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Twitter Hopes Academics Will be Able to Address Toxic Conversations on The Social Network

This comes after the social network purged fake accounts recently, and reported strong quarterly earnings.

Vishal Mathur | News18.com

Updated:July 31, 2018, 11:48 AM IST
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Twitter Hopes Academics Will be Able to Address Toxic Conversations on The Social Network
This comes after the social network purged fake accounts recently, and reported strong quarterly earnings.
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Popular social network Twitter is taking the help of universities and academic researchers to address the issues revolving around the lack of civility, tolerance and the rising instances of bullying, hate speech as well as racism on the platform. The two universities are University in Leiden, Netherlands and the University in Oxford, England.

The researchers from both these universities will focus on two separate issues. The first will be a team of researchers from Leiden University, who will look at how and why echo chambers form on the social network, and their impact on conversations. The team will also attempt to understand the difference between incivility and intolerance within Twitter conversations. The team will include 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. Previous research has found the the creation of echo chambers within online conversations can cause hostility and some amount of intolerance towards anyone holding a slightly different opinion. The second team of researchers will include Professor Miles Hewstone and John Gallacher at The University of Oxford as well as Marc Heerdink at the University of Amsterdam. The attempt is to find if Twitter can develop ways to encourage people to interact in a civil fashion with those who hold opposing views, and what the benefits of that could be.

“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,” says Twitter, in an official statement.

The veil of anonymity that people use on social media platforms then becomes more problematic with fake accounts, hate speech, fake news, threats and racism. Twitter has been cracking down on fake accounts, and the most recent purge earlier this month being the latest move in that regard. Twitter has also acquired Smyte, a software company that will help weed out spam and abuse.

With all the clean-up measures Twitter has deployed recently, it has seen a 1 million user reduction at the same time—a lot would be fake accounts, of course. However, at the same time, Twitter has also posted a $100 million in profit, as reported during the earnings call last week.

It is not just Twitter which is struggling to keep a check on conversations and content on the platform. Facebook owned instant messaging app WhatsApp has been struggling to weed out fake news and hate inciting messages being spread on the platform. WhatsApp has received notices from the Government of India recently, to implement measures to reduce the spread of fake news and messages that are believed to have been the reason behind the rise of lynching incidents in India.
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