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Twitter Seeks Help of Academic Scholars to Improve Healthy Conversation on its Platform

They will be studying how people use Twitter, and how exposure to a variety of perspectives and backgrounds can decrease prejudice and discrimination

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Twitter gives more freedom to report spam, fake accounts. Pixabay
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In line with its efforts to curb abuse and harassment of users on its platform, Twitter has now selected two research projects that aim to develop metrics to measure the “health” of public conversation.

“An update! We’ve selected 2 partners from 230 idea submissions. Our first goal is working to measure the ‘health’ of public conversation, and that measurement be open and defined by third parties (not by us),” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet on Monday.

Earlier this year, the microblogging site said it would work to increase the collective health, openness, and civility of the dialogue on its service.

As part of these efforts, Twitter initiated a programme to suspend millions of fake accounts and in June announced the acquisition of Smyte, a San Francisco-based technology company that specialises in safety, spam, and security issues.

One of the two projects that the social network has now selected will be led by a political science professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

This project will develop two sets of metrics: how communities form around political discussions on Twitter, and the challenges that may arise as those discussions develop, Twitter said in a blog post.

The Leiden-led project will primarily focus on two key challenges: echo chambers and uncivil discourse.

Based on their past findings, echo chambers, which form when discussions involve only like-minded people and perspectives, can increase hostility and promote resentment towards those not having the same conversation.

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Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

The project’s first set of metrics will assess the extent to which people acknowledge and engage with diverse viewpoints on Twitter.

The second set of metrics will focus on incivility and intolerance in Twitter conversations. The group has found that while incivility, which breaks norms of politeness, can be problematic, it can also serve important functions in political dialog.

In contrast, intolerant discourse — such as hate speech, racism, and xenophobia — is an inherent threat to democracy.

The team will therefore work on developing algorithms that distinguish between these two behaviours, Twitter said.

The other project will be led by scholars from the University of Oxford and the University of Amsterdam.

They will be studying how people use Twitter, and how exposure to a variety of perspectives and backgrounds can decrease prejudice and discrimination.

Also Read: Twitter May Block Account for Abusive Chats During Live Broadcasts

As part of the project, text classifiers for language commonly associated with positive sentiment, cooperative emotionality, and integrative complexity will be adapted to the structure of communication on Twitter, the microblogging site said.

“Ensuring we have thoughtful, comprehensive metrics to measure the health of public conversation on Twitter is crucial to guiding our work and making progress, and both of our partners will help us continue to think critically and inclusively so we can get this right,” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead and David Gasca, Director, Product Management, Health at Twitter wrote in the blog.

“We know this is a very ambitious task, and look forward to working with these two teams, challenging ourselves to better support a thriving, healthy public conversation,” they added. (IANS)

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Account Removal, Information Requests up From India: Twitter

"The number of reports we received from governments of terrorist content decreased by 77 per cent compared to the previous reporting period," said Twitter

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Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

The Indian government made information requests for 355 Twitter accounts in the January-June 2018 period while law enforcement agencies in the country asked the micro-blogging platform to remove 237 accounts for violating the law of the land.

According to Twitter’s 13th biannual Transparency Report, the company provided some information to the Indian government in 11 per cent of cases.

“Twitter withheld two accounts and 23 Tweets in response to a legal demand from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) under Section 69A of the India Information Technology Act, 2000, for propagating objectionable content,” the company said in the report late Thursday.

When it comes to legal requests (including 9 requests in the form of court order) from India, 19 accounts and 498 Tweets were withheld as per the rules.

In total, Twitter met the legal demands to withhold some content from India in 5 per cent of the cases.

“Governments (including law enforcement agencies), organisations chartered to combat discrimination, and lawyers representing individuals are among the many complainants that submit legal requests,” said Twitter.

In July-December 2017, the Indian government made information requests for 315 Twitter accounts and law enforcement agencies had asked the social network to remove 144 accounts.

Globally, Twitter received 10 per cent more government information requests (combined emergency disclosure requests and non-emergency requests), which is the largest percentage increase since its July-December 2015 report.

“The latest report shows that Twitter received approximately 80 per cent more global legal demands, impacting more than twice as many accounts compared to the previous reporting period.

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Twitter on a smartphone device. VOA

“Similar to the last reporting period, roughly 87 per cent of the total global volume originated from only two countries: Russia and Turkey,” Twitter said.

For the first time, Twitter published metrics pertaining to its actions to fight spam and other malicious forms of automation.

“We challenge millions of potentially spammy accounts every month, requesting additional details, like email address and phone numbers to authenticate them. From January to June, 2018, approximately 75 per cent of accounts challenged ultimately did not pass those challenges and were suspended,” informed the company.

The average number of reports it received through reporting flow continued to drop — from an average of approximately 868,349 in January to approximately 504,259 in June.

“These report decreases indicate the effectiveness of our proprietary built technology in proactively identifying and challenging accounts at source and at scale,” said Twitter.

In the same period, Twitter suspended 487,363 accounts for violations related to child sexual exploitation.

Also Read- U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

Nearly 97 per cent of these accounts were proactively flagged by a combination of technology, including PhotoDNA, and other purpose-built internal proprietary tools.

Twitter also suspended a total of 205,156 accounts flagged for promoting terrorism. Of those suspensions, 91 per cent consisted of accounts that were proactively flagged by internal, proprietary tools.

“The number of reports we received from governments of terrorist content decreased by 77 per cent compared to the previous reporting period,” said Twitter. (IANS)