the U.S. Senate.
The need to be 'pro truth'
Concerns with the veracity of social media networks and news stories explains why some people are steering clear of such platforms for news and information. The seventh annual Digital News Report finds there has been a decline in the number of people indicating they use Facebook as a news source.
For many others, though, Facebook remains a primary source of news. One survey, examined by Digital Journal, reports that 78 percent of the U.S. population aged under 50 said they consume news on social media platforms.
This has led campaigners like Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, of the Pro-Truth Pledge, to call for greater transparency and accuracy over news coverage across all media, and social media in particular.
More about Twitter, echo chamber, fake news, Social media
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