Twitter has recently been defending itself, quite unsuccessfully in many circles, over accusations that the service has been shadowbanning conservatives. Meanwhile, next up, third party involvement will be a thing when it comes to the “health” of conversation on Twitter:
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). https://t.co/QjUg5P1RLZ
— jack (@jack) July 30, 2018
Here’s just part of the “metrics” that are being set up, and the reason(s) why:
Examining echo chambers and uncivil discourse
Led by Dr. Rebekah Tromble, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Leiden University, along with 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, 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.
“In the context of growing political polarization, the spread of misinformation, and increases in incivility and intolerance, it is clear that if we are going to effectively evaluate and address some of the most difficult challenges arising on social media, academic researchers and tech companies will need to work together much more closely. This initiative presents an important and promising opportunity for Twitter and our team of researchers to share expertise and work on solutions together,” Tromble said.
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. The project’s first set of metrics will assess the extent to which people acknowledge and engage with diverse viewpoints on Twitter.
Twitter got some positive feedback, but mostly Dorsey’s announcement only set off more alarm bells:
This is a very bad idea. What do you think? https://t.co/5QxLTapuVl
— Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) July 30, 2018
— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) July 30, 2018
It's so comforting to hear that someone has been tasked with judging the health of public conversations. Hey, you know who was really good at that? Pol Pot. https://t.co/v7kjkDVxlN
— Joel Engel (@joelengel) July 30, 2018
Who do you think you are to let anyone who is not me determine the health of my discourse with others? That is nigh to Platonic level condescending. https://t.co/T1NtYoRfgq
— alexandriabrown (@alexthechick) July 30, 2018
This is simply…not good https://t.co/c3FUJiWZ34
— Miele Tasso 🌎🌍🌏 (@MieleTasso) July 30, 2018
THE THOUGHT POLICE, BIG BROTHER???
— Alice 'Q' Public (@pshark47) July 30, 2018
I’ve got a better idea: just butt out and quit acting like you’re a kindergarten hall monitor.
— Will Collier (@willcollier) July 30, 2018
Jack never got to be hall monitor in grade school, so he's gonna take it out on us. https://t.co/iknzx3d1cf
— Mr. Meadseeks (@SOTMead) July 30, 2018
'Measuring the health of a conversation' sounds like some users will be punished for certain behavior (based on perceived intent) while others will not be. That creates unnecessary confusion and distrust. Just hold everyone to the SAME rules and call it a day, this isn't hard. https://t.co/C0AtQgM1Wi
— Mack Collier (@MackCollier) July 30, 2018
you might believe you are going to help public conversation "health" — but you're not. not even in your own favor. you are going to face massive backlash and increase social polarization. https://t.co/EDScQq3XW1
— Joe Norman (@normonics) July 30, 2018
From bad to worse.
— Jon McC (@fatdaddybulldog) July 30, 2018
What could possibly go wrong?