Twitter is funding college professors to audit its platform for toxicity

Twitter has announced the researchers it chose to study the "health" of conversations on the platform, and how they might be improved. My colleague Shannon Liao:

The team of researchers will be led by Dr. Rebekah Tromble, an assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands who focuses on politics in social media. They will investigate how toxic speech is created on Twitter. The idea that the researchers are working off of is from previous Leiden research, which found that when a group of like-minded people gathers to discuss similar perspectives, they’re encouraged to hate those not engaged in the same discussion, thus creating an echo chamber. The researchers will see how many users exist in these echo chambers and how many users are actually talking to others with diverse perspectives.
The team will also create algorithms to track whether conversations on Twitter are “uncivil” or if they veer into “intolerant” in what could be hate speech. Uncivil conversations can sometimes be problematic, but they’re also good for political dialogue, while hate speech is “inherently threatening to democracy,” according to Twitter. The implication is that once the researchers successfully identify the differences between these two kinds of conversations, Twitter will become better equipped to target hate speech, while keeping uncivil discourse in check.


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