Twitter, funding research to tackle spam

For some time now, Twitter has been fighting spam and abuse on its platform but, there are still a few areas that are still vulnerable to spam and abuse. In a bid to clean this up, the company has recruited experts from universities to conduct an audit of the platform to find out where the echo chambers and “uncivil discourse” come from.

In march early this year, Twitter also got some experts to look at the level of toxicity on the platform and suggest the best way to have it cleaned up. The company said that finalists will be selected in July. Our sources reported that Twitter got more than 230 proposals and from among them, the winners were two professors from New York’s Syracuse University, one from Italy’s Bocconi University, a professor from a college that specializes in tech in the Netherlands, Delft University, and others.

This team of researchers will be headed by Dr. Rebekah Tromble, assistant professor at Leiden University in Holland whose focus is on politics in social media. Their job is to look into how toxic speech is created on Twitter. The researchers are working based on the idea from Leiden’s past research that found that when a group of people with like minds come together to discuss their similar views, they get encouraged to hate those that are not part of the conversation and in that way, an echo chamber is created. The researchers will have the ability to see the users in every echo chamber and how many users talk with those with different points of view.

The team will furthermore create algorithms to check if conversations on Twitter are “uncivil” or if they fall under “intolerant” in what could be a hate speech. According to Twitter, uncivil conversations can cause problems, although, they good for dialogue. Hate speeches on the other hand, are “inherently threatening to democracy.” The point is, when the researchers identify the difference between both these conversations, Twitter can better attack the hate speeches and at the same time keep uncivil conversations in check.

A smaller team consisting of professors from Oxford and the University of Amsterdam will work on the idea that echo chambers cannot be created when people get exposed to different ideas and views and that differences bring about open-mindedness. Their job is to study if the effects of positive online interaction can be transferred to the offline world.

There’s no saying when the purpose of the research will be met, besides, according to Twitter, each team is carrying out “a very ambitious task.”

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